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Don't Be Afraid of the Dork

Covered in dog hair, Obsessed with books, Wondering what it's all about. I suspect the answer is ice cream and the ocean.

The Sweet Far Thing - Libba Bray Format: Audio (downloaded from Library)
Narrated By: Josephine Bailey
Original Publication Year: 2007
Genre(s): YA Fantasy, Historical
Series: Gemma Doyle, # 3
Awards: None

I found book three of the Gemma Doyle series long, rambling and frequently annoying but in the end, I am glad, barely, that I saw the series through to its end. This was a rough series because it started so brilliantly and, in my opinion, decreased in quality through book two and three.

The idea and themes of the series and the imagination used to portray them are really wonderful. It’s about girls in the Victorian Period, corseted and ignored but for their role as wives and mothers. What if one of these girls was to inherit great magical power that she completely controlled and allowed her and her equally repressed friends to experience a world of freedom and adventure? Where would this power lead them and how would they choose to use it? The exploration of these ideas alone is enough to make the series worthwhile and I think Bray deals with the theme of women’s lib extremely well.

So I wish there wasn’t so much that frustrated me about this book. It’s too long and the story rambles without much conviction. The characters also lack conviction and seem to change in unnatural ways depending on how the plot needs them to be. I was riddled with questions while reading: Does Felicity have the worst judgment ever known to human kind and why do Gemma and Ann continue to trust her and remain her friends? Seriously, Felicity and Ann and Pippa for that matter are the worst friends EVER. Who exactly are the Rakshana? They make no sense. Why have they all the sudden decided to be Evil with a capital E. The only real reason given seems to be “they’re men” but…umm…they’ve always been men…why has every last one of the members decided now to abandon their original mission and just go all out for the power hungry, pick on the weaker sex M.O. a.k.a. screw chivalry? Why did Gemma never trust McCreevey? She trusted her mother’s killer, even after she KNEW it was her mother’s killer, more than McCreevey. Was it just because one had a kindly mothering demeanor and the other did not? Really? A book sparking questions can be a really great thing but it should be about ideas and not sloppy characterizations and storytelling. Basically you give anything in this book a good think and it falls apart. Don’t get me wrong; that can actually work okay but the reader has to be caught up in the story intensely enough to miss those weak elements and unfortunately they out competed the story for me.

I’ve been trying to put my finger on what has been increasingly bothersome about Gemma and the other characters. Part of it is that while Gemma seemed to learn something at the ends of book 1 and 2 by book 3 she seems to have none of the benefit from those lessons. This lack of character growth feels like a lazy way to keep the plot afloat and drag it out. Also, even when Gemma was doing selfish stupid things and bending to the very bad judgment of her friends I could have accepted it if we had at least been allowed to see her inner dialogue indicating that her moral compass was dinging in alarm. We certainly see inside her head plenty but at crucial moments she does not question or examine. I’d have invested in her moral dilemmas a bit more if I could actually perceive that one existed.

I’m sorry to be so harsh and I think my real frustration with the book was that it had such a good beginning and such a good premise but for me it just fell apart. At the end of book one there is a lovely humorous monologue by Libba Bray on her day to day experiences writing the first book. One of the things she brings up is trying to outline and it just not working and I respect that – everyone has their style and their way. But I think not having a clear plan and vision may have hurt this series overall or at the very least it developed in ways that did not jive with my style and my way. There is so much I admire here and if your good at just rolling with the flow you may very well enjoy it far more than I did.