Friday, October 17, 2008

Review - Sucks to Be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire (maybe)

Sucks to Be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire (maybe)This is a title hot on the heels of the recent vampire/supernatural craze pulsing through bookstores across the country. This is a young adult novel with a different sort of "coming of age" conflict. Mina has to decide whether or not she wants to become a vampire like the rest of her family.

Overall, it's a moderately interesting hook and the presentation is done well. The book is written in a close first person and told almost as a journal entry. There are moments where "notebook pages" or other "handwritten" notes are added with quips and thoughts from Mina. This adds a different level of depth to the storytelling and provides interesting distractions.

And yet, these devices serve only as momentary distractions from what is otherwise a fairly bland book. It felt to me that the author was trying much to hard to present her characters as teenagers, and as a result, they feel a bit distanced and unreal compared to the teenagers I do know and interact with. The conversations felt fairly natural for the most part but the behaviors felt a little "off" to me.

To digress a bit, I'll pick out two points that struck me as especially odd.
  1. The use of cell phones is very common among teenagers, true. The author shows a couple of times that Mina does have a cell phone. And yet, when a new friend from her vamp lessons gives Mina her number, Mina loses it. With teens I've seen, passing of numbers involves immediately pulling out the cell and punching it into memory...gone are the days of scribbling down numbers on scraps of paper unless it's the only alternative.
  2. Bigger than the number storage, was the lack of cell phone texting. Mina has a cell phone. And yet, all of her "messaging" is done at the computer in her bedroom. My 16 year old sister has friends on Yahoo messenger...but I've even seen her texting via her phone while at the computer rather than chatting on messenger. Texting is a HUGE part of teen life these days. The author instead gives Mina a computer IM account in her bedroom, which struck me as odd

Back to the book itself, I had a hard time really finding any emotional, psychological or mental attachment to the characters. Mina's dilemma was an interesting one, but the tension wasn't strong enough to pull me into the struggle. Mina kept telling me just how troubled and torn she was over the decision, but it was difficult for me to believe her based on her actions and her behaviors. For the first half+ of the book, I was bored and annoyed by her paralysis to act realistically.

Only towards the very end of the book was I "shocked" into feeling any real anguish with her dilemma. There was finally a struggle introduced that provided a truly difficult variable with more than simply superficial connotations.

A lot of the plot (especially the plot "outside" of the purely vampirical) felt fairly predictable and like something out of a stock fluff teen/high-school novel or sitcom.
  • Girl A likes Boy A
  • Girl A gets assigned to work with Boy A on school project
  • Girl A goes out with Boy A
  • Girl A tries to setup Boy B with Girl B (best friend of Girl A)
  • Boy A falls for Girl B
  • Boy B falls for Girl A
  • Girl A is confused, torn, angry, betrayed, etc....
  • Some sort of reconciliation happens
  • Everybody goes to prom

The plot has gone around again and again enough that as soon as each character was introduced and some brief context was given, I was already aware of the ending.

I would have much rather seen more tension around the tough choice Mina had to make. I would have loved to have seen some surprising twists or turns with the peripheral characters...there was a lot of interesting potential with the other characters in her vamp class, but their treatment was glossy at best and non-existant at worst.

Overall, the book was a bit of fluff but it was a painfully slow read due to the lack of any real plot driving tension to keep me hooked. I'm going to pass it to my 16- and 15-year old siblings to see if they see it any differently, but with the amount of teen lit I've read lately and the amount of interactions I've had lately, it feels to me that this book doesn't quite nail the teen mindset and it also fails to engage the reader with a substantial plot.

1.5 stars

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