Full Disclaimer: I really did have no intentions on reading this one. The Slate Article left a nasty taste in my mouth and I’ll be referencing that article in my review a lot, FYI. I know that one of the authors has said that the article was said in jest, but it still offended me and a lot of other people. Just because YA isn’t considered traditional literature doesn’t mean that time isn’t taken to write these books…but that’s another story for another day. That being said, I’m really going to make an effort to try to be objective here which is going to be rather difficult (admittedly). The reason I picked up the book was mainly out of morbid curiosity and they had it at my library. Plus, I needed a quick read since I have a twenty page paper I need to be working on and this one was easily accessible and easier to finish than The Temptation of Angels.
General Summary: Ah, dearie me. Let me try to remember what happened last time on
Honey Boo Boo, I mean The Magnolia League. So essentially, Alex figures out that her mom’s soul is being held prisoner and she got caught for using a love spell. Can’t say I didn’t tell her so for the love spell thing. So, the book basically starts off there and she pretty much makes a lot of nonsensical choices. However, it’s not all Alex’s story this time around we get to see Hayes who actually isn’t half bad.
So I think I’m going to put my review in context to the Slate Article. While the article was apparently written as satire a la Twain. I couldn’t help but think of it when I read the book and shook my head and certain points of the story. Were some of these mistakes done on purposes. Let’s see:
“It would be creepy if we included explicit sex scenes with glistening young skin and heaving young bosoms, but we keep it on the clean side. This isn’t Twilight. No slutty werewolves here. Mostly we pass the rare sex scenes in outline form back and forth between us like a ticking time bomb until one of us bites the bullet and puts it on paper. When it’s completed, the other one innocently asks to make a pass “for editing” and then reads it aloud in a mocking voice and turns the most embarrassing lines into an email signature.”
“What neither of us was prepared for was the insane pace. There’s a reason that so many Y.A. series are written by collaborators: The timetable is crazy. Katie, having come out of an M.F.A. background where the rule was that good writing requires rumination, pain, and the slow loss of your best years, fought the craziness at first. But readers in Y.A. don’t care about rumination. They don’t want you to pore over your sentences trying to find the perfect turn of phrase that evokes the exact color of the shag carpeting in your living room when your dad walked out on your mom one autumn afternoon in 1973. They want you to tell a story. In Y.A. you write two or three drafts of a chapter, not eight. When kids like one book, they want the next one. Now. You need to deliver.“
I pulled out these two quotes from the Slate Article because I think they’re relevant to analyzing the work as a whole. I should mention that like Crouch and Hendrix I have a degree in Creative Writing. And I’ve seen the whole literature vs genre writing debate in action. And yes, there are people who actually talk like this for real, so even though it’s said to be in jest. The paranoid me can’t help but wonder….
Anyway, their intentions are not relevant now. What’s relevant is the problems I found in The White Glove War and how they apply to these quotes.
Let’s first talk about the first quote. So essentially the jist of the quote is after that a rather unfunny joke about sex in YA (which I’ll get to more of in a minute) they then discuss how writing the these scenes were hilarious and cringe worthy.
Well, they’re right. Not about the sex scenes per say-becuase there was no sex in the book- but the writing was very cringe worthy. It’s like they’re either trying to speak teen, or info dumping, or using bad fake dialect . Writing dialogue isn’t really a difficult task. Just be natural. If you think the lines sound cheesy more than likely they do. And boy were there some cheesy lines in The White Glove War. Here are just a few little gems:
” ‘Hi,’ Alex says. She hesitates, then hugs me. ‘Oh, dude. I’ve missed hanging out! We’ve hardly talked since the Christmas Ball, except for that meeting, and that barely counts. I’ve been jonesing for a download.’ ” (Crouch and Hendrix, 57).
Um, who actually talks this way? Save for Janice on the Muppets. And what does jonesing mean…oh, thank God for Urban Dictionary. That’s all I can say. And it’s not an isolated incident….
” ‘Dude, you’ve been totally MIA,’ he says. ‘Plus the Baby Maggots are all over your butt, man. And not in a good way. It’s like you pepper-sprayed their Hanky Pankys or something.” (82).
Seriously, is everybody in this book on the set of Wayne’s World. And yet it continues….
“‘We live near Doc’ cause he’s old and he needs us, you little crab. Eat your stew. You’re such a skinny little shrimp that even a hungry shrimp would throw you back.'”(155).
This is their attempt to be regional. Rather, it just flops in my opinion. Look, I live in the South. I have heard various forms of Southern dialect. People do not talk like this. At least no one I know.
I hate to say this but the unnaturalness of the dialogue carried on to the rest of the book. Characters weren’t developed. They all seemed flat, dispensable, and the same went with the relationships. Honestly, I didn’t get the love between Thaddeus and Alex that supposedly willed her to go come back to life. And for that matter, I found Thaddeus to be a bit annoying. He claimed to love Alex before her hoodoo induced makeover. But I specifically remember in the first book he didn’t even look her way until she had dropped fifteen pounds and had perfect hair.
Maybe the lack of relationships is their way of keeping the book chaste. Honestly, I think if that’s the case they’d be better just leaving out the romance all together. Plus, if that was really the case you know there are some pretty good YA romances out there without sex.
As for the second quote, I get that YA books come out faster than other books, but it’s really about how you pace your workload. Plus, I know that there are some authors who delay publication of their book and things work out for the better.
Look, I’m not judging them. I get that writing is a tough business. But I’m just saying, if you time manage your work it’s not as difficult as it’s made out to be. Plus, literary books are usually a lot longer than YA books are and the publishing contracts differ as well.
That being said, I could definitely see why Crouch and Hendrix wanted more time on this book. It was a mess. Pacing and structure wise that is. The book opens with this weird prologue that is really sort of jarring if you consider the cliffhanger form the other book. In general, the whole book seems choppy. I did like the fact that they included Hayes here but she was only a bit character in the first book and the introduction to her….oh dear. It reminded me heavily of one of those old Babysitters Club books where the first chapter is spent explaining what happened in the last installment and describing the characters. However, the heavy exposition wasn’t the most grating thing about the structure of the book I think it was the shifts from first to third. I don’t know but I can handle shifting point of views when it’s in the same person, but when you go from first to third it just seems really fan fiction like. The plot was jarring as well. A lot of times I got lost in the pacing of it and just didn’t know what to make of it. Though despite these problems, somehow I was able to get through it pretty quickly (or maybe that was because I had a headache this evening and just wanted to do something that didn’t involve me researching Aviation Law).
Best Feature: Hayes. I actually have to give the books pointers from introducing Hayes. She’s the only reason I got through it as fast as I did and she provides some much needed sanity to this series. And she’s a real character. Though I do feel like people walk on her a wee bit too much because of stupid Alex. But whatever.
Worst Feature: Body Image: I really don’t know what Crouch and Hendrix are thinking, but a size six isn’t fat. And for that matter it’s not puppy fat either. Did you know the average American woman wears a size fourteen? Saying that a six is fat and for that matter alluding to the fact that being a zero is sort of chubby (yep, they allude to that) just pisses me off. In fact, I ate a big bowl of ice cream just to show my spite for this book. Look, people’s bodies differ. Not everyone is meant to be a size zero. And what is this, like third grade? Body image is already a huge problem in several areas of the world. Especially when it concerns teenage girls. People die because of these issues. And having this magical fix where you can instantly lose weight while eating a ton of food, you want to know what it sounds like to me…bulimia.
Yep, magical bulimia.
I freaking kid you not. I don’t think this was what the authors intended (I would at least hope not), but it just rubbed me the wrong way.
You know, as much as I had issues with Size 12 and Ready to Rock I have to applaud Meg Cabot on how she handled the whole body image thing. Heather makes a girl any size feel good about themselves (especially in the early books), Alex not so much.
Appropriateness: Ha! With lessons like it’s okay to change your own appearance, and essentially magical eating disorders. I hardly would want any impressionable teenage girl reading this. Plus, there are some pretty macabre scenes as well. Oh, and teen drinking too.
Blockbuster Casting: I did a lot of the casting in my entry for the Magnolia League. However, I didn’t cast Hayes. So who would be the perfect Hayes. What about Sarah Hyland? I liked her enough in Modern Family and she was in a couple of Disney films that were cheesy than this book.
Overall Rating: Here’s the deal. The novel is so choppy that I almost felt like you could break it up into two stories. For Hayes story I’d give her five out of ten magnolias. It wasn’t that great but for the most part she didn’t overly offend me. She seemed like a pretty decent character. Alex though. Ugh. She belongs in my characters that should rot in a dungeon for the rest of eternity. She’s a little more tolerable than Helen Hamilton, but I still can’t stand her and her story gets a one. I think it averages out to a three. So yeah, this book gets three out of ten magnolias.
Crouch, Katie, and Grady Hendrix. The White Glove War: A Magnolia League Novel. New York: Poppy, 2012.
“It’s Better than Going to the Prom.” Slate Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2012. <http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2011/06/writing_youngadult_fiction.html>.