15 July 2011
One of the unfortunate side effects to being addicted to young adult literature, particularly of the Sci Fi-Fantasy variety is you occasionally get sucked into a story that the whole time makes you feel like a fool. Lots of YA Lit is great, well-written stuff. But a lot of it (like any genre) is boring, or derivative, or weird. Or all of the above. Facing 16 hours in the car, I chose the audio book City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. This is one of those YA books with a really cool cover that normally shares a table with The Hunger Games and Twilight, so you can assume it’s pretty popular. Plus, it seemed like a pretty cool premise: otherwise ordinary-seeming Clary discovers a vast world of shadow hunters (basically, people with the same job as Sam and Dean on Supernatural), demons, underworlders, and deception and realizes, to her surprise, that she is an intricate part of this world. Okay, I’m with you. Add to that a nerdish best friend named Simon and a tantalizing bad boy demon hunter named Jace, and I was pretty much sold. And the issue with the book is not the plot (with one VERY large exception, which I’ll get to in the SPOILERS section).
The issue is that the writing makes most young adult books seem like they have the literary sophistication of Proust. Hackneyed metaphors and similes are deployed like really blunt hammers on a really big nail. The character of Clary, who starts off kind of intriguing in a curious sort of way, ends up falling down the rabbit hole of Bella Swann-esque generic protagonistville. And while I am rarely one to complain about authors cribbing from other sources (in fact, the heavy Roswell and Buffy references could be one of my favorite parts of the Twilight series), the patchwork in Clare’s quilt of stories becomes far too apparent by the end.
HERE BE SPOILERS. SERIOUSLY. BOOK RUINING, ME-HATING SPOILERS.
But I think I may have forgiven the rest of these sins if not for the ick factor. Never before has a book given me the heebie jeebies so badly after reading. And it didn’t even seem like an intentional creep factor. Not Leia kissing Luke, not Jacob falling for Renesmee, not Jaime macking on Cersei. I am willing to forgive a lot in my books. But spending all book with the kind of fawning over-indulgence in sensual details that characterizes the Jace and Clary relationship, only to bring about the dawning realization of their siblinghood is just cruel. And grody. I don’t care if it turns out they’re not actually siblings. I don’t care if it was intentional on the part of Clare; she’s not a good enough writer for me to forgive the ooky incest storyline, nor to even think she’s fully in control of just how icky she made my memories of the rest of the book.
Despite all that I’ve said, I might very well finish the series. I’ve never left a series in the middle of it before, and despite myself I’m curious to see what happens. But I’m not looking forward to it. I’m not looking forward to sifting through the clunky prose, or dealing with the residual sexual desire left between Jace and Clary, or even wading through the lame Supernatural-light business between Angels and Demons. And while I hope that City of Ashes and City of Glass prove me wrong, I sincerely doubt I’ll leave this series with anything other than the vague sense that I want those hours of my life back.