by Rachel Harris
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
On the precipice of her sixteenth birthday, the last thing lone wolf Cat Crawford wants is an extravagant gala thrown by her bubbly stepmother and well-meaning father. So even though Cat knows the family’s trip to Florence, Italy, is a peace offering, she embraces the magical city and all it offers. But when her curiosity leads her to an unusual gypsy tent, she exits... right into Renaissance Firenze.
Thrust into the sixteenth century armed with only a backpack full of contraband future items, Cat joins up with her ancestors, the sweet Alessandra and protective Cipriano, and soon falls for the gorgeous aspiring artist Lorenzo. But when the much-older Niccolo starts sniffing around, Cat realizes that an unwanted birthday party is nothing compared to an unwanted suitor full of creeptastic amore. Can she find her way back to modern times before her Italian adventure turns into an Italian forever?
(synopsis from Goodreads)
I thought this would be a cute, fluffy, fun read. It was sort of cute. It was definitely fluffy. I didn't really have much fun reading it, though. I got to 54%... and I don't want to kill any more brain cells.
The book seems to be aimed at a younger YA audience. Cat is not yet sixteen, and she does come across as pretty young at times. Unfortunately, the author also comes across as young -- or at least as someone who didn't really do that much research. And when you're writing a book about a girl who goes back in time to Renaissance Florence, you really do need to do your research.
One of the main issues I noticed, aside from the numerous historical anachronisms (such as the boys punching each other in the shoulder like 21st-century teenagers) and outright inaccuracies (Cat's favourite painting was not by the artist she claimed it was... but by his apprentice), was the language problem. When Cat goes back in time, she can somehow magically speak Italian. This leads to a lot of weirdness when she says things like, "Who's that dude?" Since that's a 19th-century word, and Cat's magically translating as she goes, most likely she would have simply said something like uomo... which shouldn't have made her relatives give her weird looks. This "English as default" issue has come up in other books, such as Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke & Bone series (where they were making plays on English words... while supposedly speaking Czech), but in this case it's doubly annoying because it's so forced. I don't think we need Cat to use so much slang like a giggly modern teenager to get the point across that she's a fish out of water. There were plenty of other gaffes that didn't involve language that conveyed that message just fine.
I don't really like Cat's character, either. She's so self-deprecating that I wanted to roll my eyes. The fact that a boy might like her is beyond her comprehension, even though it's painfully obvious to everyone else. Self-deprecation is okay in small doses, but here it was bordering on the ridiculous... and made even more annoying by her "poor little rich girl" attitude. She grew up wealthy, is loved by her father and stepmother, and never wants for anything... and yet she has the nerve to continually whine about it all. Poor me... my parents are famous. Poor me... my stepmother wants to throw me a sweet sixteen party. Poor me... I'm not as pretty as my movie-star mother, so therefore I must be ugly and unlovable. I just wanted to smack her after a while. She's also one of those people who seems to have her mind made up about everything. As a result, she comes across as really judgmental. Despite the fact that she's never had a boyfriend, she's suddenly an expert on young men and how they act, and immediately judges Lorenzo -- the love interest -- as an egotistical player... based on very little, other than hearsay and the fact that he's handsome. She's continually surprised when people's behaviour runs contrary to what she expects, based on her snap judgments. This started on the first page, with her whining about her perfectly nice (if overly exuberant) stepmother. Her real mother sounds like a distant, cold diva of a woman... so I was never really sure what Cat's problem with her warm, friendly stepmother was. It was as if she hated her just because she was supposed to.
The telling versus showing was the worst I've seen in a while. Cat has to repeatedly tell us how she builds walls around herself to keep people out so she won't get used and/or hurt. She tells us her stepmother is just throwing the sweet sixteen party so she'll be featured in a magazine. She tells us that Lorenzo is a player because he's handsome. You know what? I didn't believe any of it. There wasn't much evidence of Cat being used or hurt by people, her stepmother's actions suggested nothing more than a well-intentioned gesture, and Lorenzo (at least up to the 54% mark) had been nothing more than a really nice guy. It's one thing to tell us all these things... but if they simply don't match with what we're shown, then you have to wonder if the narrator is trustworthy.
Oh, and that painting that Cat loves so much? The one that birthed her interest in Renaissance art and inspired her to get a tattoo? Here you go:
Next time, Cat, try to pick a painting with a creepier baby Jesus. *shudder*
I bought this book and its sequel, so I felt kind of obligated to finish. But I just couldn't. While the premise is cute, the characters and weak "telling" writing really brought down my enjoyment of this book.
So, in the final analysis, the reasons why I didn't finish My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century are as follows:
- historical anachronisms/inaccuracies
- unlikeable main character
- way too much telling, not enough showing
- amateurish style