by Christy Raedeke
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Can one (super smart) girl (who just wants to be discovered) decipher the cryptic Mayan calendar prophecy and SAVE THE WORLD?
When her safe-cracker mom and code-breaker dad inherit a dreary Scottish castle, sixteen-year-old Caity Mac Fireland is not happy. Ripped from her cushy life and friends in San Francisco, Caity’s secret fantasy of being discovered by a Hollywood agent, talent scout, or even just a pageant coach seems more unlikely than ever.
But when Caity stumbles across a hidden room in the castle, its walls covered in strange symbols, her life takes a bizarre turn. She finds herself center stage in an international conspiracy involving warring secret societies, assassins, the suppressed revelations of the Mayan Calendar and the year 2012, plus the fate of humanity.
With the help of her friend Justine back home, and Alex, a gorgeous and mysterious Scottish boy, Caity must race to decipher the code and reveal its message to the world before time runs out.
(synopsis from Goodreads)
I really wanted to like this book. I tried to like this book. But, in the end, I just couldn't.
PODTDG is about a teenage girl named Caity who wants nothing more than to be "discovered" for something. For anything. She moves from San Francisco with her parents to live in a Scottish castle that her father has inherited. Once there, Caity discovers a prophecy about herself and realizes she has to save the world. (No pressure, right?)
Let's set aside for a moment the fact that shallow teenagers whose biggest goal in life is to be a "special little snowflake" don't make the best heroines... especially when there's not much in the way of character development. I never got much of a feel for Caity... or for any of the other characters. They were pretty stereotypical. There's the family friend, Uncle Li, who needs to "rest" a lot (I guess that's what older people do). There's the "whiskey-soaked" groundskeeper, Thomas (because, of course, all Scots are drunks). There's the hot Scottish love interest (whose looks sound more like a Black Irish person to me) who conveniently -- and rather unbelievably -- flies off the handle emotionally at one point to give the story some much-needed conflict. And her parents were just plain ridiculous. I don't know of any parents who go around saying what a genius their kid is... in front of their kid. In light of that, I guess it's not surprising Caity would be a bit self-centered.
Adults were considered evil until proven good, which I thought was pandering. It's also not a very good idea to insult a good portion of your audience (since not just teenagers read YA fiction). Have adults made a mess of the world? Sure. But implying we're evil and then using the technology that we developed (without which you can't even begin to save the world) seems a bit hypocritical.
But my biggest problem with this book was the lack of focus. Early on, I felt overwhelmed by all the different things that the author was throwing into the story. It was as if the author thought she was only going to get to write one book in her lifetime, so she had to throw absolutely everything into the mix. Either that, or she has a lot of miscellaneous knowledge and wanted to show it off. I started to make a list of all the weirdness:
- Scottish castle partially built by a Chinese guy
- overly sapient monkey that communicates by doing origami (no, I'm not kidding)
- Mayan prophecy (2012)
- Milky Way's Galactic Center
- feng shui
- a secret society (with evil Bavarian and Canadian operatives)
- safe-cracking mother
- code-breaking father
- Drocane script
- magnetic levitation
- Sanskrit books
- mosquito ringtone
- Machu Picchu
- Angkor Wat
- Great Pyramids
- Easter Island
I even wondered if UFOs were going to show up! Sadly, there actually was a UFO connection...
By the time I'd gotten to the last few pages, I was so ready for the book to be over. I never cared what happened to Caity (how much can you relate to a rich girl who has a pet monkey and lives in a castle?), and I never felt that the stakes were that high, despite being told they were. I was also completely unimpressed with the book itself. I'm going to give the author the benefit of the doubt here and assume that she did not, in fact, leave out periods at the ends of sentences (to give an example). The finished book is worse than some first drafts. It was also full of comma splices, though, about which I'm not so inclined to be forgiving.
If you're really into global conspiracy theories and paranoia, you might like this book. Other than that, I can't really see it having a broad appeal. Perhaps if the characters had been a little more interesting (and a simple collection of traits does not make one interesting), I might have liked the book a bit more and wanted to keep reading. As it is, I think I'm going to give the rest of the series a pass.
Overall: 2 out of 5