Thursday, June 13, 2013

Book Review: Turned by Morgan Rice

Before we begin, I will state that there are many spoilers in this review. If you really feel absolutely compelled to read this book, I suggest you close this page and read no further, because we're letting it all hang out here. :)

I read this book on a dare, honestly; it was free for the Kindle, and I read it together with RJ Blain  - it's a good thing I did, because honestly? I'm going to need therapy after this. Having a support group to get through this is a must. If you haven't already, I also invite you to read her review of the same novel.

The Protagonist

I have never read a character I have hated as much as this protagonist. Caitlin is hands-down the must unlikable, self-centered, disgusting "human being" I've ever had the displeasure of reading. She is intended to be a "good" character, some kind of Messianic savior, "The One", but there is nothing about this person who even comes close to that label. In fact, if I had to label her with anything, she's a sociopathic nitwit who is so stupid that it takes her 114 pages to even wonder if there are such things as vampires, and that she might be one of them.

Keep in mind that this is after experiencing superhuman strength, blood lust, and killing a guy by biting him on the neck. She spends half the book all but slavering over people's jugulars, but it never actually occurs to her that this behavior is anything other than mildly interesting and a bit weird.

She's the least reactive, most bland character I've ever read about. At one point, after nearly dying, all it takes for her to wish for a day never to end is being carried around by a hot dude. Never mind that she's an orphaned outcast wanted for murder, homeless, and has half the city's supernatural and mundane authorities out to get her, this day should never end. Because love!

When her would-be love interest is brutally assaulted into unconsciousness, she has her first truly vampiric experience. She fights off the thugs, and then somehow teleports to her home, unharmed.  She never even has a moment of concern about her friend, Jonah, who should by rights be in the hospital. She just has a nice fight with her mom, and pouts in her room.

After her beloved brother (someone we are told she loves very much, though there's little indication of that in the book) runs away, at her suggestion, she's more concerned with her first date with her love interest than the boy who has served as her protector, and the only stable aspect of her life for 15 years. Instead of trying to find him, or calling the cops, or even crying in guilt-ridden remorse that she's ruined her brother's life, she grabs her clothes, forgets her phone, and heads out for her date.

Her mother is abusive, but when she is violently murdered, all Caitlin does is experience a few sentences of mild discomfort before she's again swept up into her own self-absorbed naval-gazing.

Caitlin's pendulum of love, however, is the shining jewel of this entire book. We spend the first half of the book meeting gallant young Jonah, a promising musician and Barack Obama look-alike with glowing green eyes and olive skin. (Yes, olive. He's half black, part Puerto Rican, and part white. With olive skin and green eyes. Sure makes me think Barack Obama!) We know that his eyes glow, because we are told so several times. I actually kinda liked Jonah, and honestly, wanted him to be the vampire she loves. I actually kinda cared a bit when he gets assaulted and his viola is crudely smashed, along with his hopes and dreams.

Caitlin, however, in spite of their deep, instant connection, can't remember him unless he's right in front of her. The moment a new fellow appears on the scene, the dashing Caleb, she has a moment of regret, comparing him to Jonah, before instantly falling into pouting love with the newcomer. And then promptly reacts with a temper tantrum when this person she has known for about ten minutes proves to not be in love with her, and has an ex-wife to boot.

She is actually upset that he saved a complete stranger from certain death not because he was in love with her, but because she happened to be immune to holy water, and therefore might be The One. I actually found myself imagining her with her lip stuck out, stomping her foot.

Caitlin apparently possesses vast powers that she can't control. Except when she can. Her first kill is immaculate, leaving no trace of her presence aside from two perfectly gender-appropriate holes in her victim's neck. A victim that she was watching perform on  stage moment before, and whom she passed up many other potential victims the entire length of Carnegie Hall to reach. Well, that, and the inconveniently dropped incriminating ticket stub stashed in her cocktail dress's pocket that conveniently fingers her as the killer to the cops. She can break bones, leap, roar, gnash her teeth, leap gracefully out of trash cans, exude an aura of "difference" and is an excellent speedometer.

Rank stupidity is a common vampire trait, however, so her complete and total idiocy is not out of place. A 3,000 year old vampire waltzes casually onto a crime scene swarming with humans, clamping annoying politicians' mouths shut at will, mind-raping alliterative cops willy-nilly, but it never actually occurs to him that this illegal vampire killing might be anything other than a vampire invading his territory to send his coven a message. Even after capturing her, not a single vampire he meets actually suggests that she might be a newly-turned vampire who doesn't know any of the laws. But hey, we have to assume that after 3,000 years or so, the brain cells are a bit mushy.

The entire vampire race (well, both of the individual "races" we've been presented with) appears to be little more than a squabbling nursery full of very old toddlers, so hidebound that they're unable to see even the most obvious of truths in front of their noses.

The Plot

I honestly searched for something good to say about this novel. The one positive plot point I found was in the very first chapter, when Caitlin finds her first love interest unconscious and being beaten by three thugs, that Jonah never leaps up and tries to save her. I expected him to be the enigmatic vampire, caught off guard, who then rises to defend her. It was actually a bit gratifying when no one saved her from the boys who were no doubt going to give her a very violent noogie.

Beyond that, however, the plot was formulaic, predictable. There was no rhyme nor reason for anything to happen; vampires acknowledge they must let the police find her, since they can't, but magically, they appear in the next scene in her living room. She simple appears next where she needs to be; unless she happens to be in yet another of the novel's endless, pointless chase scenes. She magically acquires her phone from a room no doubt swarming with cops, and is able to use it (even though the investigating police officers no doubt would have collected it when they investigated her house and found her dead mother.)

Caitlin is never truly in danger at any point in this book. In spite of being threatened with absolute death a number of times, or even grievous bodily harm, she never takes so much as a scratch. To be honest, I still have no idea what the point of this book was. As far as I can tell, it all exists simply to carry Caitlin around and how off what she can and can't do to who. She wakes up with no memory of how she arrived wherever she is so many times it starts to become a joke.

The only true relief is that the pointless, abrupt ending wasn't nearly as painfully awful as the rest of this book. It was simply stupid, contrived, and random.

The entire novel feels more like blunt-force trauma than skilled storytelling. Rice has a weak grasp of the English language, often misusing words, or repeating them clumsily as she echoes herself sentence to sentence unnecessarily. Her dialogue is stilted, unnatural, and does not change whether the speaker is a 15 year old boy or a 10,000 year old vampire. She shows no imagination at all in naming important entities. The "good" vampires are the "White Coven", and the "evil" ones "The Blacktide Coven." I use quotation marks because I honestly could not tell the difference between the two. there are no characteristics of these or any characters that distinguish them as good nor evil.

The main antagonist, the debonair, ancient Kyle, is a Deputy Leader.

I am reminded of the evil bunny Boingo from Hoodwinked as he pans one of his minion's lackluster evil name:

"Dolph, tie up the brat; Liesel, hold the book; Vincent, get the truck; and Keith... darn it change your name, please. That's not scary and I'm embarrassed to say it. Boris, try that. Keith, ya know, OOOO Watch out for Keith!"

I wonder if, while witnessing the crucifixion of Christ, someone nudged this evil fellow and said, "Hey Kyle, check out that Jew up there!"

I understand that this is a novel written for teenagers, but surely you could come up with a better Evil Council name than... The Assembly.

My one true solace that clumsiness aside, the simple language makes this blessedly short novel a very quick read. I was able to finish it in about an hour.

My final verdict: Trash the whole thing. Hire an editor. Because this shit is unsalvageable.

1 comment:

Beckey Gray said...

I'm glad I read your review. I to downloaded this book on Kindle. I am now thankful I didn't get the chance to read it. I guess there was a reason i couldn't bring myself to open it.