Monday, August 27, 2012

ARC Book Review: Hanging by a Thread by Sophie Littlefield

Title: Hanging by a Thread
Author: Sophie Littlefield
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: Sept 11, 2012

Cover Impressions: Not impressed with this particular cover.  It appears that she is lying on a bloody comforter on a bed (is that what everyone else sees?).  This never happens in the book.  Clare spends page after page describing her wacky designs, but all I see pictured is a simple lace top and VERY traditional necklace.  The pose is boring, the color is bland and there is nothing to make me pick this one up off the shelf.

The Gist:
The town of Winston, California has been rocked by tragedy for each of the past two fourth of July weekends.  After moving back to the town where she grew up, Clare is simply concerned with trying to fit in with the popular kids and maybe find some summer romance.  She is also trying to hide the fact that a mysterious gift allows her glimpses into people's lives just by touching their clothing.  When chance brings her into contact with the jacket of Amanda, the girl who died the previous July, Clare must decide what to do with the disturbing vision.

This book did not work for me at all.  In theory, it had good bones: the prodigal return, a mysterious power, a possible serial killer, a bad boy love interest - but when all those things came together in Hanging By A Thread they created a big pile of "Meh".  It starts off with promise, but gets bogged down once Clare starts playing Nancy Drew and each and every character is compelled to spill their guts for not apparent reason. 

The writing involves a great deal of Telling rather than Showing and tons of Info Dumping.  LOTS of long paragraphs explaining how events went down.  Seems like everyone in this town kept their secrets for two years and then all Clare has to do is ask a simple question and they break down and confess their life story.  The plot was fairly predictable and eventually, I ended up skimming paragraphs because I was getting tired of being told things that I had already figured out.  Had the author thrown out a shocking twist or two, I could have been brought back on board but instead I got the standard "rich parents bail out rich kids and someone decides that they should be punished" storyline.  For most of the book, Clare runs around town asking questions and when we finally did get a touch of action it was only slightly more exciting and over all too quickly.

The characters were incredibly one-dimensional.  Clare was boring and spent a considerable amount of time feeling resentful of her gift and arguing with herself about whether or not she should do anything about the information that she found.  She blames a lot of her problems on her mother and, despite constantly reminding us that the woman needs to slow down/find friends/reconcile with her own mother, Clare's only contribution to making these things happen is to yell at her.  The other female characters were pretty boring.  Rachel and her friends all sort of blended together and seemed to only serve as a way to pile on information through gossip sessions.  The males, on the other hand, were all really un-likable.  Clare's dad is a deadbeat, the guys she hung out with were jerks who called her a tease and a slut, and even the love interest, Jack, was an anger fueled young man with control issues.

I did not buy the romance angle for one minute.  In fact, it seemed pretty unhealthy to me.  Clare spent the first moments of their relationship grilling him about his murdered ex-girlfriend (to which he responded with anger and hostility) then continued to suspect he was the killer while running off to be alone with him in deserted areas of town!  As with the other characters, Jack spills his guts a little too quickly and then the pair act overly familiar for kids who just met and I really doubt the validity of their connection.  Clare reveals her secret (which left me yelling "what the hell, you just met like three days ago") and Jack starts throwing out lines like "Clare - it's me.  Tell me what you need." (which led to a lot of eye rolling).

I normally enjoy YA Mystery and I have heard good things about Sophie Littlefield, but Hanging by a Thread just fell flat for me.  On to the next book.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

Age: 16 and up
Gender: Female
Sex: Discussed, not described, kissing.
Violence: Fighting, Knifeplay
Inappropriate Language: Bitches, Shit, Jesus, God-Damn, Dick, Fuck, Slut, Pisses, Jerk, Hell, Bastard
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage drinking (and stealing of alcohol) 

Unanswered Questions:

If the parents are so concerned about a serial killer, why are they letting their teens out of the house at all?  It is called grounding folks (or if you want to be more PC about it - Family Game Night)

Having encountered/subdued a murderer, WHY DIDN'T YOU PHONE THE POLICE???


Penelope Sanchez said...

I came away liking this a little more than you, but had similar issues with the characterization. I loved Clare and her passions, but I felt like the emotional arcs of the characters and subplots were just started and never really tied together. I didn’t realize this was supposed to connect to her other two YA books – it read great as a standalone, which is something solid it has going for it.

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