Well, we’ve been here before.
On a lot of levels, actually. One: hey gang!! It’s been a while! I took another accidental hiatus! Are we surprised? No, I can’t imagine we are. If any surprise is happening at all, I’m sure it’s everyone being like, Oh, you were gone? Did not notice. Definitely did not impact my life at all.
Which is as it should be.
Another level of déjà vu (yes, I took French – sure, I know the keyboard shortcuts for the accent aigu and accent grave – uh huh, I definitively had to look up those names to make sure I was getting them right): it’s another unpopular opinion post!
I have literally dozens of reviews I haven’t blogged (hate that verb, for some reason), so on the once-in-a-blue-moon days on which I have the motivation to post here, it just makes the most sense for me to post a bunch of reviews at once under the pretense of a theme.
Since all of my book opinions seem unpopular, this is just what makes the most sense.
So let’s get into it, gang! (I’m already done acting contrite for disappearing for two weeks.)
Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.
More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.
I have a nemesis now.
I’ve long wondered whether the natural next step in my evil-genius career is to find a nemesis. I have the excess time and aimless fury to direct to it. I have no problem holding years-long grudges for things such as “he should have picked up on my entirely unexpressed infatuation with him during those two weeks in middle school” and “that time she started talking about how ‘the curator at the Met is really amazing’ as if that were somehow a valuable insight, seriously no one is surprised that the f*cking curator at the f*cking Metropolitan Museum of Art is talented Elizabeth.”
Either of those two examples would be prime candidates for nemesis status. But still I held out. I think a girl always wants her first time to be with someone special.
For me, that person is Alosa, the protagonist of this book.
If Alosa, the titular Daughter of the Pirate King, were a real person, she would be easily the worst person alive. Because of this, I think it is my sacred duty to declare that I will hate her like I hate no one else for the rest of time.
Maybe not. A lot of my time is sucked up with completely detesting such classic characters as Severus Snape and Lila Bard. But I think I can free up at least 45 minutes on Tuesdays for pure, unadulterated rage.
Let’s talk about Alosa, yeah?
The thing about me and every human living person on this planet with a heart and/or a semi-operational brain is that I (plus the gang) f*cking love pirates.
Everyone loves pirates!! They are so cool! They do the funnest stuff, including, but not limited to: swashbuckling, gallivanting, swaggering, swordfighting, roughhousing, drinking, bantering, and nefarious plotting.
A book that even included as few as THREE of these would have been a blast and a half.
Unfortunately, we did not have a pirate at the helm (hehehe). We had Alosa. And therefore our roster of activities looked a lot more like this: complimenting self, gazing lustily, telling not showing, thinking about the abstract concept of coming up with a plan but deciding not to, cutting scenes right when they get interesting, complimenting self more, and more, and more.
She single-handedly took what could have been a fun romp across the seven seas (except not seven seas, because this is a fantasy world supposedly, although we have nO WORLD BUILDING TO SHOW FOR IT) and made it into what it is. Which is romance. Just one hundred percent pure unadulterated romance.
I could have unhappily dealt with that if there were any chemistry between the two characters. Even if the characters had a single redeeming factor!!! But no. Because not only do we have Alosa, who is too busy telling-not-showing her amazing powers and genius intellect and next-level swordfighting abilities……..we also have Riden.
The most boring, flat, uncharismatic cold piece of toast ever to have the goddamn wherewithal to call himself a pirate.
Riden and Alosa were so busy whispering sweet nothings into one another’s ears (probably murmuring things like “oh my god, I can’t believe I found someone as entirely unlikable as me, we’re meant to be together”) that they ACTIVELY DIDN’T DO FUN STUFF. Alosa actively didn’t kill people, didn’t plot, and didn’t use her special powers she was so busy telling us about because of Riden!!!! Riden instantly grew a set of morals (although not a backbone) to protect Alosa, a prisoner and an enemy that he decided instantly to fall in love with because she’s f*ckable and has sick red hair!
This was also full of plot holes so big you could sail a ship through them. (At this point I don’t like the fact that I gave this review a light nautical theme, but it’s too late to turn back now. Too late…to…sail back now? I don’t have the background knowledge for this.)
And it was stupid. None of Alosa’s plots were good, even though she spent what I estimate to be a cumulative three hundred pages telling us about them. (What? This book is 308 pages long? Yes, my estimate seems about right.)
Here is a plan I came up with while reading the last bit of the book that is better than Alosa’s, except Alosa didn’t even come up with one for all her bragging, Riden did, ha ha ha: click here for my Goodreads review (spoilers!).
I am seriously about to write myself a book about pirates. I am so devastated that this one was an emotional, telling-instead-of-showing, egotistical mess captained by the most straight white cast of all time. (And there I go again with the “captained” sh*t. I think I’m broken. This book finally broke me.)
Bottom line: I am Completely Mystified as to how this has a four star average. This is one of the worst fantasy books I’ve read in a looooong time.
In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.
Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.
But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.
Hindsight is 20/20.
I now understand, having read this book, what I did not grasp previously: that maybe I shouldn’t have expected to like this.
For one thing, I full on hate Francesca Zappia’s other book with everything that I am, which in retrospect is seeming like a more important factor than it did at the time.
I also really, really hate my-big-secret-was-revealed-and-now-everyone-in-high-school-knows-and-my-life-is-ruined-in-a-very-quintessentially-high-school-way plotlines. They are so stressful.
But I like contemporaries! And I like the Internet! And I like illustrations! And I like mental illness rep! And I like books people like! (That first and last one are blatantly false, but still.)
I had hope, is what I’m saying.
This book crushed every last BIT of that.
As I just ranted about (except not actually because it’ll probably take me a million years to post this, even after it took me a million years to write it, even after it took me a million years to read the book) in my review of Everything All at Once, I am sick to death of the sh*tty family trope.
But I didn’t realize just how sick of it I could be, just how hard that trope could scrape against the bottom of the entertainment barrel, just how low we could get, until I read this book.
THIS BOOK HAS PERHAPS THE WORST FAMILY DYNAMIC OF ANY BOOK I’VE EVER READ. Because not only is it grueling and dramatic and boring and done, it’s also completely nonsensical.
Eliza has two little brothers, who are so flat and annoying they actually go well past the bounds of the very definitions of the words “flat” and “annoying.” She does not get along well with said brothers, and is, in fact, quite mean to them despite being many years older and, one would suppose (incorrectly), more mature. So that’s awesome.
But we don’t get to the very limits of terrible until we talk about Eliza’s parents. That statement, along with every single statement made in this book, may lead you to assume that Eliza’s parents are the problem. However, every single cell in my entire body vehemently disagrees with that assumption.
Eliza’s parents are just two people trying their best!!!!!! Their daughter never talks to them and spends her whole life in her room, on the Internet, and they don’t know what to do about it which is not exactly shocking considering Eliza never talks to them!!!!! They’re just trying to parent!!!!!
I think this book may have been designed to appeal to the children of technology. Here is a girl who has it all, in terms of what the online world can offer: she has anxiety, but she’s unbelievably famous, has swarms of online friends, creates amazing art, gets a boyfriend. What goes along with that is the inevitable disapproving parental figure is actually – gasp! – wrong.
Maybe that’s another reason I was destined not to like this book: I firmly believe you can’t be on the internet all the time. Not even if your friends are on there, not even if your job is on there, not even if, like, a goddamn opportunity to hook up with Zac Efron is on there. Which I guess it is, technically speaking. REGARDLESS OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES, the real world matters too, is what I’m saying.
I firmly believe that Eliza should have apologized to her parents. She doesn’t talk to them unless she’s spewing vitriol, she ignores her family, she stays in her room all the time, she refuses to even offer an explanation as to why all of this would be okay. Once she does – sorry, once her brothers do for her – good ol’ mom and dad are more than understanding.
I gave this book the benefit of the doubt for SO LONG because I thought character development would change the way she treats her family but nOOO, HER PARENTS WERE ACTUALLY IN THE WRONG ALL ALONG, AND IN TURN SO WAS I, MOTHER AND FATHER AND I ARE JUST THREE MORE FOOLS INHABITING THIS WORLD OF FURY AND NONSENSE.
Not even the fun Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland kind.
In the abundant free time Eliza doesn’t spend creating an inexplicably famous and successful web comic or ruining the lives of her family members, she’s living it up sexual tension-wise with a kid named Wallace.
I support this relationship, but only because Eliza and Wallace both suck so equally that they were probably made for each other. They treat each other like sh*t, and Wallace is so boring. Like seriously. Guys. This is your MCM?
Eliza stupidly hides the fact that she writes that massively successful web comic from Wallace, even though Wallace is a huge fan of it and talks to her about it all the time and revealed his secret online identity to her. But whatever, of course that is what would happen in a book this trope-y.
HOWEVER. Here’s the thing. Eliza and Wallace write notes to each other all the time (like straight up instead of talking). Eliza also handwrites the speech bubbles for her comic, which Wallace is obsessed with. Like photographic-memory-level-of-knowledge obsessed. Can Wallace not recognize handwriting? There’s a moment when Eliza recognizes Wallace’s after seeing it ONE TIME.
This book is dumb and I hate it.
Good mental illness rep, though. If only everything else didn’t suck so hard.
Bottom line: This book is designed to speak to its audience, and that high-as-hell average rating tells me it worked. BUT NOT FOR ME. SORRY, FOLKS.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed.
She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.
Well, this book didn’t exactly age like a fine wine!!!!
This is the wearing-eyeliner-on-your-bottom-lid-but-not-your-top of books. The I Heart Justin Bieber graphic tee of series start-offs. TheTwilight of YA fantasy paranormal romance. Wait. Twilight is the Twilight of that.
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer has all those fresh fresh 2011 tropes we knew and loved back in the day, and they…do not look clean as a whistle in the harsh light of modernity.
Young adult fantasy isn’t exactly a utopia in 2018, but man, reading this book really made me wonder how we survived for so many years! This was like a grocery list of lightly offensive tropes. YA typically has at least one of them, but to have so many! It’s almost impressive.
There’s a certain je ne sais quoi about YA fantasy of this type that is immediately evident. Maybe it’s the mildly sh*tty writing; maybe it’s the intense self-ostracization of the inevitably brunette protagonist; or maybe it’s the INSTANT APPEARANCE OF THE HOTTEST BOY IN SCHOOL, WHO NEVER TALKS TO ANY GIRLS but ohmygod wait is he coming to talk to you??? Ohmygod Mara!!!
It’s probably the latter.
So I knew from the get-go that this was going to be a Twilightian tale, but I didn’t know just how bad it would get. Until I was straight up informed, with the following quote, delivered straight into the eyes of our protagonist by the hottest British mouth ever to grace the Florida coast:
“You’re not like other girls.”
The subtext was screaming those five words so hard I didn’t think that they needed to be said outright!!! But I guess I forgot that the writing of this book is Not Good.
But even before that, I was given a warning. The quintessential good-looking blonde rich mean teens that rule this high school are named Anna and Aiden. Aiden is gay. His nickname is “The Mean Queen.”
When the lovely Mara, our unique brunette protagonist, asks her token gay friend – who is actually a token bi friend in this book for flair (but still professes his lack of attraction to Mara in order to be the sexless fixture so required by all early 2010s teens) – why Aiden has this nickname, Jamie (said lack-of-sex object) says because it’s obvious, and because he’s mean.
Are they…are they calling him a “queen” because he’s gay?
Uhhh. Pretty sure that sh*t wasn’t exactly enthusiastically approved even a whopping seven years ago.
There is also, in another totally predictable twist of horribleness, so much slut shaming based on clothes. Every mean character (meaning every single female who isn’t Mara, her love interest’s sister, or her brother’s girlfriend) is described for the absolute horrors of their, like, showing a shoulder or whatever.
One little tidbit that I forgot even happened in this type of book was that a natural branching off from the not like other girls trope was the you-don’t-need-makeup cliché???? So classic. So good. That’s another one that’s just outright said:
“You don’t need makeup.”
Soooo romanticcccc. What a dreamboat. Question mark. Is that the desired response???
The girl hate in this is like none I’ve ever seen, or at least like none I can remember and haven’t repressed due to my having read it in middle school.
EVERY SINGLE GIRL IN THE BOOK EXCLUDING THE AFOREMENTIONED TWO HATES MARA SIMPLY BASED ON THE FACT THAT SHE HAS GOTTEN INTO THE PANTS, AND APPARENTLY HEART, OF ONE NOAH SHAW.
But I should talk about Noah Shaw before I talk about the girl hate.
Noah is another amaaaaazing cliché who has somehow developed the ability to walk and talk and whatnot. I was excited to get into Noah, because I remembered everyone lusting after him in 2011.
I should have realized what that would mean.
Noah is the hot inexplicably British resident of Miami, whose house is twenty-five thousand square feet but you would never know it because he’s just so down to earth. His hair is always a mess! He doesn’t tie his tie right! He wears T-shirts underneath his uniform button-down, for some reason!
Plus talk about toxic masculinity!!! He punches a guy in the face for saying he’d f*ck Mara so hard that whoever pulled him out would be crowned King of England. (Which, disgusting, but like…also kind of funny. Almost. If it weren’t a rape joke.) Then he gets in another fight like two days later, but it might have been longer because sometimes they just say “weeks passed” in this book. ANOTHER AWESOME TROPE.
Noah checks the tragic backstory box in a big way (his mom was murdered in front of him at a protest and his dad is, like, so rich but so distant) and he’s SUCH a bad boy. He’s really promiscuous, but we won’t shame him for it like we shame all the girls in this book because I could, like, totally fix him.
It’s, in a word, amazing. No satire could ever lock onto male love interest tropes like this book manages to.
Also at one point Noah literally says (always outright with this book!) that he’s going to “fix” Mara. So. Just to let you know that the mental illness rep is sh*t, alongside the gay and bi rep being awful. And also Mara’s half-Indian, which comes into play only alongside a mention of the saris her mom buries in her closet in order to “be American.”
Make up your own mind on that one?
Anyway. When Mara gives into the ~true love~ between Noah and herself, girls she doesn’t know elbow her. They shove her books out of her arms. They hate her so much that when the Spanish teacher fails her on the exam out of spite, none of them stand up for her.
The plot of this is also so confusing. Time passes in jumps. Every day follows the same structure so it’s impossible to tell what’s happening.
But it all boils down beautifully to the not-so-happy-but-like-happy-in-an-edgy-emo-way ending: It turns out Mara and Noah are meant to be because their chosen-one style magic powers match up. (Aw!)
Bottom line: This book is truly a better, more obvious encapsulation of every YA fantasy trope I can think of than any satire could ever possibly hope to be. Which is, in a way, strangely entertaining.
I might have to continue the series just because of that.