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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Dark YA Noir Mystery Just Not Enjoyable

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

No one's sure exactly how it happened, but one thing is for certain: vibrant Maggie Kim is dead.  Her body has been discovered in the family swimming pool, chock full of pills.  Did the flamboyant senior kill herself?  Or was it an accident?  Maggie's best friend, Jude, can't accept either explanation.  Maggie was brilliant, beautiful, and brimming with life.  With so much going for her, why would she commit suicide?  Jude is convinced something more sinister has happened: murder.  But who would want Maggie dead?  Suddenly, everyone Maggie knew is looking like a suspect ...

As Jude investigates her friend's death, it becomes painfully apparent that Maggie's been keeping secrets.  Did Jude know her BFF at all?  What else was Maggie hiding?  Did something she knew lead to her untimely death?  Jude is determined to find out, even if it means letting her own skeletons out of the closet.

I've read—and enjoyed—several of Sherri L. Smith's books, so I was thrilled when I discovered she'd published a new one in 2016.  I hoped it would contain the originality of Orleans, the warmth of Lucy the Giant, and the triumphant swell of Flygirl.  Sadly, Pasadena doesn't have any of these things.  Not really.  The novel has been described as noir, so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised by its dark plot, disaffected characters, and depressing overtones.  And yet, I was.  For wealthy white kids (Maggie is Korean-American, but still) living in glittering Pasadena, Maggie and her friends are a very world-weary bunch.  They're unrealistically cynical, inexplicably bitter.  Both Maggie and Jude are selfish, self-absorbed, and just bratty.  I couldn't understand why anyone liked them; I certainly didn't.  Regardless, I did want to know what had happened to Maggie.  The answer—when it came—just made me more annoyed.  So, yeah, Pasadena left me very disappointed.  I've been a Sherri L. Smith fan since she published her first book, but man, her newest just was not enjoyable for me.  At all.  Here's hoping she finds her mojo again with her next attempt.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of Far From You by Tess Sharpe)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives), mild sexual content, and depictions of underage drinking and the use of illegal drugs

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

1 comment:

  1. Man, it totally sucks but I'm starting to think every author has to write a flop. The characters in this one sound horrible. No thanks!


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