The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
My favorite thing about this was the teenagers acting like teenagers without acting like what adults think teenagers act like. These teenagers had been abused, neglected, and had suffered major trauma, but were trying to be better. They overreacted, they made poor choices, but it wasn’t because they were stupid or weren’t taking things seriously. It was because they’re teenagers. I remember being 16 vividly. I remember how important everything was and how I felt everything as if it was magnified a thousand times. I had my first boyfriend and fell madly in love with him for no reason. Then I got my heart broken as was more sad than I had any real right to be. This book conjured a lot of those feelings for me. I felt like the author did a pretty authentic job of recreating what it feels like to be 16 (at least in my experience). Maybe it’s that I live in a small town too (it’s called “Niceville,” for goodness sake), but I could relate to being able to bike every where and walking around town with friends.
Sage’s thing with cars was so silly that it would have made me want to stab my eyeballs out if not for my brief experimentation with veganism for absolutely no reason when I was 16. When I say no reason, I mean no reason. I had no moral objection to anything. I just thought being a vegan was cool. So I could see why 16 year old Sage would decide cars = bad. Especially with her past negative experiences with them. Sage had several reasons to avoid cars. I had zero reasons to justify being a vegan. I mean, besides being an unbearable idiot.
Additionally, I really liked how fully the author developed her characters. I felt like I had a good idea of who each person was. She really took the time to develop everyone and their relationships with each other. I loved this. The last book I read did an extremely poor job of drawing me into the book’s world so I was very ready to be fully absorbed in the book characters’ lives.
The book was, at times, super cheesy. Shane says himself that he doesn’t know how to be a boyfriend and the romantic things he does for Sage seem to be ripped out of an after school special. The rest of the book was so well done that I could get past it. And to be honest, the cheese sort of fit in with the rest of the book. Teenagers doing what they thing they should be doing because everything is so important and momentous and real to them.
I had 2 main complaints though:
1. Ryan. WTF was the point of this character. He seemed to exist only to be the catalyst to Sage’s transformation. As soon as she meets Shane it’s like the author was like “oh man. I better get this other dude out of the way so he doesn’t cause any drama between Shange.” I get that a lot of the consequences of Ryan’s quasi-removal from the story were essential to the plot and were super interesting to read, but I wish he would have been better incorporated back into the story. They’re BFF’s at the beginning and then all of a sudden (due to something super shitty Ryan does) he’s pretty much exiled from Sage’s life and only allowed back in as a very minor supporting character. I think a lot more could have been done with Ryan in the story. It seemed like a waste.
2. SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!
How awkward was that sex scene? I mean, I wanted it to happen, but I wish it would have happened after Shane came back from juvie or something. It’s revealed after, that Sage doesn’t take her clothes off while doing the deed because she doesn’t want him to see her scars on her arms. I feel like this should have been an indicator that the sex shouldn’t have occurred. I didn’t like this revelation. It made me uncomfortable and took away some of the sweetness of the “first time” I was imagining took place behind that fade to black that was written.