For What It's Worth

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

review: grit by gillian french


His presence beside me is like heat, like weight, something I’ve carried around on my back too long.

Raw and moving, this contemporary realistic debut novel will leave readers of E. Lockhart and Gayle Forman breathless as it unflinchingly unfolds the tragic secrets being kept in a small, deceptively idyllic Maine town.


Seventeen-year-old Darcy Prentiss has long held the title of “town slut.” She knows how to have a good time, sure, but she isn’t doing anything all the guys haven’t done. But when you’re a girl with a reputation, every little thing that happens seems to keep people whispering—especially when your ex-best friend goes missing.


But if anyone were to look closer at Darcy, they’d realize there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface. Staying out late, hooking up, and telling lies is what Darcy does to forget. Forget about the mysterious disappearance of her friend. Forget about the dark secret she and her cousin Nell share. Forget about that hazy Fourth of July night. So when someone in town anonymously nominates Darcy to be in the running for Bay Festival Princess—a cruel act only someone with a score to settle would make—all of the things that Darcy wants to keep hidden threaten to erupt in ways she wasn’t prepared to handle…and isn’t sure if she can. ~
Goodreads

Source: ARC provided by the publisher via ALA

Review:

I read my blogger pal Anna’s – from Herding Cats & burning Soup – post “If You Liked THIS BOOK....You'll LOVE My Book! aka #BookDeath”, while I happened to be reading Grit – which is pitched for fans of E. Lockhart, Gayle Forman, Laurie Halse Anderson. And seriously….no. The writing style, while very good, and the emotional impact, aren’t even close to those authors mentioned. 

(And just as a general note - staaaaahp doing that publishers! It sets the author up for failure. Just because rape is mentioned in one book doesn't mean it's like Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, or set in a small town so it's We Were Liars by E. Lockhart!)

Grit brings up a lot of timely, hard hitting, topics but doesn’t fully deliver on any of them. Sexual assault, slut shaming, class issues, friendships, migrant workers, secrets and a few more that I’m not going to mention because of spoilers.

Instead, French decides to throw in a awkward romance and a beauty pageant that distracts from the story, rather than moving it forward. From the book synopsis I thought we were heading into a Carrie/prom situation or maybe a creepy Stepford Wives kind of small Maine town but not so much.

What I loved, and the only reason I kept reading, was Darcy and the family dynamics between her widowed mother, sister, aunt and cousin. They have had a rough life (and still do) and it was written so heartbreakingly real and beautiful. The book didn’t need all that other filler. Maybe one thing to push the fragile relationships to the brink but not 5 different plot points that don’t really amount to anything or are rushed through in the end.

Darcy is scrappy, unlikable and wonderful! The bond between Darcy, her sister and cousin is sweet and fierce. The dynamic between her mom and aunt and was gritty, brutal and realistic. I loved all of that. I think the author was trying to write this evocative story where you were swept up into this small time vibe with understated writing. However, the result was  a lack of clear focus and missed opportunities by trying to make this a thriller/romance/gritty contemporary wrapped into one book when it could have been an AMAZING contemporary with a touch of romance. Or....go for the thriller angle. But not both.

Having said all that, on Goodreads, this book has several 5 star reviews from readers who found the writing and story raw and gritty.

31 comments:

  1. Maybe, maybe not, who could tell

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  2. This seems to be one of the main problems with books nowadays - they try too hard at being a lot of different things rolled into one. It's a bummer, isn't it, when there's at least one of those things done right?

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    1. I agree. This isn't even an "issue" book and I do think multiple things can happen at once but in such a short book none of it is given anything more than a surfacy, moody kind of exploration.

      And you hit the nail on the head with her getting things SO right - yet getting them wrong.

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  3. Ironically, I was quite into it just from the synopsis but whenever they force a romance, it's just...no.
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    1. I wouldn't say it's forced. It's more...just there and not interesting.

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  4. Oh man. WHY do they do that?!! I think probably this one is not for me. It sounds like they just took every it topic in the media right now and shook it up. That usually doesn't go over well with me. Awesome the characters were great, though. Sometimes that can keep me reading as well.

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    1. I think the author's writing is good with loads of potential. If she just sticks to one or two topics to explore.

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  5. Oh yeah, comparisons generally don't do authors any favors so publishers really need to stop.

    Thanks for sharing this one! Sorry it wasn't that great overall - definitely sounds like the book is taking too much on.

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    1. I get the "If you like this, you might like that" tendency to promote a book but you really need to be careful because then that's what the reader expects.

      It's not fair to the author either. It's just too much to live up to.

      I do think I would give the author another try though. She got everything right (except the romance) it was just to cluttered story wise.

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  6. You know, I read the blurb and it sounded fantastic and then I read your review and was like "nope, I will not like this very much". Thanks for the honest review. I too wish the promo machine would stop with the "if you like this" crap. All it does is turn me off now because I've been burned one too many times.

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    1. Some of that blurb is so misleading. It does all happen but not the way it seems.

      But, like I said, several readers gave it 5 stars so maybe it's worth giving it a try.

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  7. I hate the comparisons, too. Why don't you let the book speak for itself? Grrr

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    1. I guess I understand why they do it from a sales perspective but it's such a dumb way to burn readers and stop them from trusting you. Kind of like beautiful covers that have nothing to do with what's inside. You learn, as a reader, to ignore that after awhile.

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  8. It's always such a bummer when a new book is comp'ed to a favourite book or favourite author's work, because honestly the comparison is so rarely warranted. The number of books that get compared to Graceling and are nothing like it just boggle my mind. In terms of this book, the pageant sounds totally bizarre and shoehorned in. So strange!

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    1. Personally, I would have ditched the pageant and expanded on another story line that was more riveting.

      I guess the comparisons work for pre-sales?? But once the book hits the shelves it hurts it. IMO anyway

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  9. I HATE when publishers do that. I am always scratching my head as to what they saw in it and realizing no one who compared it read either book. *sigh* Well, at least you got something out of it despite the hype. That is a good thing, no? :)

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    1. I loved Darcy enough to plow through lol

      I would try the author again and hope that she narrows her plot focus because a few things were done brilliantly in this book.

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  10. I think I will probably take a pass on this, especially since I have so many books to read that I'm excited about.
    Jen @ YA Romantics

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    1. It's a fast read so if you have it lying around give it a go. I'm really not sure if it's something you would like or not.

      I know you would like Darcy and her mom but I think you might have the same problems with the plotting as me.

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  11. Don't think this one sounds like it's for me. It drives me bonkers when I see the publishers say if you liked ___ you'll LOVE ___. It's almost never right hahaha

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    1. I guess it works though because they keep doing ti.

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  12. OMG I totally agree on how the publishers write the comparisons. I rarely pay attention to them because they fail big time. It sucks that this was overwhelmed by so many topics. It sounds like the author should have stuck to one or two. I don't think I would fully enjoy this so I won't add it to my TBR. Great review, though!
    Genesis @ Latte Nights Reviews

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    1. I didn't read this one because of the comparisons. I knew it wouldn't live up to them. I've been burned before lol

      I was more disappointed that it didn't quite match up to the premise and didn't follow through on a lot of things.

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  13. I see this problem in some books these days. Too many topics thrown into a story that unfortunately ended up suffering the one that should be a focus. Glad that you pointed out. Awesome, honest, review, Karen. :)

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    1. Yesssss! Too many things going on! I'm reading that ALL the time now. Especially when you bring up so many serious issues just to drop them later.

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  14. I like the sound of Darcy! Great review!

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    1. She was prickly and complicated but I liked her a lot.

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  15. I was fully into that synopsis and your review and then, beauty pageant? A book that had the potential to push so many boundaries and address societal issues is reduced to a romance and pageant. I'm awfully sad. This could have been an epic, feministic and empowering read. Thanks for the heads up Karen, I think this'll frustrate me. Wonderful review nonetheless <3

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  16. That was my LEAST favorite thing about this book. It wasn't written in the traditional way which I appreciated but it doesn't really amount to much of anything so I think she could have got where she was trying to go without it - or drop some of the other things and make it more of a focus??

    I don't know. This book really frustrated me because I think it did some things REALLY well but then didn't follow through.

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  17. I absolutely hate when the blurb mentions for the fan of or Titanic meets Hunger Games... come on, let the book be it's own identity, because once you hook us on to that, we expect that and if it isn't, we already get put off. Thought slut shaming -eyeball twitch-

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