“The morality of the book is more complicated than a lot of YA so I wanted to try doing it on my own.”
Okay, Scott. Take a seat. What you’ve written isn’t ingenious or original, and basically stating that YA is oh-so easy to write. In this interview, Scott little respect for YA fiction, and those that write it. It’s always disheartening to see some guy saunter in and claim to be writing what no one else is, especially when women have paved the path long before him. Is it really that hard to just respect other authors, and stop claiming to be some brilliant and profound author? Sorry to burst your bubble, man, but you’re nothing special, and neither is The Cruelty. I’m honestly shocked that he’s somehow gotten a six-figure deal for this trite story.
This book had the potential to be a really thrilling and adventurous story about a girl’s desperate search for her father who’d been kidnapped, but unfortunately, it fell flat. It’s disappointing when a book tries to do everything right, almost as if it were following some sort of recipe for a bestselling novel. “Edgy” character? Check. Adventurous mission? Check. Convenient love interest? Check. But what this book lacked was soul. It employed all these techniques and while the narrative was somewhat entertaining, it didn’t create a lasting impression because of how stereotypical it was. It was like The Cruelty had borrowed elements from all the best action books, but had forgotten the most important thing — the ability to ensure readers are connected with the characters and captivated by the story.
In the beginning, we’re introduced to a “feisty” girl with dyed red hair who doesn’t seem to have a lot of friends at her school, and the “popular girls” hate her. She describes herself as “tall and thick-waisted” with a “rectangular nose”, and thinks the only thing she requires to be “cool” in the reader’s mind is by wearing Doc Martins. Her character was awfully clichéd, and I wasn’t able to connect with her because of that. She lacked a real personality, she lacked individual traits (other than being able to swear at people in French, which becomes oh-so useful in the later chapters), and she lacked soul. What’s worse is that she’s “transformed” into a “lean warrior with hair dyed fire-engine red”. Because heroines can only be fit, hot girls, right? At least in the view of this sexist YA writer who thinks being catcalled is romantic.
And then there was the romance. Bleh. The dialogue between the so-called love interest and our bland protagonist was unbelievably stilted, and there was absolutely no chemistry between them. I mean, they only started kissing because they had to get into a taxi? Because it was raining? I mean, it didn’t make sense, and it certainly didn’t add anything to the plot. It was about as interesting as the rest of the story, which definitely says something. These “morally ambiguous” choices weren’t even something new to YA fiction. They were clichéd and had been done numerous times before. Someone really should have told Scott that. Bless his heart. He thought he was being original.
So would I recommend this book? No, I wouldn’t. I mean, you might enjoy it as a mindless read, but nothing more. The protagonist’s “transformation” was offensive and portrayed that “chubby” girls can’t be heroes, the adventure was nothing exceptional, and the “morally ambiguous” aspects weren’t original or overly thought-provoking. What the author desperately needed was to read some YA fiction, rather than disrespecting the best YA authors by claiming that writing for young adults is easy and that he should be praised for writing about such “complex” topics. Don’t waste your time on this clichéd narrative written by a conceited, narcissistic “writer”.
Have you read The Cruelty yet? What’s the most “morally ambiguous” YA novel you’ve read? What clichés are you sick of seeing in YA fiction? Let’s discuss!
Thanks to Walker Australia for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom
When her diplomat father is kidnapped and the U.S. Government is unable to help, 17 year-old Gwendolyn Bloom sets off across the sordid underbelly of Europe to rescue him.
Following the only lead she has—the name of a Palestinian informer living in France—she plunges into a brutal world of arms smuggling and human trafficking.
As she journeys from the slums of Paris, to the nightclubs of Berlin, to the heart of the most feared crime family in Prague, Gwendolyn discovers that to survive in this new world she must become every bit as cruel as the men she’s hunting.