"Liv...it’s a name, a verb, a command. A notion of mortality. That’s a name ripe for some epic poetry. If I could write, I’d write you one, a poem.”
In YA literature, I often find myself wishing I could kill the main character.
This book did me a favor: it DID kill off the main character. Sadly, it didn't help. My headache persisted.
You see, the girl still lives on, as an extremely irritating ghost, a tiresome, ceaselessly self-centered narrator.
This book is categorized as "paranormal" only by technicality. It is nothing but nauseating, mindless wish-fulfillment. There is a girl who died in a well. If you are hoping for Anna Dressed in BloodRingu, you are sadly out of luck.
The Big Bang Theory is wrong. The universe was created from the birth of Olivia Bloom. She is the center of the universe. Multiple ecosystems spawned from the fertility of her poop. The sun shines out of her asshole. This book is about nothing, nobody, but Liv.
This book is less:
The only thing terrifying about this book is the astoundingly quick insta-love. There is a girl who is accepted to a most prestigious academy through no intelligence. She is picked up to her school by a white-gloved chaffeur and whisked off to her beautiful Gothic boarding school by a limousine. At her school, she is served by waiters at mealtime. Her things are unpacked, her room cared for by unseen servants. She has the most popular, most handsome boy in school pining for her since the moment they first lay eyes on each other. He will do anything for her. She instantly makes another guy friend who will also do anything for her.
Including go to jail to help solve the mystery of her death. It's no big deal. What's more important is Liv, the dead Liv.
“I appreciate the effort, man, but let it go,” Gabe said, sincerely. “You know what’s most important right now: to learn the truth and bring justice. For her.”
No classes. No female friends. Stupid female rivals. Hot guys who adore her AND befriend her. This book is truly the epitome of idiotic, simpering wishfulness.
Part I: The Wish Fulfillment; Liv is an orphan. She lives with her foster parents. Don't worry, her foster parents aren't worthy of any mention in the book; they are placeholder only.
Liv somehow gets accepted into the ultra-prestigious Wickham Hall. It's "the best prep school in the country." We have no idea how the fuck she gets in, except it's something vague about her art. Because her brains it ain't.
My grades certainly didn’t get me into Wickham Hall. I assumed it was my portfolio.
The school is beautiful. Stunning. The students are dull. Every single girl is a clone, except for Liv.
They dressed the same. Their hair was almost identical. Their skin was milky with the occasional bout of freckles. Their noses even turned up in the same way. But mostly, they all talked the same.
Liv, who stands out. Liv, who is the object of ostracization because every single girl hates her.
Liv, who immediately falls for the most unattainable boy in school, Malcolm Astor.
That’s when I noticed him. He was standing next to the headmaster, still looking at me even though the others had turned away. Our eyes met, and I quickly looked away. But I could feel his gaze linger. I desperately willed my face not to flush, my lips not to purse. Suddenly I was aware of every single muscle in my face.
Malcolm Astor, who immediately singles Liv out for his specialized attention, the most prestigious First Dance at the school ball.
I looked up, mouth full of bread, to see what had happened and...he was there.
He stood in front of me and asked, “May I have this dance?”
Not only is there Golden Boy Malcolm, but there is brooding, dark Gabe.
He was skittish and intense, but his brown eyes were gentle. Still, I wanted to keep at least three feet away. He was almost exactly how I’d always pictured Vincent Van Gogh—in other words, pretty crazy.
Two boys, ever so different. *rolls eyes*
Classes, fuck classes. What classes?
It's apparently a boarding school (and a prestigious educational institution) in name only, because it seems that all Liv does is paint and continue her courtship of Malcolm.
This is a paranormal book, after all, but the only thing I found abnormal about this book is Malcolm's perfection and their courtship.
They kiss within 10% of the book. They go on romantic dates. There has never been such an idealized teenaged boy as Malcolm. He takes her on trips to dark, romantic gravestones. He makes her a playlist.
Malcolm let go of my hand and took out his iPod. He clicked it on and then handed it to me. A playlist called Liv, Forever was cued up.
“I made it for you. Obviously.”
Malcolm then takes her on a romantic sun-dappled tour of the school based on that playlist.
And we walked along a sun-dappled path, comfortable like two people who’d known each other forever.
I looked out over the terrain. Lush and seemingly endless. And we walked right into it, serenaded by the Beatles’s “I’m Looking Through You.”
Malcolm offers to be her fucking canvas.
He turned to me. “Draw on me.”
“Draw on me.""
After he said that, he took his shirt off. His body was perfect.
Of course it is.
Oh, wait. Isn't this supposed to be a paranormal novel? Oh, here it comes. SHE DIES!
My head whipped back from its force. And that’s when everything went black.
Part II: I'm pretty when I'm dead; And the wish-fulfillment continues. You see, Liv is pretty, even when she's dead.
My body was cold and dull. Plump with death. I looked almost serene. My dark hair spread around my head, kind of like that famous painting of Ophelia floating in the river. Funny, I’d made so many self-portraits and yet I’d never really looked at myself and realized I was actually kind of pretty.
Her so-perfect lover weeps over her, ever so dramatically. She is loved when she is lost.
He kneeled on the ground next to my body and kissed my cheek.
Crime-scene contamination, be damned.
Liv is dead. So beautiful. So young. So tragic. Like the a sad, sad night lit by stars.
I was separate from the world. I had become the star, hadn’t I? That tragic, lonely thing.
Like a fallen angel, beautiful in her fragility!
I imagined myself an angel. I kind of was, wasn’t I?
For someone dead, she sure is full of herself.
Apparently, she's a ghost now. Liv is dead! Murdered! Ohnoes! Now we must investigate her death. But however will she do that?! Enter Gabe also known as walking, talking deus ex fucking machina because he can hear ghosts. Together, the three of them will investigate her death! Liv will use her supernatural abilities as a ghost to discover who killed her!!!!!!!!!!!
Part II: Love after death
I waited and waited until there was enough condensation for me to write a single sentence. It took every ounce of willpower to ignore the pain in my fingertip. But I did it.
I will hold u again, I wrote on the glass.
Or she could just use it to write a note to her lover. Same thing, really.
The Setting: WHAT SETTING? ARE WE IN HIGH SCHOOL? You wouldn't bloody know. There is not a single instance of actually attending any class outside of art, in which they're pretty much fucking free to do what they want. It's supposed to be a beautiful Northeastern United States setting with pretty leaves, pretty buildings...and that's it.
There are no relevant students because the only person the book is concerned with is Liv and those connected to her.
There are no academics because Liv doesn't give a fuck about academia.
There are no classes because it would interfere with Liv's social life and her courtship with Malcolm.
There are a lot of walking around on the beautiful campus...because it's a beautiful campus.
It was mid-afternoon so there were no stars, of course, but the leaves were every possible orange and the clouds were perfect puffs.
It's not so much a school campus, as it is vacation resort.
The Mary Sue: There is room for only one relevant female in this book, and there is no doubt that star is Liv Bloom. Liv is one of the most useless, self-centered character I have ever encountered. She is a heroine of the Bella Swan sort because she is completely, utterly worthless in every way but her love interests can't see it. She is an artist, but we don't really see much of that, nor is she a credible one, because her art is, well...herself.
A self-portrait. Almost all my drawings are self-portraits. They don’t necessarily look like me—in fact, they rarely do—but they represent me.
Yet somehow, everyone thinks she is fucking perfection. Her new art teacher raves over her talents. Talents of which we are never convinced.
“You are so talented. Do you understand? Your skill is exceptional. If you unleash and add true emotion to your work, it will sing, Olivia! It will fly!”
Her new boy toy knows that she is the one approximately 15 minutes after meeting her, after knowing nothing about her.
“I think I’ve been waiting for you my whole life.”
“It must’ve been a pretty boring life.”
“It was. Then I met you.”
The Artistic References: Listen, I like art as much as the next person. I studied it for years when I was younger, but there is a way to appreciate art, and shoving it down the readers' throat isn't it. There is an incredible amount of artistic name-dropping in this book. Klimt. Pollock. Modigliani. Yue. Van Gogh. Rothko.
But then images started to emerge from the darkness around us. At first they were pleasant: a Titian cherub, a Chagall angel. But then one of Bosch’s devils appeared. And Munch’s screaming terror. Francis Bacon’s agonizing Pope. And one of Basquiat’s jagged skulls.
It feels forced. It feels false. It feels like the book is trying too hard.
The Romance: This book is filled with the most romantic, the most unrealistic of fantasies. The perfect golden boy, the "Abercrombie & Fitch" boy. The one who recites poetry to her underneath a moonlit, star-filled sky.
There was an opening in the canopy of trees where we could see the brilliant moon. And stars. Hundreds of them. He took my hand. He held it strongly—with commitment. We lay there silently for a long while until he spoke.
“Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
Fuck curfew. What curfew. Is this even a school?
The romance in this book is so incredibly unrealistic. It truly is insta-love. They fall for each other within 10% of the book. The Big L word is said before 33% of the book is through. The hearts go pitter and patter, but true to the art theme in this book, it has to sound good in an artistic manner.
I was dying inside. Brain exploding like a Pollock. Heart melting like one of Dalí’s clocks.
Malcolm is completely unrealistic. he is too perfect to be true. He cries.
And he cried. He didn’t have that embarrassed look guys usually have when they cry, like the way my dad had struggled against his tears. Malcolm let go, without shame.
Repeatedly. Unashamedly. I'm not saying that men can't cry, I'm saying that Malcolm's image in this book is too romanticized, too idealistic to ever be true.
Malcolm talks to his dead lover's ghost. He speaks words right out of the scripts of a chick-flick romance.
“You know what I wish?” he asked.
“That I could just see you one last time—hear your voice. Hold you.”
The romance is completely, utterly ludicrous. As is the entirety of this book.