The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer
Just let that title soak in for a bit. How do you not pick up a book with that title? The correct answer is, you do not.
Now from the title of my review, you might garner that I thought this was a crappy book. And that is certainly not the case. Though I am limited in my star-givery, this is probably a 3.5, if not closer to a 4. But I had my issues.
Great plot and sparkling dialogue and wit. To be perfectly arrogant, it really did remind me of my own writing. That kind of smartass dialectic coupled with zingers and a joie de vivre. Toot toot went my own horn. And it’s a quick read, a YA book, but with plenty o’ sass and makeoutery. It was funny to me to see so many people laud this book in reviews for not being another romance. WHAT FUCKING BOOK WAS YOU READING, WILLIS? This book is seriously romance. The lead character dolefully pines for every girl who pays him the least bit of attention. Which is what made it so heartbreakingly sweet. Yes, true, it wasn’t ONLY about romance, nor was it about fumbling courtship, two dullards staring dead-eyed into each other’s chemistry-lack while the dude whips off his shirt because CW makeout.
The plot was smart but then it fell apart. Basically, it’s about an arts academy where a group of mild outsiders decides to thwart the reality TV show that plagues their school by throwing a monkey wrench into the cogs of its lack of artistry. And then they get hornswaggled. Then again. Then it just kind of loses its steam.
It’s a very artistic minded book, and grammar nerds will pop a tonal boner over the usage of Ezra Pound and various literal terms. And while it rings the gong of the unreliable narrator, the problem with having a meta unreliable narrator is that they are unreliably unreliable. The drama runs out of steam halfway through, and then runs out again. It’s troublesome and it takes you out of what should be a magnificent story. Hattemer understands teen drama, and teen angst, and handles it admirably. But the story doesn’t have enough to coast on its own without a dedicated plot. While charming, the characters aren’t THAT charming.
But I’d still recommend this to fans of grammar and Gilmore Girls. Which is probably most of you. So give it a gander. It’s not too shabby for a first novel.