Review: NERVE by Jeanne Ryan

SERIES: Standalone
GENRE: Young Adult, Thriller and Mystery
PUBLISHER: Dial Books
PAGES: 304 pages (Hardcover edition)
RATING: ★☆☆☆☆

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Vee doesn’t know if she has the guts to play NERVE, an anonymous online game of dares. But whoever’s behind the game knows exactly what she wants, enticing her with lustworthy prizes and a sizzling-hot partner. With Ian on her team, it’s easy to agree to another dare. And another. And another. At first it’s thrilling as the Watchers cheer them on to more dangerous challenges. But suddenly the game turns deadly. Will Vee and Ian risk their lives for the Grand Prize dare, or will they lose NERVE?

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Late last year I came across a trailer for a film called NERVE. I was quickly enamoured by the vibrancy and manic energy this film presented. Soon after when I found out it had been adapted from a book, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up from my library. However despite it’s promising plot, I was less than impressed with the execution of this story and calling this book mediocre would be a compliment.

My first problem with Nerve was it’s woefully average characters. It’s evident the author was heavily relying on tropes. Our main character, Vee, is a depicted as the cliche shy teenager who lives in the shadow of her very outgoing best friend, Sydney. Alongside this, the side characters are also very cliche, such as the male sidekick that is secretly lusting over Vee whilst she lusts over the popular douchebag.

This book also has a really ambitious plot. Consequently, I felt that the introduction to the characters and who they are was a little lazy in order to move forward with the plot. I felt this way because I noticed how much time was spent telling the reader what the characters are like, as opposed to showing the reader through better dialogue and actions. For example:

“How could I be so stupid? Recklessness is not part of my personality. Shy, hard-working, loyal, all those boring Capricorn traits, that’s me.”

I’m as big of a believer in horoscopes as the next girl is, but this statement felt ridiculous. Who is possibly under the impression that they are limited by what they’re horoscope says? The fact that she’s a capricorn is mentioned multiple times in order describe Vee’s personality or actions and it really shouldn’t have been.

More over, these characters felt really un-organic. Along with my former complaint, I felt as if the author was trying too hard to make her characters sound like teenagers and for me their characterisation really suffered. A lot of dialogue employed was quite cliché, and I’d rather the characters say and act in accordance with personal character traits as opposed to what someone thinks teenagers say.

Some of the reasoning behind the dares was a little inconsistent. At first, it was obvious Vee was motivated to complete the dares because she wanted to shock people. As the dares become increasingly risky, her friends try to talk her out of it, but she remains quite naïve thinking that the game isn’t meant to ‘risk your life. Just make it seriously uncomfortable.’ But also, those things in some instances can be quite similar.

Therefore the justification of doing the dares becomes about the prizes, and as discussed by our protagonists ‘someone with a trust fund’ wouldn’t understand that motivation. However, when the rewards are initially phones, camping gear and pretty shoes…. I fail to see how someone’s reasoning for putting themselves in danger is by being ‘underprivileged’. The rewards do become worth their while as the dares become riskier, but there is no way they could’ve predicted this as Vee knew barely anything about NERVE prior to joining (even though it was a social phenomenon.)

I was also angered by some of the descriptions. They were nonsensical and/or unnecessary:

“A pink-cheeked girl and her boyfriend stroll past us on their way inside. They giggle and hold hands, their shy glances suggesting they haven’t had their first kiss yet, which makes me feel worldly in comparison, although I haven’t gone much beyond the kissing stage myself.”

Why was this even brought up? This is the most redundant think I’ve ever read.

“Daniella, freshly iced with thick lipstick that would give ancient prostitutes some serious competition…”

 

…okay, and?

I briefly touched upon the fact that a lot of lines were cliché, but that extends further than the dialogue. The relationships the character has and the characters, were very typical as well. Vee is always depicted as second best to her best friend Sydney, because Sydney is a blonde and her presence just ‘demands’ the spotlight. But Vee isn’t anything special because she has brown hair and blue eyes!? (Ahem, Megan Fox has brown and blue eyes.)

There was also a really weird prologue at the beginning of the story. I waited for this prologue to make sense but it never really did and I’m left with so many questions. (It is totally possible I missed something, but I can’t make a connection on how it fitted within the timeline of the story or what was even happening.)

Ultimately, I felt this was just a poor execution of a really good idea. The movie adaptation was definitely better and had an energy to it that was really enticing, with charming leads. I would highly recommend the movie over the book.

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Thank you for reading, and if you’ve made it here, thanks for managing to get through this long-winded rant review! Carly

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Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Series: The Witchlands, Book One
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult and Romance
Publisher: Tor Teen
Pages: 416 (Kindle Edition)
Rating: ★★★★☆

I found that I had a really interesting and unexpected experience whilst listening to Truthwitch via Audiobook. At first, I was a little less than impressed. A lot of the criticisms that I’d heard about this book following its release rang true. However upon finishing this book, I was in disbelief I contemplated DNF’ing it earlier on, because by the end I was absolutely enthralled with the story and the characters. 

There is so much to grasp in this book, such as a plethora of new characters, terminology, empires and their respective political systems and the magic system. Trying to absorb all this new information can really take you out of the story. Therefore I can understand how this would affect someones reading experience or perhaps why some people even DNF’d this book. The reader is really expected to just go with the information given without a ton of explanation. Which can either be a good or bad thing depending on how much exposition you enjoy.

Eventually a lot of the information pieces itself together along the way, you just have to hang in there to see the potential this book has! Ultimately, I think Susan Dennard did her absolute best to disseminate information to the reader and I really appreciate how she’s created such a vast world for readers to enjoy.

The two central characters Safiya and Iseult where fantastic leads. It’s so refreshing to read a young adult novel where the two main female characters don’t secretly hate one another. They have very different personalities that work extremely well together. The theme of friendship was a prevalent underlying theme 21414439throughout this book and I loved the emphasis on it.

Aeduan, a blond monk, is also a fascinating character. I personally wasn’t as attached to him, but I can’t wait to spend more time with this character in Windwitch. I also really adored Merik, he makes me reminiscent of characters such Chaol from Throne of Glass Sarah J. Maas and Finn from The Star Thief by Jamie Grey. As with Aeduan, I’d like to spend more time with him.

Another aspect I loved was the romance. It was a focal point of the story, yet didn’t overshadow the plot or friendships, which was fantastic. I was absolutely living for Merik and Safi’s relationship. It simultaneously felt like a good slow-burn romance, but there was also some parts that implied it was a little insta-lovey. For example, when they’re dancing together and their connection is described as ‘something as powerful as the wind.’ I think this could’ve been handled better so that it wouldn’t negate the slow-burn aspect of their relationship.

Lastly, I’d like to talk about my listening experience with this book via audiobook. I thought Cassandra Campbell was an excellent narrator and was well suited for this speaking role. Her speaking voice reminded me a little of Sarah Koenig (from Serial), like I experience the same experience whilst listening to Campbell and Koenig and that is I was engaged throughout the entirety of the story. I enjoyed how she used her American accent for the narration, and then employed an accent during the characters dialogue. She was, for the most part, fantastic at them. My only criticism is that I thought Safi and Iseult’s voices were very similar… initially I struggled to distinguish the two and they were probably a little too high pitched for my personal liking.

Alongside this (not a criticism of the audiobook), I think it’d be beneficial to have read this book.  I think I would’ve better absorbed the world if I had visually seen how the characters names were spelt, how places were spelt etc. for some reason. Alongside this, I predominantly listen to audiobooks whilst I drive (like 99% of the time) and so natural I’m not always mentally processing want I’m listening to if I’m concentrating on driving. In the future I’m probably less inclined to listen to fantasy books via audio.

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As always, thank you for reading, Carly,

MID YEAR BOOK FREAK OUT TAG

Hello everyone! Sorry for being very M.I.A lately, this exam season was rough. I thought I’d revive this blog with a good tag! I’ve scoured my ‘read-in-2017’ shelf on goodreads (side note: thank you GR for existing, you make tags so much easier) and of the 40 something books I’ve read so far, this is what I was able to conjure up…

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Best book you’ve read so far in 2017

It’s a three way tie between Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2017

I haven’t read many sequels and the few I have read haven’t been that enjoyable… so I’ve decided to go with Becky Albertalli’s companion novel to Simon vs. The Homosapiens agenda; The Upside of Unrequited

New release you haven’t read yet, but want to

I have been number one of the waitlist for Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare for months and I can’t handle the wait much longer

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

!!!Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo!!! Have I made my excitement clear?!!!

Biggest disappointment

Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica, there are a few reasons I disliked this and the majority can be attributed to the fact I listened to it via audiobook

Biggest surprise

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard – I had heard many criticisms about this and my expectations were a little low, however I was so charmed by the characters and impressed with the intricacy of this world. I can’t wait to see how it’s improved upon in the forthcoming books.

Hunted by Meagan Spooner – I honestly didn’t want to read about a girl who “isn’t like the other girls” but this book surprisingly didn’t go down that road and this retelling of Beauty and the Beast was really enjoyable.

Favourite new author (debut or new to you)

Susan Dennard, author of the Witchland series and Something Strange and Deadly series.

Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give.

Newest fictional crush

Merik from Truthwitch gives me Chaol Westfall vibes circa Crown of Midnight and I was LIVING for it.

Newest favourite character

Madeline McKenzie from Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty is my soul sister

Book that made you cry

The Upside of Unrequited was so relatable and The Hate U Give was too real and I love them both so much even though they made me cry.

Book that made you happy

Wonder Woman Volume Two: Year One – the characters from this book were so charming and I loved seeing their relationships with one another develop. (Also it’s the first WW graphic novel I’ve truly enjoyed.)

Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

I honestly buy very little books per year, so I will have to go with a library book I technically ‘received’… which would be the UK edition of Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer. So. Damn. Beautiful.

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare – I just need this in my life already

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas – apparently this series improves? (well, that statement is only true if you weren’t 100% satisfied with ACOTAR)

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – I’ve been meaning to read this one since it’s release but the hype still hasn’t DIED

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This tag was co-created by readlikewildfire and earlgreybooks!

Thanks for reading as always!