Monday, 19 August 2013

Seven Deadlies: A Cautionary Tale by Gigi Levangie Grazer (review)

Rating: 2, deeply flawed. 
Source: eARC from Netgalley (thank you Blue Rider Press!)
Publication Date: October 17th 2013 

Synopsis from Goodreads: New York Times bestselling author Gigi Levangie Grazer returns with Seven Deadlies, a witty and wildly different novel set amid the sinful reaches of Beverly Hills, narrated by a captivating, gimlet-eyed Mexican-American heroine.

NB: Spoilers ahoy!

When I was in Primary School, we used to do a lot of story writing. I hated it, I’ve always been a reader not a writer, but I do remember the 2 golden rules that were made clear every time we sat down with our exercise books and a shiny new pencil. They were: 
   1. Never start a story with Once Upon A Time
   2. Never finish a story with “And he/she woke up and it had all been a dream”
Number 2 is where the problem lies with Seven Deadlies. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t use it when I was 11. To me, it just seemed like my teachers were trying to make my job harder. Endings are hard, why couldn’t I just throw that sentence in and be done? Now I see that the easiness of “The Dream Ending”, as it shall henceforth be known, is exactly why you shouldn’t use it. It’s lazy. Also, it’s demeaning. It undermines the characters, setting and plot that you’ve just spent however-many pages building up. It takes all the satisfaction out of the story. Not to mention, it also takes away the point of stories, that is to learn about ourselves, about humanity, about our actions having consequences. If it was all a dream then we have learnt nothing, heard nothing, seen nothing. 

NB: In this case, the final reveal isn't actually that it has all been a dream, but it's close enough to make no difference. 

If I sound angry, it’s because I kind of am. Seven Deadlies has a lot of promise. An interesting structure, based around the 7 Deadly Sins. An intriguing narrator, Perry, the poor daughter of a Mayan woman who has just started at a very posh private school. As an extremely clever girl who needs a bit of extra cash, she ends up tutoring some of the less able students at the Mark Frost Academy. It also has a tongue-in-cheek style that made me smile. Unfortunately, all that promise is squandered by “The Dream Ending”. 

I mean, it’s not like there weren’t other problems with the novel. Perry has a unique voice that starts out well - I especially appreciated hearing about the sniping about her background from her richer-than-you-can-imagine classmates - but it often slips into stereotypes, from the geek to the latino chica who snaps her fingers and says “grrrrrl” whilst dancing salsa. The whole setting is very fantastical, and if you aren’t prepared to forget reality and go along for the ride then you'll quickly get left by the wayside. I could have forgiven both of those problems though, if it weren’t for that ending!  

I really wish I could recommend Seven Deadlies wholeheartedly, as it is, I’m going to have to recommend that you give it a try, but only if you stop before the last 10 pages! You have been warned. 

How do you feel about "the Dream Ending"? Have you got an example of it being used well? Let me know in the comments!

- Caroline

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