Tuesday, 1 January 2013

review: Hooked

by Liz Fichera
HarlequinTeen, January 31 2012
young adult contemporary
e-galley received via NetGalley

Fred Oday's said yes to being the only girl at her high school's boys' golf varsity team. Ryan Berenger's best friend just got booted off the team to let this girl take his place. She knows she's going to be targeted. He knows he's pissed. But as they get to know each other, tensions give way to something that brings them closer than they'd ever expected.
The cover:

For some reason, I totally think it works. The grayscale photo complements the pink title (don't ask me how) and also makes the computer-style mono-serif font fit. The diagonal skew to the whole thing is great, too.

The book:

Oh, I so wanted to like this. But Fred and Ryan just didn't sell themselves as real characters to me. Both are a little on the passive side, and their relationship is devoid of tangible chemistry. As well, trying to focus on both their troublesome parental issues resulted in neither being fully developed.

The side characters ranged from great (Yolanda and the other girls from the rez) to absurd, like Ryan's friend Seth, whose main purpose seems to be to shower hate on Fred with an implausible reason behind his prejudice. And the big problem I have with this is that his racist behaviour is never really dealt with, head-on. After Seth does some serious over-the-top racist stuff, he cries, he's made to seem like a loser, he basically hits rock bottom. But nobody, not even Ryan, addresses his prejudice like "Yo, buddy, racism isn't right." Instead Ryan mutters "Shut up, don't call her Pocahontas" and leaves it at that.

To me, that avoids the main source of conflict to the whole book, and more importantly doesn't present the racism as something solvable. We don't need everyone to become all accepting and open-minded, but the theme topic deserves to be dealt with directly.

That being said, Fred's life on the reservation is remarkably detailed and fully realized, from the trailers to the nameless dogs to the miles of empty space between neighbours. This also serves to make the distinctions between social classes clear (another excellent theme that could've been developed so much more).

Because the conflict stems mainly through the tensions between characters, the plot's motion flounders. There's nothing much to keep readers engaged beyond wanting to know how Fred and Ryan make it in the end, and that might be enough for some.

Rating: 2 out of 5