Let's be honest, nobody dives into a book by the name of Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer expecting a masterpiece. I didn't expect much, and I was let down anyway. Even for purely entertainment purposes, it still failed. The mystery is laughable, the character is a (Speshul) Mean Girl wannabe, and the attempts at character development are completely artificial and forced. For a book with such a silly premise, it failed to elicit even a smile from me. The entire book was absurd.
Our initial meeting with Colette gave me a (bad) lasting impression of Colette that never entirely went away. The spoiled, entitled, selfish Colette is bemoaning the loss of her family's money, her parents' oh-so-selfish divorce, and her annoying little brother's mere presence. She is now in relatively abject "poverty," meaning her mother has to actually get a job working shitty shifts at the perfume department at Macy's, and she is now a scholarship student at her prestigious all-girls' Catholic school, where Colette has been hiding her newly-poor status and still trying to maintain the façade within her Mean Girls clique. But wait, there is one bright point in her *sigh* wretched existence! Colette is going to Paris, France! Before going, she browses through an old family suitcase and finds this awesome medallion with an engraved key, which will TOTALLY go with her new vintage Parisian trip wardrobe.
That's right, her mother has been scrimping and saving every penny so that her ungrateful daughter can have her much-longed for Paris school trip. Oh, and Colette is going to abandon her mother to go live with her father in fa-bu-lous New York this summer (instead of shitty Ohio), but she'll tell her mother that little detail later, after she gets back from Paris.
In Paris, a crime spree has been taking place. Beautiful, glamorous (but really despicable, I honestly don't blame Marie Antoinette one bit) people have been dying left and right. Cause of death? Decapitation. The descriptions of the deaths (which are not at all gruesome, not at all violent) are interspersed through the descriptions of Colette's beautiful trip to Paris, where she has been eating delicious French pastries, visiting the Louvre, hanging out with a hot university student tour guide, and keeping up the pretense with her rich-as-bitches girlfriends. She uncovers a family mystery, and must solve the key to the murder (hint hint!!!!). And who will unlock her heart? It is the boy-next door guide Jules Martin (Pronounced Zhool Mar-tahn!), or the strikingly gorgeous, fabulously feline...Armand!
He was strikingly, mythically gorgeous, like a lion that had been turned into a human. He had sparkling golden eyes and waves of honey-colored hair.
Like, rawr! Giggles! Whoops, looks like we have a potential love triangle here!
The Good The plot and eventual investigation into the murders is utterly laughable, and secondary to the beautiful Parisian scenery, complete with visits to the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Chateau Versailles. The setting of Paris itself doesn't feel so much like Paris as a foreigner's idealization of it. Everything is beautiful, spectacular, and so French! Well, we are in France, after all. Everything is adorable, quaint, right out of a traveler's guide. It is pretty. It doesn't feel real. Even the small family dinner hosted by Jules feels too idealized, too perfect to ring true.
Don't get me wrong, it's very pretty. It's very romanticized. But it doesn't bring the setting to life because nothing feels real. The setting could have come straight out of a Rick Steves' guide to Paris.
The Bad The French...my French is not perfect, but the insertion of French phrases in this book is so ridiculously elementary. It could have come straight out of my French 101 textbook.
“Je te supplie,” Monique blubbered. “Je te supplie, Rochelle!”
The mystery is laughable, how it is investigated completely violates the border of credibility. I'm not talking about the fact that Marie Antoinette couldn't possibly have been a serial killer, because, well, no shit, Sherlock. I'm not talking about that kind of credibility. I'm talking about how a teenager in a foreign land can wander around without supervision, whose weary teacher pretty much lets her do whatever she freaking pleases. The plot itself is so secondary to the romance and Colette's desperate desire to keep up appearances. The supernatural elements in this book are completely without tension, completely without intrigue. I expect ludicrousness of a book in this nature, but if you're going to make it a murder mystery, fucking do it right.
One word: Colette.
Man, what a bitch. I completely hated Colette. She doesn't know what she wants to be, and honestly, her character feels like the author wrote in a Mean Girl character, but decided to randomly insert a few redeeming character traits to make her more human and relatable, such as having her be in the Academic Games at one point in her life. It doesn't work. Colette is wishy washy. She's a total jerk to her well-meaning and eager-to-please mom, to her weary and sick-of-her-bullshit little brother, to one of the nicer girls on the trip, Audrey (a black girl whose Afro, according to Colette, looks like a 7-year old's).
Colette hangs with two Mean Girls (one is nicer than the other) who are completely lacking in any dimension. Her clique exists solely to make Colette look good in comparison, and it works, to an extent. Hannah is probably even worse than Colette, if that's humanly possible; she is a size-zero, beautiful, rich, spoiled girl who is manipulative to the nth degree, and has had everything in her life handed to her on a silver platter. Pilar is the prerequisite tagger-on, the doormat friend, the DUFF. She is the daughter of a has-been Latino pop star, who struggles with her weight and is forever a Size 10 and has a tendency to stress eat (Hint: she hangs out with Hannah. There's a reason why the scales don't budge). There's a lot of weight shaming in this book, coming from Hannah. Hell, I felt bad about myself and I'm nowhere near fat. Poor Pilar.
Colette is pretty despicable. There's an attempt at humanizing her in the second half of the novel, which comes on far too quickly to be a believable part of character development. And let's not mention her completely pathetic effort at
manipulatingbuilding friendship with the truly nice Audrey.
“The reason I came here …” I took a deep breath. “I have an idea. You know how I said we weren’t really friends? Well, what if we were friends? If you come hang out with me for a while, maybe we can, like, bond. And then when we get back home, I’ll totally be your friend."
But she just laughed.
“Colette, that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Why would I want to hang out with someone who treats me like dirt? So I can make people think I’m ‘cool’?” She punctuated the word with air quotes and started to turn away, shaking her head. “I think spending so much time with Hannah has actually made you crazy.”
“Wait!” I cried. “Don’t you wish you could improve your social status? This is your chance.”
*standing ovation* Suck it, Colette.