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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Despite Newbie Mistakes, Debut Novelist Shows Potential

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

It's easy to become invisible in a city of 600,000 people. Olivia Tate should know. The 20-year-old floats through the streets of Seattle, so wrapped in grief and sorrow that she

feels hollow, empty, like a ghost drifting silently among the living. When her burden grows too heavy, she reaches for a bottle of Valium, hoping to dull the pain. Forever. She's shocked when she wakes up in a hospital, even more so when she meets her rescuer, a quiet 22-year-old named Jude West. Not only does Jude save Olivia's life, but he sticks around for weeks afterward, always making sure she has what she needs.

His presence makes all the difference for Olivia. Jude's friendship helps her heal, gives her hope. He's so good to her, makes her so happy, that she ignores all his weird little quirks—like how he never invites her over to his apartment or talks about his family or the fact that he has no real job, but always has plenty of money. It's only when Olivia begins to

remember disturbing details about the night of her suicide attempt that she realizes just how much Jude's been keeping from her. Her suspicions seem crazy, unbelievable, but what if they're true? Does she really know Jude? Does she really want to? If he is what she thinks he is, what does that mean for their growing relationship, the one that's rapidly turning into something that's much, much more than just friendship? Will the secret Jude keeps tear them apart forever?

It's difficult to describe Emerald City, a debut novel by Alicia K. Leppert, because, really, it has no plot. The main characters lack concrete story goals, which means the tale has no driving force behind it, no direction. It rambles here, there and everywhere, losing oomph with every purposeless turn. This is a newbie mistake, one I see often in first novels. Still, it makes a huge impact on the reader's enjoyment of a story, especially since the novel also suffers from lifeless prose, flat characters and some pretty big leaps in logic. My biggest issue (besides the no-plot thing) is with Olivia. I'm not sure I've ever met a more pitiful heroine. She's sympathetic, at least at first. But her wallowing gets old pretty darn quick, especially when it becomes apparent that that's all she ever does. Olivia's so self-centered that only once in the entire novel does she do something for anyone but herself—and that's to leave a paltry (35 cents!) tip for a street musician. Olivia's entire aim in the story is to make herself happier by focusing on, you guessed it, herself. This selfishness made me lose any sympathy or respect I had for her, which also stood in the way of my enjoyment of Emerald City.

Given all my complaints, you might think I detested every word of the story. Not so. The book's premise, while not all that original, has plenty of potential. As do the characters. In fact, most of what's wrong with Emerald City could have—and should have—been fixed through a session or two with a good, tenacious editor. Leppert has a lot to learn, for sure, but I did catch enough glimpses of capable writing throughout her debut to convince me that she will learn and she will improve with each book she writes. Maybe her next novel will do more for me than this one did. Let's hope.

(Readalikes: Reminded me a lot [too much] of the movie City of Angels, also of the book No Angel by Theresa Sneed and a little of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer)

Grade: C-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for scenes of peril and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of Emerald City from its generous author and her publisher, Cedar Fort. Thank you!

1 comment:

  1. Well, once again I'm glad there's reviews like this. This one sounded promising but the things you didn't like would drive me CRAZY! Now I don't have to risk it.


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