Saturday, 18 August 2012
Review: The Innocents by Lili Peloquin
Release date: 16 October 2012
Publisher: Penguin (Razorbill), 288 pgs
Goodreads | The Book Depository
Nothing ever came between sisters Alice and Charlie.
Their family falling apart never would.
Until they got to Serenity Point.
"The Innocents" is the first in a new series of young adult novels that weave a saga of nail-biting drama, breathless romance, and gothic mystery.
My brief summary: Alice and Charlie follow their mother and new step-father, Richard, to begin a new life in elite community Serenity Point, where the mystery behind Richard's daughter's recent death and its impact on their new friends begins to put a strain on their relationship.
I'm giving this 3 stars, which might be a little generous. At the very least it makes me acutely aware that I recently gave Sarah J. Maas' Throne of Glass a 3.5 when The Innocents is far from being in the same league. But it's a 3 stars for what it is (and I think we all know what kind of book this is): a pure guilty pleasure.
What would have made it stand out? This may be controversial, and probably says more about me than it does anything else, but if I'm going to read a fun, trashy novel, I hope for drama of epic proportions. I tend to expect tears, bloodshed, pregnancies, cat fights...the works. And yes, I tend to be hypocritical and complain about the very same thing. It's a bit unfair, seeing as The Innocents never explicitly sells itself as such, but I honestly hoped it would be a bit more dramatic; that the characters would be nastier, the rich kids meaner, the mystery just a bit more sinister. At times it feels like Peloquin is trying to hold back and build emotional complexity within the story, and while these things aren't mutually exclusive and it pains me to say it, she probably would have been more successful had she focused on sheer entertainment factor alone.
I know that's an awful thing to encourage, but really, kudos to Lili Peloquin for trying to balance depth with drama, because she succeeds in some areas. I love books about sisters, and I actually felt that Alice and Charlie were well-developed. I had a clear sense of their characters and felt like I really understood them, though the unravelling of their bond and the tensions that Serenity Point places on their relationship could have been highlighted more. Unfortunately, I can't say the same about their love interests or their community, which was all one big cliché. As for the mystery surrounding Richard, their new step-father, and Camilla, his recently deceased daughter, it was entertaining enough to keep me reading. There's a big twist at the end that's predictable, but overall I liked how Peloquin tied the ending back to the prologue.
I really don't consider a guilty pleasure a bad thing. I enjoy a trashy read every once in a while. This was maybe not trashy enough for me to justify the label, and if it had focused solely on the bond between the two sisters or the suspense and mystery behind Camilla's death, it might have avoided the label altogether. Instead, it kind of awkwardly treads a fine line between being a guilty pleasure and being, to be blunt, not very good. The writing is awkward at times, and the first few chapters were distractingly unedited, but I'm confident that with only two months till its release these errors have been fixed.
All in all, this was definitely a quick read - I think I read it in about two and a half hours - and I was entertained, just not as much as I hoped. If you're a fan of books in the vein of Pretty Little Liars and/or Gossip Girl, you might enjoy this one. The Innocents combines the pervading sense of mystery of the former with the scandal and extravagance of the latter, resulting in a quick read that, while entertaining, never does quite reach the same level of addictiveness.