Monday, October 19, 2015

Waving Backwards

by V.L. Brunskill

Summary from GoodReads

Imagine not knowing who you are, until you find yourself in a statue 800 miles from home.

Join intensely passionate and fiercely independent New York college student Lara Bonavito on an unforgettable journey of self-discovery in sigh-worthy Savannah, Georgia. Adopted into an abusive and impoverished home, Lara’s quest to find her roots lands her in the southern jewel’s historic district. A vivid cast of characters help her unravel clues found in a cryptic letter hidden in the family bible for two decades.

“The baby’s roots are with the southern lady who waves forever.”

With the help of mischievously handsome trolley tour guide Robert Taylor; Kipling-quoting florist Abel Bloom; and comically outspoken Louisiana beauty, Susan Fletcher, Lara uncovers family secrets wrapped in the mystique of Savannah’s Waving Girl statue.

Waving Backwards is a coming-of-age quest that reveals the healing power of family bonds, and maternal love

Thoughts on the Book

I received this book from NetGalley.  It's been sitting on my Netgalley bookshelf for a while, but I finally got around to reading it.  I requested this book because it sounds really cool.  A girl receiving a cryptic letter which leads her to search for her biological family.  The cover looks pretty awesome too!

My Review

This book is about an adopted girl, Lara, who finds a letter in the family bible which prompts her to want delay college for a second year while she goes off hunting down her biological family, who made it known they didn't want to be contacted with the agency.  Lara "figures out" that the letter references Savannah, Georgia and she heads down south to find her family.

I can't get over the stupidity of this story.  It was excruciating to read.  The first two chapters were written in past tense then it just switched to present tense.  Then there's these awful random flashbacks which are also in past tense.  The tense, and the pointless date at the beginning of each chapter, is the only indicator that there's a flashback.  No book should be written in present tense.  The actual writing is awful too, some chapters are 2 pages, barely, if they're that short they shouldn't even be a chapter.  Here's an example of the prose: "Whirring past cars in a haze of haphazard thinking and driving, Lara reflects on the letter, pulling it repeatedly from the passenger seat to review the words as questions squawk in her head.  What if her family owned slaves?  Will she find a bunch of bigoted old folks who look down their noses at her? Will they like her?  Will there be brothers or sisters?"..."Questions and possibilities make it impossible to focus. Other drivers fly past, waving aggravated hands as she swerves to grab the letter."  That's about a quarter of chapter 4, by the way.  It's SO DUMB.  She's swerving around the lanes grabbing for a letter that's 5 lines long?  Her first question about her bio-family is if they owned slaves?  Then there's the fact that she's from a poor family in New York City, where'd she get the car from?  And how does she know how to drive?

The story seems to progress by Lara making random assumptions and weird decisions.  For example, she finds a "letter" in the family bible, automatically assumes it's about her since she's an only child (and no other children could have possibly been born - ever), then assumes it means the east coast of the US, and she had to look up the oldest cities in each southern east coast state, and randomly decided that Savannah had to be the city in question.  She gets this all from the line "Buried in the first city is a man who holds the 9th key".  If it were me, I'd immediately think the first city was Roanoke (the first British colony, founded in 1585), but since the colony didn't last a year, Jamestown would be my second guess (founded in 1607) both in Virginia.  Or if you want to go technical and say the first settlement/city that has been continuously inhabited in the Continental US it would be St. Augustine, Florida (founded in 1565).  Or, if you want to say the oldest (aka first) city of the United States it would be Lewes Delaware (founded in 1631) since that's the first city in the first state to sign the Constitution.  Savannah (founded in 1733) is so far down on the list of 'first cities' it's ridiculous.

At one point in the book there's a tornado.  In Savannah.  A tornado.  And these are normal there...check out this.  Yep, that's right, about 6 tornadoes in Savanna (12 if you expand your radius by quite a bit) since 1950.  This is because Savannah does not get tornadoes, they get this other storm quite often...I think it's called a hurricane.  Yeah, they get those a lot.  They get more waterspouts than tornadoes for crying out loud.  And supposedly the author lives in Savannah.  Give me a break.

The ending of the book was as dumb and boring as the rest of the book.  There's these stages in books that they're supposed to follow, Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.  There was none of that.  Barely an exposition, no rising action (unless you consider Lara making up answers to the "riddle" as a rising action), no climax so there was no falling action, and of course no resolution.  Just "whelp, found out what I wanted, now I'm going home to not go to college since I wasted all my loan money in the search for my bio-parents".  Never-mind what she actually found out and how it impacted her (that would have been the climax had it been written correctly).  She just got the answer of how she was conceived and by whom then called it a day.

I give this a 0.5/10.  It was truly awful and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.  Unless you really do enjoy a mediocre plot that is written like a 6th grader would write.  But I think that could be an insult to 6th graders.

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