Caraval: Can It Be Real?

I usually dislike books that confuse me. I just want to know what’s happening, or at least to have it figured out by the conclusion. Three days after I’ve finished Stephanie Garber’s Caraval and I’m still not sure exactly what happened.

But whatever it was, I loved it.

It had it’s weak points. Like most young adult novels (and lots of adults ones too) the romance felt rushed. On the other hand, Scarlett went through a very emotional and disorienting week with Julian her only touchstone throughout the process, so it makes sense that she has intense feelings for him, even if she has only known him for ten days. Also, I loved how he insisted on calling her Crimson.

I still can’t decide if Tella is the greatest sister ever or a selfish jerk. If you’ve read this book, let me know what you think, because I honestly don’t know.

And is magic real? How much of the book was real and how much was just the game? Was the warning at the entrance to Caraval about not taking the game too seriously a genuine warning, or was it a way for Legend to do whatever he wants by telling the people who question him that they’ve gotten too deep into the game? What was scripted and what was real?

As I said, I don’t usually like books that leave me with this many unanswered questions, but I’m making an exception for Caraval. The unanswered questions aren’t just lazy writing or plot holes but meant to echo Scarlett’s own confusion as she is drawn further into the game.

Also, I’m hoping she answers some of those questions in the as-yet untitled sequel which is due to come out in 2018.

So, to recap, this is a fairly typical young adult novel character-wise. You’ve got your selfless heroine falling in love with the scoundrel who is helping her find her sister. But the setting of Caraval makes you question everything, which means it’s nice to have something solid to ground your reading on, like a predictable relationship.

This makes for an excellent summer reading book. Throw it in your vacation back and whip through it when you have a couple days off. You should probably throw a couple extra books in there too, though, in case you get unexpectedly caught up and end up zooming through the whole thing in one day like I did.

Four out of five. Eagerly anticipating book 2.

 

Missing, Presumed is Missing Something

I have always had this belief that everyone has a great story to tell. That normal, everyday life is a fascinating series of adventures that deserve to be told.

Susie Steiner’s Missing, Presumed is making me question whether or not that is true.

DS Manon Bradshaw is a very realistic character. She’s good at her job, not on the best terms with her family, and bearing down on 40 with a growing sense of desperation over her single status. I thought her story was believable and at times touching. But it really didn’t leave me wanting more, which is not a good sign for a novel that is supposed to be launching a series.

Part of the problem for me was my American-ness. Thanks to my love of Bones, Castle, and J. D. Robb novels, I can follow American police lingo fairly well. The British detectives were losing me at every turn. I was almost halfway through the book before I realized that a “misper” is a missing person. It was hard for me to really feel invested in the case when half the time I had no clue what the characters were talking about.

Also, I don’t know why realistic so often has to mean depressing. I realize that life is not a bed of roses and hard things happen and dreams do not always come true, but in an entire unit of cops not one of them is really happy with their life.

The high point of this story is Manon’s relationship with Fly, a young boy whose older brother has recently been killed. Manon investigates his death while trying to make sure that Fly is well fed and cared for, now that his only family is a dying mother. It humanizes Manon, which is something that she desperately needed.

Maybe I missed something, because this book got incredible reviews across the board, but I would give it a 3 out of 5. Though I won’t be rushing out to snatch book 2 as soon as it comes out (Persons Unknown, coming out on July 4th) I would be willing to give Manon another shot. Perhaps I’ll crack the British police code, become more invested in Manon’s character, and finally figure out what everyone else is so excited about.