Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book Review: The Replacement

Author: Brenna Yavonoff
Release Date: September 21, 2010
Publisher: Razorbill
Pages: 343
Read it in: 3 days

Summary: Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a tattooed little princess. He is a Replacement-- left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood and consecrated ground, Mackie is slowly dying in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us. He just wants to play bass guitar and find out more about an oddly intriguing girl named Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the slag heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.

LC's Take: 

So to put it simply, I was not a fan of this book. Like, at all. Actually, I kind of hated it. I'm really not sure what I was expecting it to be, but I definitely wasn't thinking it would be a lame high school drama mixed with painfully dull characters and even more painfully boring and lackluster writing. I guess the cover is what attracted me to read this book in the first place, but honestly, great packaging and poor content does not equal a good book.

First, there were the thoroughly unlikable characters: Tate was an angry stalker full of contempt towards Mackie, Roswell was a total perv who treated women like pieces of meat, Mackie's parents were typical and stereotyped and completely unwilling to do anything useful, and everyone else was easily forgettable. I didn't like these characters, therefore I didn't care what happened to them.

Then there was Mackie Doyle, the "tortured soul" main character. Usually I love reading from a guy's point of view (Ship Breaker, Leviathan-- amazing.) but I could not connect with him at all. All Mackie seemed to do was a.) be pale and emo b.) get nauseous or faint every time he was around metal or blood or loud noises or strong smells or slight air currents, or c.) lust after Alice the slutty hot girl in school, or d.) talk about how incredibly fake everyone is in town. It got old very quickly. I have a difficult time sympathizing with a character who does nothing but whine and complain all the time, even if it's for a legitimate reason. In the end, Mackie was just a male version of Bella Swan-- empty, dull, bland, vapid--  and I couldn't bring myself to care about what happened to him either.

Speaking of tortured, the writing was just awful. It was serious work just trying to slog through each chapter. To give you some idea of what I'm talking about, imagine reading something like this for 340 pages, and you'll get the picture very quickly:

"I yanked off my T-shirt and pulled the shades down. Then I lay down with my face to the wall and pulled the covers over my head. I woke up with a jolt. It was dark. My phone was buzzing on my bedside table, and I rolled over.... I wanted to go to sleep. The phone just kept buzzing."

Soooo... have you fallen asleep yet? I don't know, but for me, this kind of writing is incredibly bland and formulaic: I woke up and did a. It was b and c. Then I did d. I felt e. Then... blah, blah,blah. I just can't stay focused on writing like this! It's almost as exciting as watching paint dry. 

And then, how about character dialogues like this?

"Come on, you don't want to miss this. 'Tis the season for girls to dress like hookers. We'll catch up with the twins, get a little socially lubricated. I have this feeling that Alice is particularly looking forward to your company."

Are you kidding me? First off Brenna, nobody talks like that. In my 4 years of high school and 6 years of college, I've not once heard anyone use the term "socially lubricated." Second of all, no one is going to like characters who either are hookers or who label girls as being hookers or obsess over girls because they dress like hookers. Maybe people do this, but that doesn't make me want to read about them, and it sure doesn't lead me to care about what happens to them. Furthermore, I would not recommend a book that makes women out to be hoes or treats sex so casually. I'm not being unrealistic or a prude-- I just find it to be completely unnecessary when it has nothing to do with the plot or the characterization. If you have an awesome story and brilliant writing, you don't need to waste your time or the reader's with cheap add-ins about getting trashed and banging the popular girls at school. 

Another aspect of the writing that drove me crazy were all of the contradicting statements. I'm guessing they were intentional, but I didn't understand the point of them, except to make me really confused:
  • "She looked strange and fantastical and startling and normal." (How do you look strange and normal at the same time?)
  • "...when I glanced in the mirror again, I recognized myself, and I didn't." (So... did you or didn't you?)
  • "As soon as I reached the bottom of the ravine, I felt desperately relieved. And much, much worse." (Umm... relief means alleviation and the removal of pain, so... how would you feel worse if you were relieved??)

Finally, I hate obvious plot holes-- even little ones. I consider myself to be a halfway intelligent person, and I don't appreciate books that try to breeze over contradictions like I'm too stupid to notice. So, if I'm reading along and something clearly makes no logical sense based on what the author has already laid out, it drives me right up the wall. For example:
  • Mackie is supposed to act like a "normal kid" and not get noticed. Yet some days he has completely black eyes-- don't you think that someone would maybe, just maybe, notice something that freaky?
  • Mackie is hypersensitive to loud noises, like doors that close too fast-- and yet he can go to heavy metal rock concerts with mosh pits and be just fine. WHAT?
  • So, Mackie can drink beer out of a can, huh?? I thought he was deathly allergic to metal in any form.
  • Every seven years the town gives one of their children to the underworld demon-creatures and they, in turn, make the town "prosper." So I was picturing something like out of the Stepford Wives-- beautiful mansions, manicured lawns, everything perfect to cover-up something ugly. But not once is the town described as perfect or prospering-- in fact, it's run-down and poor. So I don't get it-- what was the point of sacrificing a kid every seven years?
I will end by just saying that this book wasn't for me. That doesn't mean it isn't for anyone, but I personally disliked it to no end. The writing was stale and stilted, the characters were completely unlikable, the dialogue was fake and cheesy, and the premise-- while intriguing-- was never able to reach its full potential. I did finish this book, trying to give it a chance, but in the end, there really was nothing about this book that I liked. 

LC's Rating:
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Poor writing and bad characterization ruined this book for me. Which is sad, because the plot could have worked. Altogether, a big disappointment.

13 comments:

  1. I had a really difficult time getting through this one. Mackie was so dreary and blah. I hated Tate. Eh, it wasn't for me either. Love the cover though.

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  2. The cover intrigued me too, glad I read this though! I was considering putting it on my TBR, I guess that would be a mistake.

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  3. Ah, Lea, despite the fact that you clearly didn't like the book, I am so glad you took the time to write this fantastic review! I just love, love, love it! I so don't like when people just complain how they didn't like something without really giving any specific reason for that. You, on the other hand, wrote a very thorough and detailed review and thanks to you I now know what to expect of this book!
    "It's almost as exciting as watching paint dry." Hahah, very well said!

    I admit, the cover of this book caught my attention long time ago, when I first saw it, and ever since then I've been thinking about maybe getting a copy.. But this is not the first negative review I've read and it just seems that this book is a major disappointment. Guess I'll pass. THANK YOU for reviewing it!

    <3

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  4. Well dang! Maybe I had premonitions about this one or something because I totally wanted to read it, but never got around to picking it up!

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  5. Great job writing a bad review. I have a hard time with this so I really admire people who can do it well. You do it well.

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  6. Thanks for the review! It's funny, because I've read some good ones about this novel, but I never bothered to pick it up. Based off what you've said, I really won't like this one.

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  7. I LOVE your honesty! Kudos to you!

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  8. Thanks for the comments guys :D

    OK, I thought of ONE thing I did like about this book-- The Morrigan was a really creepy, cool character. She ruled the underworld House of Mayhem where Mackie came from, and she's portrayed as a little girl with hundreds of sharp, pointy teeth-- very very freaky!

    I hate to be negative about a book without finding at least something in it that I liked, so kudos to Brenna Yovanoff for this character :)

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  9. Damn! Lol...I don't think I've ever read a review that eviscerated a book as thoroughly as this one. Whew! Girl, I'm scared of YOU! Lol...I on the other hand, really liked the book. I didn't even notice the contradictions...apparently, I don't read as carefully as you. Just goes to show how subjective stories are. I like emo, angsty guys and I don't have a problem with Bella at all...lol...I enjoyed reading your review.

    I'm going to re-read this book and make a point of searching for the things you pointed out. Now I'm going to look at more of your reviews. You were so entertaining :-)

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  10. Cheesy is an okay word to describe this book, especially the ending though I really thought it was a good read and finished it pretty quickly. I loved the Morrigan, a well crafted quirk of a character and she produced my favorite quote. I gave it a 4 star review a little while ago :)

    ★Leila

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  11. June~ haha, yes, I do love raving about books that I love, but if I happen upon one that I wasn't particularly fond of, I don't have any issues with stating honestly what I didn't like about it... I totally respect people who did like this one and can appreciate some things about it (like The Morrigan character). Also, the fact that this book is so popular just goes to show that my review is simply a personal opinion, and I wouldn't say that it's a "bad book" simply because I didn't care for it-- it just wasn't for me. I'm definitely glad you enjoyed it :)

    Leila~ Awesome! Yes, The Morrigan was soooo creepy, she was a really great character.

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  12. Glad I read this! I've been wanting to read this book because the cover looks so spooky. Doesn't sound appealing to me.

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  13. Been trying to get my hands on this one. Knives hanging on top of a baby-pram is kind of freaky!

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Your comments make me happy :)

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