Monday, 26 August 2013

Review - From What I Remember... by Stacy Kramer & Valerie Thomas

From What I Remember...
From What I Remember… by Stacy Kramer & Valerie Thomas
Series: Standalone
Published by Disney-Hyperion on May 15 2012
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 462
Rating: 2/5 stars

KYLIE: Mexico? What a nightmare! I should be putting the finishing touches on my valedictorian speech. Graduation is TODAY! Wait! Is this a wedding band on my finger??
MAX: It started with Kylie's laptop and a truck full of stolen electronics and it ended in Ensenada. It was hot, the way she broke us out like some chick in an action movie. But now we're stranded here, with less than twenty-four hours before graduation. 
WILL: Saving Kylie Flores from herself is kind of a full-time occupation. Luckily, I, Will Bixby, was born for the job. And when I found out she was stuck in Mexico with dreamy Max Langston, sure, I agreed to bring their passports across the border but there's no reason to rush back home right away. This party is just getting started. 
LILY: This cannot be happening. It's like some cruel joke. Or a bad dream. I close my eyes and when I reopen them, they're still there. Max and Kylie Flores, freak of the century. In bed together. If Kylie thinks I'm giving him up without a fight, she's dead wrong.

Reading From What I Remember was like eating unsweetened chocolate chips to curb a chocolate craving. It was what I was expecting, but it could have been so much better. I was expecting a light-hearted romp of a book, which was precisely what was delivered. Unfortunately I do have standards, even for the fluffiest books, and From What I Remember didn’t meet many of them.

The plot is incredibly far-fetched, but I actually didn’t take that as a strike against it. It was cute and sweet and full of wish-fulfilment, but ultimately it was enjoyable. It was action-packed and exciting and I never got bored (at least not when the narrative was focused on Kylie and Max).

I’m not a fan of multi-POV books. I find that two in one book tries my patience most of the time. This book had five. FIVE. That is way too many POVs, and only two of them were really necessary. The majority of the book is centred around the exploits of Kylie and Max, who accidentally get stuck in Mexico the day before their high school graduation. The other POV characters, Will, Lily, and Jake, were all very secondary, not to mention undeveloped. Will and Lily were by far the worst offenders, as I kind of enjoyed Jake’s chapters for the insight they provided into the mind of Kylie’s little brother who has Asperger’s. What I didn’t like about Jake was that his Asperger’s was his only defining trait. It kind of felt like the authors didn’t do enough research. It was just a pretty shallow portrayal. I was also incredibly offended by the casual use of the r-word as a slur, especially because it was used by Kylie!

Will was the epitome of the gay best friend cliché. He was essentially Kurt from Glee copy-pasted from a TV format to a novel. He had very little character development and I thought it was stupid that he gets paired up with the first gay guy he meets. It was just too convenient. Lily was equally shallow. She didn’t change at all from the beginning of the book to the end. Her ‘catastrophe’ is revealed early on, but she never feels at all sympathetic or the smallest bit likeable. I would have liked to see a bit more growth in Lily, or at least a realization that wealth and status might not be as important as she thinks they are.

I just didn’t see the point in including Will and Lily as POV characters. It would have been a much stronger book if it had been entirely from the eyes of Kylie and/or Max.

My biggest issue aside from characterization is this line: “Hobbies are for wimps who don’t have the guts to follow their passion.”

I don’t even know where to begin, I get so livid over that statement. It’s such a juvenile sentiment. Are people no longer allowed to have multiple interests? Just because I like reading doesn’t mean I expect to make money off of it. I like singing, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be a pop star. Some things are pipe dreams for a reason. I wanted to be an actor throughout high school, but one day I had to wake up and realise that I just wasn’t talented enough. That’s okay! I have other things that I’m good at, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t still act in community theatre as a hobby. I think that yes, Kylie had her heart in the right place in telling Max to pursue photography, but that comment was not an appropriate tactic to use.

Overall, it just wasn’t a great book. It was a quick read and Kylie and Max’s mishaps were quaint and inoffensive, but the level of characterization that I expect just wasn’t there. The writing was also very cringe-worthy, throwing around words like “chillax” (the only example I can recall at the moment). One more thing I really liked was the use of movie quotes at the beginning of every chapter (though I wish that the movie references had been used less frequently in the narrative).

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