Following good stories wherever they lead
It starts off decently enough: Olivia Bloom, poor orphan and gifted artist, is accepted to Wickham Hall, an elite preparatory school tucked away in the hills of New Hampshire. Liv, meet snobby school. Liv, meet edgy outsider boy. Liv, meet handsome trust-fund boy.
Liv, meet retinue of campus ghosts…
I wanted to like this book more than I did, on the premise alone. Beautiful/creepy New England prep school? Heroine with self-directed tendencies? Potential for mystery and murder and mayhem?
Yes, the elements are there, but the presentation fell flat. Let’s start with what else I liked:
I did appreciate the artistic imagery in this book. Liv sees the world through an artist’s eye, and is constantly drawing parallels to particular styles and works in her descriptions — she frames the scene. It’s a neat way to draw you into her internal world and give an added kick to the surroundings, as well.
The dialogue and pacing, however…she’s lost me there.
I get that this is 1) a YA book and 2) a thriller, but there’s no reason we can’t take a little more time with — well, everything. The exchanges are short and simplistic, extra punctuation is substituted for nuanced conversation (ex: “What?! No!”), and the action trips along a bit too fast for me to care.
The whole story has the feel of a draft, or a rushed piece commissioned and sent out the door, paint not quite dry, brushstrokes hurried and vague. I don’t have a problem with lighter pieces — books like Paranormalcy and Hell Week (aka Maggie Quinn: Girl vs. Evil) roar along quite enjoyably for me. But I do have an issue when an author tries to tack “weighty” elements onto the piece without any finesse, especially when it comes to character development.
Take Liv, the orphan. Who tells the reader – repeatedly – that her upbringing of scattered homes has damaged her capacity for openness and love.
Okay…but no. Don’t tell me something like that just like you’d tell me your eye color or preference for chocolate. You’ve got to show me something.
All in all, I can’t help but draw parallels to another book I’m re-re-re-reading, White Oleander. It also features an artistic girl protagonist who experiences abandonment and homelessness through the foster system — and it’s just light-years ahead in terms of sophistication and depth of character. Not a fair comparison to make (Liv, Forever isn’t trying to be on the same dimension)…but it happened in my brain, and I can’t unthink it now.
So, I picked this one up, despite the creepy cover. (Does anyone else get too wigged out from a cover to read a book? I have this struggle sometimes — it started with an edition of A Tale of Two Cities that had a particularly gruesome guillotine scene on the front. Took me years to get back to Dickens.)
Overall: I read it — I didn’t hate it. But I’m not going to have a lasting impression from it, either. A gothic/Romantic cotton candy piece, light and quickly gone.