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Khanh the Killjoy

More boring than golf

Skulk - Rosie Best

Unlike many other 2-star books I've read, there was nothing outrageously bad about this book. The characters are dull and generic; despite the fact that some characters (like Meg's parents) are pure tropes, I do not hate anyone outright. Some characters are annoying, but nobody in this book grated on my nerves so much to warrant and full-on profanity-laced rant regarding their character. Mainly because the characters and their characterization is just severely lacking, and there are so many side characters that I can only recall four that stands out. My use of profanity within this review will be quite limited where this book is concerned.

My main complaint about this book is that it's just so insufferably boring. The characters are dull. The world-building and the mythology of the shape-shifters are so vague. The main character spends much of her days and night prowling about town on her little foxy paws investigating some mystery about some fog that goes around town tentacle-raping and killing those of her kind. That's pretty much it.
This book is all action, no depth; consequently, whatever action there is turned out to have the same side effect as a spoonful of Nyquil. Thankfully, without the bitter aftertaste. The best thing about this book is the awesome fox drawing on the cover.

Margaret (Meg) Banks is the daughter of a famous politician mother (a Member of Parliament) who is completely batshit crazy in private and a CEO father who is just a doormat disguised as a man (one guess what happens to them, the most dangerous profession in the world is that of a parent in YA fiction, I tell you). Meg is named for Margaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister, but she seeks to be more like someone similar to her last name---that is, the graffiti artist, Banksy. On a secret project to spray paint her school at night, Meg runs into a dying fox, who then transforms into a man, who gives her a mysterious blue jewel and then dies, somehow or other giving her the secret power of being able to transform into a fox.

Um, ok.

From then on, Meg prowls around town on her little foxy paws trying to run away from a mysterious murderous fog and trying to get a bunch of human shapeshifters who act more like animals than thinking creatures to work together.

The fog is some kind of a "misty tentacle monster," and it is not creepy at all. It kills people, but it mostly kills me with laughter. If you want a good book about evil foggy things, go read Stephen King's The Mist.

The Mythology: Piss-poor. It's vague, doesn't make much sense, and it is completely uncompelling. It is the major failure within this book. The reader is pretty much handed the mythology within a few sentences of explanation and told: you will eat it, and you will like it, because that's all you're going to get.

But the wizard wasn’t alone; he had an apprentice. And she had a change of heart. She took control of the weapon and turned it on the wizard...she tore the weapon apart. Her own power wasn’t enough to destroy it, so she hid the pieces. She set the five weards, one to guard each of the elements and keep them separate.”
I’d decided not to interrupt again, but I couldn’t let this one go. “Weirds?”
“We-ards, with an A – from ‘ward’. That’s us. She took five animals and borrowed their shapes, lending the weards the ability to change and blend in with both humans and animals.

Huh? Ok...that might be an explanation for the shape-shifting, but it seriously does not satisfy me. Where is the intrigue. Where is the danger? Is there a compelling reason why I should care about this? This is honestly one of the worst mythology I've ever read as an excuse for shape-shifting.

We have various clans of shapeshifters. The Rabble (they turn into butterflies), the Horde (rats), the Cluster(fuck) (just kidding) (they're spiders), the Conspiracy (ravens). And no worries, we get to meet every single one!!!!!!! There is no sense or reason for choosing who will be a shapeshifter. Basically, if you're in the right place at the right time when someone dies, they pass their power onto you. And it shows, because these shapeshifters are a mess. They're a bunch of animals, no pun intended. They screech, they yell, they fight, they try to kill each other. Some of them are adults, but mostly, they're adults in name only because they need to seriously grow the fuck up. Take the Skulk, the clan to which Meg belongs, for example.

My amazing new world. It was a selfish thief, one young girl, and three bickering adults.

The Skulk aren't the only idiots. All the clans are a bunch of bickering mess, and I was rooting for the evil wizard (yes, there is an evil wizard) and the murderous fog to kill them all.

And pigeons are evil. But we all know that. Fucking flying rats. One pooped on me at lunchtime when I was in 10th grade :(

The Characters: They're either 1. tropes, or 2. dull.

Meg is not conventionally pretty, she is not conventionally thin (Size 16). She is a graffiti artist who strives to be the opposite of everything her mother wants her to be, and everything I want her to be, which is to say, she is completely dull, unexceptional, unremarkable in every way. Except she's a little bitch at times. But then her mother calls her a bitch, and so I feel bad for calling Meg that in my mind. But really, do you expect me to sympathize with someone who is more concerned about the fact that her graffiti got covered up in a police tent than the fact that the police tent is covering the dead body of the man who almost died in her arms the night before?

I clenched my fists and tried not to swear out loud.
All that effort, for nothing. Nobody – except the police – even got to see it.

Screw you, Meg. Besides that, Meg is just so inoffensively boring. She has no personality. Her character doesn't develop. I cannot recall her in my mind at all. I want an ordinary girl who turns into an extraordinary character through the development of the book. Meg is just...there, eclipsed by her own dullness.

Her parents are the worst of tropes. Her mother is a thin, conniving, evil witch of a woman whom Meg hates. Meg's mother is almost comically evil. She locks Meg in a closet. She forces Meg to go on diets. She slaps Meg. She calls her own daughter a "little bitch."

Meg's father is a CEO, a spineless shell of a man. "He wasn’t mean. He never shouted. He was just a vague pinkish presence at the dinner table and in the hall, like a walking man-sized copy of the Financial Times."

There are so many characters in the book, there are five members of every shapeshifting group, and we meet every single one of them. There are so many, and I cannot keep them straight. No more than 3 or 4 stands out in my mind. There is *takes a deep breath*: Roxie, Mo, Aaron, James, Addie, Susanne, Arthur, Marcus, Ron, Randhir, Fran, Angel, Ryan, Amanda, Chandran, Katie, Ben, Peter, Victoria, Angel. And that's not to mention the other various people in Meg's life. It's just too damn much.

The Romance: Huh? It's like all of a sudden, Meg meets this boy 2/3rd of the way into the book, and then suddenly they're boyfriend and girlfriend. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? Oh, they're both graffiti artiiiiiiiiiistes. Birds of a feather and all.

No pun intended, REALLY.

Not recommended: there are far better books about shape shifters out there.