Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Blessed by Tonya Hurley

Title: The Blessed
Author: Tonya Hurley
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Pages: 416 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC on loan from my best friend
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: audiobook clip | book trailer | author website

From the author of the New York Times bestselling ghostgirl series, the start to a captivating and haunting teen trilogy about three girls who become entangled with an enigmatic boy—a boy who believes he is a saint.
 What if martyrs and saints lived among us? And what if you were told you were one of them?

Meet Agnes, Cecilia, and Lucy. Three lost girls, each searching for something. But what they find is Beyond Belief.

Review:


I'm hoping I don't step on too many toes with this one. A book with deep roots in religion is not that easy to review and The Blessed had so many problems that I almost didn't want to write a review for it. I'm being as even-handed as humanly possible, but this just is not a good book at all. My copy was an ARC, meaning changes will be made before final publication, and I'm hoping a lot of changes will be made.

I suppose one thing I can appreciate about the novel is its dual nature. One can read it as Sebastian, a boy who is a saint, revealing Agnes, Cecelia, and Lucy's true natures to them or they can read it as Sebastian, a mentally ill boy whose delusions make him think he's a saint, trying to lure Agnes, Cecelia, and Lucy to him so he can create a cult of his own. There's ample evidence to support either view.

Narrative consistency is the biggest issue. The POV head-jumps in the middle of scenes like head-jumping is an Olympic sport and this book is going for the gold. For instance, we still start out in the head of Agnes during a scene, but before the scene is over, we get inside the heads of Sebastian, Lucy, and Cecelia and get their (totally unnecessary to the scene/moment) thoughts. In another scene, we're witnessing a phone conversation in the POV of another character named Jesse, but we're told the person on the other line is gritting their teeth. If the other people is gritting their teeth loudly enough to be heard over the phone, they're screwing up their pearly whites pretty badly! All of this happens with little to no smooth transitioning.

The prose itself was stilted and the dialogue tended to be immature, unrealistic, lifeless, or a mixture of all the above. Agnes calling her classmates "classholes" when they make fun of her for attempting suicide made me roll my eyes. They're making fun of her over a suicide attempt, for goodness' sake! That's beyond nasty! I'd break out the big guns for far less--and have, actually. Agnes, Cecelia, and Lucy lacked the characterization they needed to make me care about them and where they were going. I don't even know what Cecelia's background is! And if these girls hadn't slut shamed, this novel would have earned one more star from me. Seriously, I'm not tolerating stuff like that anymore. One star is automatically lost if I see it happen.

Hurley's novel, clocking in at over 400 pages, suffers from a case of remarkably terrible pacing. Nothing happens for over half the novel and the explanations we're all begging for aren't given until they're less than 100 pages from the end. What will keep readers hooked until then? I'm not sure. I had to force myself to keep reading so I could move on to other books and get my copy back to my friend.

Toward the end, when the plot finally kicks in and all the action this book has been holding back on is suddenly released, I was too disgusted to enjoy it very much. Lucy putting burning coals in the mouth of a guy who attacked her was beyond cruel. I have no problem with her killing him (after all, he attacked her and was going to kill her), but torturing him like that? I don't care whether the good guys or the bad guys are doing it or what their reasons are; torture by burning coals in the mouth is a hundred kinds of wrong.

The first in a trilogy, The Blessed needs a massive overhaul before it takes the first step toward being a good book. I've recently come to understand ARCs can be drastically different from the finished product and I'm hoping this book gets a massive overhaul done on its writing, characters, and pacing. A modern reimagining of three saints' stories sounds like a great idea, but its execution is ultimately a failure as it is right now.

1 star!


What am I reading next?: Saving June by Hannah Harrington