NOTE: This book has not yet been released. I was given a free Advance Reading Copy by HarperCollins and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This book will be released on July 10, 2018. If you would like to send me an ARC, please see this page.
AUTHOR: Kathy Parks
PLOT SUMMARY: Adrienne is off on a two-week expedition through the Russian wilderness with her stepfather, Dan. Dan believes in a conspiracy theory about a murderous, cannibalistic family that allegedly lives in hiding somewhere in Siberia, and intends to find them and prove to the world that they do exist. Adrienne, however, is convinced that the family is not and was never real, and in fact intends to write a story about her stepfather's unwavering, crazy belief in a fairy tale. That is, until Adrienne finds herself alone in the woods -- and then, being held hostage by the very-real Osinov family. Soon, Adrienne crafts a plan to escape with her life intact: she's going to woo the youngest son, and convince him to let her go.
FIRST THOUGHTS: I was so sure I would love this book, but ultimately, I didn't get what I expected at all. While it's very fast-paced and easy to get into, there were a lot of issues with the plot and characters, which I'll get more into below. It was disappointing, since the setup, and the idea of the main character purposely trying to get her captor to fall in love with her so she can escape, sounded really intriguing. Unfortunately, though, the promising plot wasn't very well-executed, and the book's tone felt really inconsistent. This book was easy to read, but I didn't enjoy much of it.
THOUGHTS ON PLOT: As mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I'm really into thrillers and survival stories, so the synopsis intrigued me. And the initial setup, with everything that could go wrong on the expedition inevitably happening, was promising. However, after Part One ended, the wheels quickly fell off. When you've got a story centered around the protagonist being held hostage, it's generally not a good sign when the hostage situation is the least interesting part of the book. Despite the dire situation, I felt like Part Two lacked stakes, especially after Adrienne had been with the family for a few chapters and began to get used to them. The whole thing really fell apart towards the end, when a magical realism element came right out of left field. I know other reviewers liked that aspect, but for me, it was really jarring when compared to the rest of the book. And the romantic subplot is... egh. It exists. It certainly exists.
3 / 10
THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: Hooooo boy. I had a feeling, just from the first chapter, that I was not going to like Adrienne very much, and, unfortunately, I was right. I got the sense that Adrienne being kind of a jerk and then growing out of it was part of the point, and that's all well and good, but even jerkass protagonists need to be relatable and/or sympathetic and/or endearing to some degree in order to work. For example, look at Georgia Nicolson from the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series. Georgia is absolutely awful, and yet it's still easy to root for her, partially because she's incredibly funny, and partially because her brand of awfulness is one that a lot of people can relate to. We've all been shallow, petty, and self-centered, and Georgia has just enough redeeming qualities that we can forgive her and like her, despite her being a selfish jerk a lot of the time. Adrienne, on the other hand, mostly just comes off as an ungrateful brat, especially with her treatment of her stepfather, Dan. Despite Dan being nice, supportive, and caring for Adrienne as if she was his own child, Adrienne basically treats him like shit. I get that having an unfounded dislike of a stepparent is something a lot of people, especially teenagers, have gone through, but in this case, it felt really unreasonable, and difficult to even understand. Like, if Dan had just married her mother at the start of the book, then I'd get it, and write it off as a period of adjustment. But he's been around for seven years, and has been kind to Adrienne the whole time -- fixated on the Osinovs, sure, but not to the extent that it made him a bad parent or husband. It was really hard to sympathize with Adrienne not at least tolerating him by now. I was especially irritated by her attitude towards him on the expedition, since it's mentioned that he had to jump through all sorts of hoops for her to be allowed to come -- i.e., he's doing her a favor. Like, even if you don't agree with him, Adrienne, you should at least be a little thankful. Admittedly, Adrienne does grow up a little bit, but for me, it was too little, too late. As for side characters, I felt like the family themselves were disappointingly underdeveloped, and that Dan's team for the expedition had potential, but they weren't in the book enough to make good use of it.
3 / 10
THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: This book is incredibly easy to read. I got through it in only a few hours, and it moved at a pretty brisk pace. Unfortunately, the narration was Adrienne's internal monologue which, while occasionally funny enough to make me snort out loud, meant we were inside Adrienne's head the whole time. As mentioned above, I'm not very fond of Adrienne, so this was rough. In addition, at times it felt really repetitive -- which, considering we're reading the thoughts of someone who's panicking and/or trapped the entire time, makes sense, but doesn't exactly make for an exciting reading experience. Overall, the prose and narration were simply "okay." (Though I did find the running gag about Fifty Shades of Grey to be really funny.)
5 / 10
THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: Eh. Aside from one, admittedly extremely well-put point about consent (namely, that it doesn't matter if you've flirted with a guy, danced with him, or kissed him -- you still don't owe him a damn thing), nothing really noteworthy here. No representation to speak of, but also nothing glaringly offensive. So, it's in the same pile of a lot of YA fare.
4 / 10
FINAL THOUGHTS: While this book had a clever idea and a good initial setup, it just didn't do it for me. Between my issues with the main character, and the plot sort of falling apart at the end, this is not a book I intend to reread any time soon. Ultimately, Notes From My Captivity mostly felt like a big batch of wasted potential.
FINAL GRADE: 3.75 / 10
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