“I read a novel where this hit man is supposed to assassinate a woman, but he ends up falling in love with her instead, just from watching her.”
Well, way to fall into your own cliché, book.
The message in this book? Beauty is everything! Want a better life? Become beautiful. You will instantly have everything you will ever want. With the exceptions of a few Evil People wanting to possess you because you have a Special Destiny, but, whatever, right?
- A hot boyfriend (or two)? Check! He's been watching you afar (without your knowledge) for years (Cullen ain't got nothing on Kian), and he's liked you when you were ugly, but it's just so awesome that you're beautiful now, just as he decides to declare his feelings for you! A miraculous coincidence, for sure!
- A miraculous change in personality? Check! Who cares that you were a shy, quiet, bullied wallflower for your the previous years of your life. With your newfound beauty, you will instantly develop the kind of breath-taking confidence that's been ingrained in all beautiful people throughout their lives! Who needs time to adjust?!
- A newfound relationship with your parents? Check! Your brilliant mother, your absolutely amazing physicist mother, the one whose discoveries are on the edge of changing the scientific world? Why, she's just been waiting her whole life for a beautiful newly transformed daughter to make her realize that all she needs in her life is a trip to the gym and a new color of lipstick!
- Revenge on everyone who's ever wronged you? Check! Who knew that all it took was beauty for the people who's been making you miserable for the past three years of high school to accept you into the super-popular inner circle of school. Whoever thought that the person they've been tormenting for the past years could ever plot against them? Not the beautiful people themselves, no!
In all seriousness, This book was a disappointment. It contained two elements that I should have loved:
- A Faustian deal with the devil
It didn't work for me. This book was filled with a tremendous amount of insta-love, a lot of romance with a boy who has been stalking her for years, it is extremely light on the revenge plot, and the paranormal aspects were tremendously bogged down and confusing.
"I’m authorized to offer you three favors now in return for three favors later.”
“I don’t understand. What kind of...favors?”
“Anything you want,” he said.
Edie is on the verge of killing herself. She has been bullied relentlessly at school for the past three years, and she can't take it anymore. She is about to throw herself into a river, when a mysterious and stunningly beautiful young man named Kian appears...
He had the kind of face you saw in magazines, sculpted and airbrushed to perfection. Sharp cheekbones eased into a strong jaw and a kissable mouth. He had a long, aquiline nose and jade eyes with a feline slant.
...to offer her a deal she can't resist. He will give her three wishes, in return, she will give the people he works for three of their own wishes later.
Deal. Edie takes it. Her first wish?
“I want to be beautiful without losing any aptitude I have. No time limits, no melting face, no surprises.”
Edie wants to be beautiful. To be stunning. To get revenge on the Mean Girls (and guys) "Teflon crew" who has been making her life miserable for years. She also wants something else, it's not a wish, but Kian grants it anyway.
“Then there’s one more thing before you go.” I couldn’t believe I was doing this, but the words wouldn’t stop. They came from a place of complete certainty.
He does, and he fulfils his promise to turn Edie beautiful. She becomes a newly Photoshopped version of herself with a "slim hourglass figure." To explain away the change, she gives the excuse of going away to summer camp. Three months later, she comes back to school, ready for revenge.
It was time to shift from planning and preparation to payback and penance. By the time I was done at Blackbriar, there would be blood in the water.
But this whole Faustian wishes doesn't come without consequences (duh). It seems that Edie is special.
“Wait, what’s a catalyst?”
“You’re one. It’s somebody destined for great things.”
Oh, god, here we go again. So Edie has a special destiny, and people are out to get her for it.
It's simple enough, a revenge plot, and danger from people out to get her. So where did this book go wrong?
Belatedly, I realized I hadn’t stuttered once. Apparently the behavioral psychologist had been right; I had a psychogenic stutter, exacerbated by stress, mental anguish, and anxiety. Right then, I felt no fear of ridicule, and it was easy to talk.
In the beginning of the book, the main character is shy, overweight, ugly, and a social outcast. She has no friends, she stutters, she doesn't know how to act in public.
And when she suddenly turns beautiful, it seems like her personality changed 180 degrees as well.
[The beautiful people] considered their ability to control other people an accessory, like a great purse or a cute pair of shoes.
“I can’t believe that worked!”
“I wasn’t sure it would.” Especially since I had no experience with manipulation. But I’d watched it happen often enough. Mimicry wasn’t tough, apparently.
Edie learns immediately to manipulate, to smile seductively, to flirt, to lie. This is not realistic. A person does not immediately change from a social outcast, one who is almost incapable of talking to another person without fear, without stuttering, into a butterfly overnight, no matter the change in appearance.
“I was wondering if I could room with my friend, Vi,” I said, trying the persuasive smile for a second time.
Life can’t be this easy for the beautiful people.
I was cripplingly shy in high school, I was tremendously afraid of public speaking, I never had a single boy ask me out. I also wasn't ugly.
Confidence takes more than beauty on the surface, it is a slow, painful process, if you do not have it inside you. It took YEARS during college, of constantly being forced to do presentations, of having my insecurities soothed over by friends, of gradually gaining confidence in myself in order for me to become a person who appears to be confident in public. I can tell you from personal experience that a change in appearance does very little to give you the inner confidence that a person lacks and I found Edie's change to be completely unconvincing.
The Revenge: What revenge? This is nowhere as satisfying as Burn for Burn. The "Teflon crew" in the book did a wrecking job on Edie, and she wants to get back at them. It is not realistic:
- She immediately gets befriended by her former nemesis because she is beautiful
- She gets lifelong friends to hate each other by spreading a few rumors
“What the hell, you told Cam what I said?”
“I didn’t. I asked Jen what she thought of Cam, and I think Allison was ahead of us in line, but I would never—”
“Bet it was Allison.” His frown cleared. “She’s always trying to make Cam like her. She’s got this weird rivalry with Brittany. They’re supposed to be BFFs, but I get the feeling Allison would giggle if Brit fell down the stairs.”
And BAM. They believe her. They trust her. Magical bad things happen out of nowhere to them, without Edie's knowledge.This book doesn't have much of a sense of revenge at all. And trust me, I LIKE MY REVENGE PLOTS.
The Clichéd Romance:
I came up on my knees and hugged him; sometimes it felt like we were two halves of the same soul, and that was so stupid it made me feel like I lost IQ points just for thinking it.
Kian is struck by insta-love, he is a stalker, he is someone who is a double agent who should not be trusted. Really, this can't be any worse unless there was a love triangle.
Edie is madly in love/lust/whatever with Kian. She cannot think about him, for such a shy girl, she immediately demands a kiss, and then they conveniently become "pretend" boyfriends and girlfriends, which, naturally, leads to the real freaking EMOOOOOOTIONS. And there is a whole lot of emotions in this book; it addresses the clichés of YA romance while falling prey to it 100%.
Kian has been watching her secretly, for years.
“You already know I’ve spent a long damn time watching you. From the outside.”
He has reached a level of stalkerishness Edward Cullen could only aspire to. He knows her likes, her dislikes. What food she wants. He knows what happened to that bunny that bit her in 4th grade.
“You hate rabbits,” Kian said gently.
“Yeah.” I did—since one bit me in the fourth grade—but how weird that he knew.
FOURTH GRADE, MAN. And furthermore, he could be working against her!
“Sort of like a double bluff. You tell me enough of the truth to make me think you’re on my side while you’re manipulating me for your own ends.”
Does Edie listen to her instincts?! Hell no! He could be responsible for a girl's death. Who cares. It's KIIIIIIIIIIAN. Gorgeous Kian. Please.
The Plot: I do not understand the paranormal agency plot at all, and I have no idea what's going on. There are all sorts of weird creatures that appear in the book completely senselessly, without any connection, completely disjointed from each other. We have an emotional vampire, a Bloody Mary, a Bag Man, a Greek Oracle, and I can't make any sense of it whatsoever. Then I finished the book, I read the "Author's Note"...and it all came together.
Ann Aguirre: "I found so many creepy things that they wouldn’t all fit in one book, so there are many shocks and gasps yet to come. The Immortal Game is messy and convoluted, full of monsters and magic, science and sacrifice."
So there's just a jumble of nightmarish creatures thrown in for the sake of creepiness and not for the sake of sense? I'm supposed to be confused because this book is supposed to be "messy and convoluted?"
Why would you do this to us? ;_;
Final notes: To further add to the trope, we have parents who are there, but who pretty much let the wonderful student that is Edie do whatever she freaking wants. And her mother, her brilliant mother...she just needed a makeover from her newly beautiful daughter...
“I want us to have a better relationship, a closer one. We have science in common, at least. I don’t know much about your new interests, but I could stand to be more physically fit. Maybe we could work out together? There’s a nice facility at the university…”
I appreciate the message that Ann Aguirre is trying to send in this book: Don't let the bullies get to you. Don't commit suicide, there is hope in life. Unfortunately, the execution of this book did not work to my liking.
All quotes were taken from an uncorrected galley proof subject to change in the final edition.