My sister had a conversation that revolved around a book the other day. Here’s how it went.
Sister: You should really read this book.
Me: I’m tired of fairytale retellings. That Alex Flinn Rapunzel retelling just about killed me.
Sister: Well, this isn’t really a fairytale retelling and I think you’d find it interesting.
Me: Is it that good?
Sister: It’s not good.
Me: Sister, you know my reading time is limited right now because of the most idiotic test known to mankind. So, it has to be something decent and preferably short.
Sister: Well, it’s not decent but is short. I think you’ll like it though it’s like bad candy and it’s extremely cheap too.
Me: Sigh…fine. I want to have a reading night anyway
So yeah, I read The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back per my sister’s suggestion how did it go…well, read the review below.
General Summary: Mattie has a love hate relationship with her oh so perfect stepsister who is dating the guy she is
stalking crushing over. Plus, she has a she devil for a mom and Henry the VIII as a father. What’s a girl to do, well, dye her hair magenta for one thing.
Bad candy is right.
There were so many flaws with this book both in form and in substance, but I still enjoyed it. And I really can’t figure out why. Maybe it was the simplicity of the plot. It sort of reminded me of one of those bad movies on Lifetime that you’ll end up watching because you don’t want to get out of your pajamas and every other station has a Law and Order rerun on or an info commercial about how wearing a sweat suit can make you lose twenty pounds-and yes, that’s basically the line up for TV at three o’clock in the morning.
The plot, as I said before, wasn’t that original and for the most part nothing happened. In fact, when you thought something was going to happen, it would quickly get resolved. So conflict really did not exist in this one.
Okay, you could make an argument that there were some overarching conflicts like Mattie’s relationship with her mother and whole I’m interested in magna not pretentious art plot. But those are subplots. The main plot arc (which is the relationship between Mattie and Jake, not so much).
Every obstacle these two have are essentially solved within three pages. I’m serious. And it doesn’t help that the characterization is horrible.
Our main character is just unlikeable. It’s obvious that Wilson wanted us to view Mattie as this cool artsy girl, but she sort of comes off as bitchy and stupid. I really hated her rants about how “perfect” Ella was. So what, Ella does her chores? Big deal. And her relationship with Jake can you say shallow?
Her main attraction to Jake is that he’s tall. I kid you not. I guess when you’re a teenage girl that’s 5’11, you do want a guy that’s taller. But he’s her stepsister’s boyfriend, but she really doesn’t care because she noticed he was pretty since she was nine. And, well, he’s just a jerk.
Grant it, Wilson tries to make Jake likable, but I just didn’t find him tolerable even at the end. My sister did say he improved, it was a point of argument between us and I’m telling you now I’m right.
As for the other characters, Ella’s just a doormat. The Goth best friend is just there to get with Ella. And one parent is oblivious and the other is a bitch we only get to see via Skype. And instead of working out their differences in the end, she ices her mom out. And yeah, I could understand that a lot of the time in YA, but I feel like here the relationship could’ve been salvageable or it could’ve ended on better terms.
Back to the plot, as I said before there’s not much there and it still would’ve been hindered even if it wasn’t for the bad characters because of pacing.
As I said before, everything resolved in three minutes. Most of the book was spent with Mattie going Oh My Buddha and then trying to act cool by referencing manga or anime. Look, I don’t know much about manga and/or anime only that I need to get going on watching Sailor Moon and that a lot of cool people love it, but this character totally read poser to me. And maybe I’m wrong. If you’re into either one of these things and decide to read this book, let me know because I want to know is Mattie a poser or not?
Best Feature: Simplicity. So, why did I sort of like this one? I really don’t know. It was fairly readable for the most part and enjoyable. Maybe it was because it didn’t try to be something it wasn’t. The simplistic plot kept me from raging about world building issues and it was short enough where I didn’t want to throw Mattie into a dungeon. And it wasn’t like she was the worst YA MC I’ve read about. But still, I didn’t like her. At all.
Worst Feature: Lack of focus. I just feel like this book really lacked focus in character development and plotting. If some of these issues were fixed it really would’ve been enjoyable. I think Wilson has a fairly decent voice. It just seemed sort of half baked.
Appropriateness: Clean as a whistle. The morality police would be happy. I can’t remember seeing any cursing, we barely get to first base, and there’s no violence or foul language. It’s actually probably a pretty good book for middle graders.
Blockbuster Worthy: Maybe a Disney Chanel of the week movie. Or Lifetime. It’s simple enough to easily be converted.
Mattie: Jenna Ushkowitz. Mattie is part Asian (yay, for diversity in a genre filled with WASP) and she’s said to be a little bit of a Goth. I think Jenna would be perfect in her early days of Glee for the role. Of course, she’d have to dye her hair pink.
Jake: If only I could go back in time and plop Jake Ryan into this role. It’s sort of obvious that’s who this character was based on.
Overall Rating: I’m giving this one a four out of ten. It had a lot of problems, don’t get me wrong, but there was something enjoyable about it. And it’s short and cheap and that’s always a plus. And my sister was right it’s sort of like bad candy only without the calories.