Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book Review: The Girl In The Steel Corset by Kady Cross

Rating: 2/5

Cover Impressions:  The cover is beautiful, even if it isn't exactly unique.  Far too many YA novels are simply shoving a pretty young girl into a stunning dress and expecting the masses to jump on board.  Unfortunately, as readers, we are suckers for this.  The pose is pretty common and I am simply thankful to the cover art gods that she doesn't have a tattoo across her back.  It also displays one of my pet peeves: elements that have NOTHING to do with the book: here it is the odd finger contraption and locket.  In fact, now that I think about it, the dress is "off" as well.  I would have much preferred if they had featured the dress that Finley received from Jack. 

The Gist: Finley Jayne is different.  When she is threatened the "other" Finley takes over.  This side of her has a fierce temper and the strength to back it up.  When an altercation sends her running, Finley finds herself with a new group of allies and in the midst of an investigation against "the Machinist"; a madman bent on wreaking by commandeering the city's automatons

Review: This was my first foray into the world of Steampunk and I am finding it difficult to determine how much of my dislike came from the book itself and how much came from the genre.  (As a side note - if someone can recommend a better Steampunk novel, please do so.  I really don't want to give up on the genre because of one sub-par book).  While reading, I kept questioning which came first: the story or the wardrobe and machine ideas.  It seemed that Kady Cross had written this novel simply so that she could describe pretty dresses and odd machines.  Unfortunately, she did not do either particularly well.  The whole world seemed a bit too .... convenient.  Why set your book during the 1800's, if each time they encounter an obstacle, you are going to provide your characters with bastardized versions of modern electronics?  Even these machines weren't creative, the "hand torches" (flashlights) and "pocket telegraph" (texting feature on a cell phone) left me rolling my eyes each time they were mentioned.

Cross' characters were also flat and unappealing.  They seemed to have little personality beyond the bland stereotype (pretty girl, rich gentleman, smart chick, tough guy, bad boy and cowboy - Yes, I said COWBOY to borrow from my teenage years - gag me with a spoon).  Emily had unrealized potential and left me wishing that she had been the main character instead of Finley.  Speaking of Finley, it seemed like she was playing at little girl lost.  Her cries for friendship felt weak and insincere and her moments of self-doubt and guilt were completely un-realistic.  As for the gentlemen, if you threw them all into a giant melting pot and threw in a dash of Johnny Depp and a pinch of Ryan Reynolds (remember that scene in Blade where he was being tortured and you could just see a tattoo...well,  it has nothing to do with this book but it was a great scene wasn't it?) mix those guys all together and you MIGHT come out with one interesting character.  The villain was laughable and seemed to have just escaped from the Mystery Machine yelling "and I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!"

The plot was pretty predictable.  I had figured out all of the plot twists long before any of the main characters.  The writing annoyed me with repetitiveness.  I could have started a drinking game with the number of times I read "Corset" or "Cravat" or Emily's hair was described as "Ropey".  Note to author: Either a) use a thesaurus or b) STOP CONCENTRATING ON THE DAMN CLOTHES AND GET ON WITH THE STORY!  The "romance" in this book was nearly non existant and would have been better described as a bro-mance between Griffin and Sam. 

But why, you ask with baited breath, did you give it a 2? Why not a 1?  Firstly, a 1 is reserved for the most vile, vomit-enducing pieces of tripe and this wasn't quite there (mostly because I liked Emily and hold out hope that in the next book she will get more page time).  Secondly, without having read any other Steampunk, I am not entirely sure whether or not some of my issues stem from the book or the genre and reserve the right to re-evaluate at a later date. 

Teaching Notes:

Age: Grade 7 and up
Gender: Girls, very few boys would pick up a book with this type of cover. 
Sex: None
Violence: Attempted assault, violence between humans and between humans and machine, lots of blood. 
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Abuse: Discussion of the use of opium, one scene of adults and minors drinking alcohol.


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