Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Vigilante Nights (review)

1/5 stars

Vigilante Nights (Goodreads | Amazon) is a book I probably should've DNFed (Did Not Finish for those who don't know).  However, the book seemed casually racist so I wanted to finish so I could talk about that without drawing out the trolls who insist on finishing a book before reviewing it.  I think the racial problems were probably unintentional and due to clumsy writing, but nonetheless were a huge issue with the book.

Basic story, Lucas's twin sister Silver dies in a car crash.  Lucas is driving down a backroad when they're surrounded by gang members who stop the car and taunt them with rude gestures.  His car then stalls in the middle of an intersection leading to the crash.  When he wakes up and realizes his sister is dead (though her ghost appears throughout the book) he wants vengeance against the gang.

All the villains of this novel were in "Latino" gangs.  They were all either hispanic or half hispanic.  Aside from what felt like a token under-developed half-hispanic friend, all the hispanics were caricatures and villains.  I'm not saying that your bad guys can't have a different ethnic background than your protagonists, but I'm saying you have to be very conscious of what you're writing implies.  If you're going to deal with gangs and you're going to make them totally one race, you need to include more developed characters and some discussion of the socio-economic factors that lead to gang activities.  You can't just paint a picture where everyone who is bad is brown.
"The spic stopped a yard away from us, reeking of tacos. What else did a Mexican gang reek of?"
I understand the main character hates hispanics because of what happened to his sister. However, I'm just not okay with reading that line in a book.

That's not even the only problem with this novel.  This is a romance author's first attempt at writing young adult fiction.  Not only that, she's writing in a male POV and you can tell.  The character reads neither male nor authentically teenager.  The writing tries too hard, throwing out actual band names (Linkin Park), attempting slang, TMI about the main characters groin, etc.

Some examples of the writing:
Mom rushed after me, catching my wake. "The accident wasn't your fault. We don't blame you." I was sick to death of the MP3 on replay. Despite the words tumbling out, I knew she directed some of her emo towards me.
MP3 on replay? How much you want to bet that was record or something else in the first draft? This is trying, and failing, to sound teenage.
"Thick and short, golden brown hair framed an angel's face. From this distance, I saw her long dark lashes flutter over bright blue eyes. Her sunny smile caused my throat to clog. I had the strangest desire to touch her, to sift my hands through her hair, to absorb her energy forever. To fill my black hollowness. How crazy was that? Was mystical fairy magic storming the horizon"
Not only is the author's background as a romance novelist showing with this extremely purple prose, the text doesn't actually make that much sense.  Absorbing a girl's energy? Also this is a case of insta-love.
"Her fresh floral scent invaded my senses, leaving me drowning in a warm, bubbly pool of ether." 
And this we'll file under lines that don't make any sense.

This book is problematic on many levels.  I kept underlining examples of bad writing and began wondering at what point have you underlined too much to be useful for reviewing purposes (All of these examples are from the first 50% because I had to stop looking at my notes. There was too much I could've used).  Between the racial undertones and the bad writing I can't really recommend this to anyone.

I received an advance e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

1 comment:

Brittany Davis said...

Yeah, from your quotes the perspective didn't sound remotely male, remotely teenage or even like anyone ever would think that way. I also hate this lazy idea to make the villains all a minority group. Honestly, only good writing and diverse "good guys" can ever save that. Because if not, the only impression I can get is that the author holds her purse tighter when a black person gets in the elevator with her and thinks that "urban areas" are scary. Nonsense.