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Monday, May 9, 2011

Book Review: THE MAGNOLIA LEAGUE

Before I get to the review, let me announce the winner from the Spring Carnival Blog Hop.  More than 250 people entered and the preference among the entrants seemed to be Wither.  But, random.org being "random," a big congratulations goes out to Jess S. who won a copy of The Goddess Test.  I will be in touch to get your mailing address.

Now, on to the main event.  THE MAGNOLIA LEAGUE by Katie Crouch.  I received my copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.  So a big thank you to them.

Published: May 3, 2011
Publisher: Poppy
Pages: 368

When her free-spirited mother dies in a tragic accident, sixteen-year-old Alexandria Lee is forced to leave her West Coast home and move in with a wealthy grandmother she's never known in Savannah, Georgia. By birth, Alex is a rightful if unwilling member of the Magnolia League-Savannah's long-standing debutante society. But white gloves and silk gowns are a far cry from the vintage t-shirts and torn jeans shorts she's used to. 

Alex is the first in decades to question the Magnolia League's intentions, yet even she becomes entangled in their seductive world. The members enjoy youth, beauty and power...but at what cost? As Alex discovers a pact between the Magnolias and the Buzzards, a legendary hoodoo family, she discovers secrets-some deadly-hidden beneath the glossy Southern veneer.

While Ms. Crouch has published adult novels (Girls in Trucks and Men and Dogs), this is her debut YA. I had pretty high expectations for this book going in because it's set in Savannah (a city I love), involves magic and power (cool!) and almost seemed to have a Cinderella / rags-to-riches story line to it.  Sadly, I didn't feel the novel met my expectations.

Now, don't get me wrong -- from a technical perspective, the writing itself was fine.  The author's voice wasn't invasive, and none of the cardinal writing sins made an appearance (think passive voice; show-not-tell).  But I just wasn't in love with any of the characters.

When we first meet Alex, she's recovering from her mom's death and living on a pot-growing commune in California.  Then, "grandma money bags" swoops in, brings Alex (complete with nappy dreadlocks and tummy rolls sufficient to have earned her the nickname "Pudge") to Savannah, and basically forces Alex to undergo a complete overhaul.  See -- it sounds sort of Cinderella, right?

But Alex starts out just too much of a tree-hugger for me.  I know that's how she was raised and her mom was a big herbalist and everything, but she's obnoxiously "hippy."  However, it doesn't take long before Alex starts to appreciate the League's power: she can go from dreads to glorious locks and pudgy to anorexic-looking with barely any effort.  At the risk of including spoilers, it's this temptation and metamorphosis that I was really waiting for.  I wanted to see how Alex would handle it.  And if she'd be strong enough to turn it all away once she had a taste. But we don't even see her change into a glamour queen until more than half-way through the book.

And then, all we see is her gradual progression deeper into the League followed by a series of rash (and sometimes illogical) decisions.  Not to say that teens are necessarily the epitome of rational, but still.  I wanted to see more of that plot line develop and it just wasn't there.  Finally, I got about to the point where I decided I wasn't enjoying Alex or her story that much, and it was over.  Because of the screwy Kindle formatting, I didn't even realize I was at the end.  Turns out this book leaves a huge open-end for the next book, but I don't feel like it really stands alone like a first novel should IMO.

Another one of the things that bothered me is Alex's relationships with everyone.  She loves her boyfriend, but we don't really understand how because there's not much relationship development happening.  The stereotypical mean girls go out of their way to be nice to Alex (granted, they're just butt-kissing), but she makes a pretty crappy friend to them in return.  I guess the bottom line is, the characters felt flat to me.  And the ones I really wanted to know more about (the Buzzards, in particular) we didn't get to see that much.
So I'm giving this book only 2 out of 4 Greek coins.  ICBW.  It wasn't "bad," by any stretch of the imagination, but I didn't love it.

To be fair -- the book did get some very positive reviews on Amazon, and I'd direct you there to get some other people's perspectives on the book.  As you know, reviews are highly subjective and this might be the absolute perfect book for you.

6 comments:

Melissa said...

Thank you for such an honest review! I really appreciate it.

Maya said...

Really appreciate the honest review. :)

Coreena McBurnie said...

I appreciate the honest review. I like how balanced you are.

Mia said...

I really like to see what other people think of books that I've reviewed. My review was also along the same line. Here it is-http://bookaholic5.blogspot.com/2011/05/review-magnolia-league-by-katie-crouch.html
Lovely review.I,especially like your writing style.
Mia
http://bookaholic5.blogspot.com

Dawn Brazil said...

Thanks for the review Jessie. I've heard of this author but never read any of her books.

I'm having a sleepover at my blog and your invited!!!

cleemckenzie said...

Everyone has a different way of "seeing" a book. I'm sometimes amazed when I read the variety of reviews on a single novel. Actually, that only makes me want to read it more than ever.

Thanks, Jessie

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