Saturday, September 6, 2014

Review - Obsidian

Obsidian (Lux #1)
by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Date: 2011
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 294
Format: e-book

Starting over sucks.

When we moved to West Virginia right before my senior year, I'd pretty much resigned myself to thick accents, dodgy internet access, and a whole lot of boring... until I spotted my hot neighbor, with his looming height and eerie green eyes. Things were looking up.

And then he opened his mouth.

Daemon is infuriating. Arrogant. Stab-worthy. We do not get along. At all. But when a stranger attacks me and Daemon literally freezes time with a wave of his hand, well, something... unexpected happens.

The hot alien living next door marks me.

You heard me. Alien. Turns out Daemon and his sister have a galaxy of enemies wanting to steal their abilities, and Daemon's touch has me lit up like the Vegas Strip. The only way I'm getting out of this alive is by sticking close to Daemon until my alien mojo fades.

If I don't kill him first, that is.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This book made me really, really angry.  Don't get me wrong: it's not a terrible premise and there are plenty of people out there who love this sort of story.  But it was just so badly written, with so many basic problems, that I just couldn't get through it without getting very uptight.  My inner editor was screaming, and I was nearly in tears at the thought of all those five-star reviews on Goodreads.  Because this isn't a five-star book.  It just isn't.

Let's set aside for the moment the fact that the story is pretty derivative.  I haven't seen a lot of aliens in YA paranormal fiction, but that doesn't mean that Obsidian is entirely original.  I was reminded of both Twilight and the TV series Roswell as I was reading this book.  At this point, I don't think we're going to find anything that's 100% original, and that's fine.  Aliens living in semi-rural West Virginia could've been a really great starting point for a cool story.  What really got to me here was the quality of the writing.  This is not fan fiction or a self-published work.  It supposedly had the editing resources behind it to make it a polished book, something that people would want to pay money for.  And yet, it read like a first draft that even the author didn't bother to re-read.  The writing itself was extremely juvenile, repetitive in places, full of typos and misused words, redundancies, verb conjugation errors, and many continuity problems.

I thought for sure, while I was still reading, that this was -- or had started out as -- a self-published work.  So I searched out the author's website to see if that was the case.  While I was there, I found something very telling:

Quality of writing, of storytelling and of craft are TOTALLY SUBJECTIVE. What one person loves, another hates, and so forth. There are people out there who don’t mind a book where it looks like the English language threw up comma splices all over it. There are people who see ‘there’ versus ‘their’ misused and lose their ever loving mind. A good book is subjective. As a writer, you’ve got to write what you want to read, what you are passionate about, and what you think is good.

I disagree completely with that first sentence.  Storytelling and craft... yes, those may be subjective.  Quality of writing is not.  It's like trying to argue that McDonald's offers "good" food just because you think it's yummy.  It might titillate your taste buds, but it's never going to be "good" food.  If this is her attitude, then it explains why I had such a hard time reading this one.

And it's too bad that this is the way she thinks (note, I don't want to pick on just her; I've seen other authors react this way... especially when they've been called out on the quality of their writing).  Imagine if this book had been proofread and edited and made to be the best it could be.  Then it would have gained even more fans.  Instead, it just alienated (no pun intended... really) those who demand a little more quality in the books they read.

Aside from that, there's not much else I can say about this book.  I can see why some people might like it, and why they might like Daemon, but I didn't.  He's just a standard hot paranormal male character who does little of note other than repeatedly rescue the heroine.  Even the bonus chapters at the end did little to bring me around; in fact, they may have had the opposite effect.  When you need to rewrite chapters from another character's point of view just to clarify what was going on in the main story, you haven't really done a great job in the first place.

Quotable moment:

My stomach flipped thinking about how close his lips had been to mine. Worse yet was the knowledge that I had wanted him to kiss me. Like and lust must not have anything in common.

Recommended to: YA paranormal fans who don't mind a caliber of writing that's the literary equivalent of a squished Happy Meal

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing & Editing: 1/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall Rating: 1.57 out of 5 ladybugs

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