Saturday, July 2, 2011

Review of The Magnolia League by Katie Crouch

Katie Crouch
348 pages

Unfortunately, I began reading this book around the same time that someone tweeted an article by the author(s) on the subject of YA literature.  The article includes a killer spoiler, so if you want to be surprised by the book's ending, stay away for now!  I found the article to be mildly offensive, as a dedicated YA fan, particularly this bit: "But readers in Y.A. don't care about rumination. They don't want you to pore over your sentences trying to find the perfect turn of phrase that evokes the exact color of the shag carpeting in your living room when your dad walked out on your mom one autumn afternoon in 1973. They want you to tell a story."  

And telling a story is exactly what the author has done here.  The Magnolia League is about a grungy hippie girl (Alex) with dreads (who apparently doesn't shower).  When her mom dies in a freak accident, Alex is forced to leave the commune where she has grown up and move to Savannah, Georgia to live with her rich grandmother, who goes by Miss Lee.  Strange things start to happen, and Alex discovers that her grandmother's secret society, the Magnolia League, is really a hoodoo club in partnership with some people who continued practicing hoodoo after being brought to the US during slavery.

The story is very fast paced, which I enjoyed, but the characters are inconsistent and just...weird.  Here are some examples:

Alex vacillates between being super naive/smart and super coarse/vapid: "This week it's Jane Eyre, the one novel on the school summer reading list I haven't already read.  Thoughts so far: Edward is hot, but a total nightmare.  And what is with this banshee in the attic?" (p. 65).  She sounds like a snarky blogger being silly, not like a well-read lover of literature, and I'm always suspicious of characters who claim to have read every good book out there (ahem, Bella).  I LOVE to read, but I certainly haven't read even the smallest appreciable fraction of the books out there.  Alex also confuses me by being a super-virgin (her thoughts on sex come off as preachy), then making the following comment: "And how about those love scenes with Frederic and Catherine?  Totally orgasmic" (p.121).  WHAT? First of all, not even Mia Thermopolis would accidentally say that.  Then she goes on with, "Not that I even know what an orgasm is... I mean, I do know.  I do it all the time! Or sometimes.  Whatever."  I can almost take this as clumsiness to add to her "naive" character, but really?  What person is that ridiculous?  Also, I find it weird that Alex is overweight when she only eats health food and works outside all day.  She should probably get her thyroid checked, because usually nature girls aren't chubby at all.

The first clue that something was off came at the beginning of the story, when the two queen bees of Savannah are driving.  One is listening to Taylor Swift loudly on the radio, and the other turns down the music with this line, "I don't mean to get all Kanye, but you need to hear me" (p. 39).  Again, WHAT?  Who says that?  Not one of the most popular girls in a huge city! It's funny when the school principal makes a Kanye joke, just like it's funny when the 55 year old white chemistry teacher dougies at a pep rally.  It's NOT FUNNY when your friend makes such a late joke.  Kanye's over.

I'm going to stop ranting, now I promise.  And I'm going to read book two, because like I said, the story is excellent here.  I just hope that book two reads a little more authentically.  

3 stars to a fun book with tantalizing hoodoo secrets.  I'm a sucker for glamour and secret societies!

No comments:

Post a Comment