Friday, September 28, 2012

Review: The Suburban Strange

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The Suburban Strange
Nathan Kotecki 
Publication date: October 2nd 2012
by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

 

Shy Celia Balaustine is new to Suburban High, but a mysterious group of sophomores called the Rosary has befriended her. Friends aside, Celia soon discovers something is not quite right at Suburban. Girls at the school begin having near-fatal accidents on the eve of their sixteenth birthdays. Who is causing the accidents, and why? As Celia’s own birthday approaches, she is inexorably drawn into an underground conflict between good and evil—the Kind and the Unkind—that bubbles beneath Suburban High.

*A copy was provided by Thomas Allen & Son for review purposes*

Mysterious accidents the day before girls turn 16, a peculiar group of socialites, a unique paranormal aspect – The Suburban Strange was very promising. It started very intriguing too, with a very sophisticated, high-on-life feel that I found quite refreshing, though my excitement for it came to an quick halt when this high school clique started sounding like 100 year old teenagers, and the cultural references in the book were more persistent than door to door salesmen. Among other things.

A group of worldly teens spending their time in an underground indie bar scene creates a very sophisticated, hipster vibe in this book that I initially found very refreshing. We get teenagers who like to dress to the nines and act like they’re older, more cultured than the average. I liked the attitudes and personalities that it brought out in the book. However, after a while, I’m not sure if it got progressively worse, or if I simply got over my initial enchantment with it, but it became a little too unnatural for me to picture actual teenagers talking and acting like this. I’m certain there must be some in the world that share these personalities, but I was put off by it come half way through. I was also disappointed that their strange behaviour was not linked to the mysterious happenings in the plot which is what I initially assumed. I was expecting them to really be 300 year old demons or vampires – anything but extreme hipsters who are simply just… weird kids.

Have any of you read The Awakening by Kate Chopin? I hadn’t heard of it until this book. It’s apparently a classic, and if the meh reviews on Goodreads hadn’t put me off it, hearing about it 8271362153 times in this book would make it certain that I never want to hear about it ever again. I don’t mind cultural references in a novel, in fact I often find them very enjoyable, Gilmore Girls is one of my all time favourite TV shows because of the infinite cultural references–among other things–, but when a conversation unnaturally halts so the protagonist can fangirl for the 3rd time about a book she just read, it becomes grating. Especially when combined with the already considerable music and art references scattered throughout.

Instead of focusing on these grandpa teens with a marketing agenda, I decided to let myself enjoy the plot which I found fairly interesting and unique. I liked how the paranormal aspect was woven into the plot. While it didn’t go into great lengths, the Kind and Unkind mythology is a creative concept of good vs evil. There is one aspect of it that I found a bit obscure as I’m not sure of its purpose or relation to the plot: the fact that only girls who are virgins become a victim of this pre-birthday curse. Is it supposed to add relatable teenage dilemmas in the plot? I’m not quite sure but it felt very backwards 80s horror movie with no real significance. Then when it came time to the final twist–the big reveal–I realized just how predictable it all was. Even my two year old son knew who did it. And he thinks B comes first.

I was expecting a fun mystery with creepy happenings and an eerie school setting, instead I got a very slow paced read that was more an exposition on teenage social influences and common peer pressures than anything. I would only recommend this if you love books filled to the brim with very obscure indie music and art references, drab teenage “messages”, and unusually sophisticated teenage characters.

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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.
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28 Responses to “Review: The Suburban Strange”

  1. Vivian @ Vivaciously, Vivian

    Vivian the Spirit says: Oh dear..sorry to hear that the teenage characters were so unnatural 🙁 From the sound of it, they seem absolutely unrealistic to me. I’ve heard of Kate Chopin but haven’t read anything by her yet. Well, classics are classics for a reason, and sometimes perhaps Goodreads ratings aren’t too good of an indicator for the classics ^_^

    Anyway, definitely seems like this book is just a bit too out there… too bad it didn’t work out for you, Giselle, but fantastic and honest review nevertheless! POOF!

  2. Giselle

    @Vivian: Goodreads may not be a good indicator for older generations that are crazy for classics, but for those who hasn’t read it, they can be pretty accurate in checking if it’s a classic that is still enjoyed by youth today. And since the author is obviously trying to push his readers to read it, and his readers are mostly YA fans, well you get where I’m going with this >.< So yeah, I think GR reviews are definitely worth taking in consideration before diving into a classic.

  3. Christina

    “Even my two year old son knew who did it. And he thinks B comes first.”

    Bahahaha, oh Giselle. You are hilarious as always. This book didn’t interest me before, and it sure doesn’t now. I haven’t read The Awakening, either, though I probably should someday, though I don’t know if I’ll like it. Seems very odd for the characters to be obsessed with it if it’s not a retelling or something. Besides, even when I loved my school books, I still hated them for being my school books.

    HIPSTERS. No.

  4. Silverlight

    This book sounds soooo boring,and not worth my time *snooze* Thanks for the great review! I’ll stay away from this one, for sure!

    B is not first? Who knew? 😀

  5. The Literary Darling

    I read The Awakening my college English class. It was written by a feminist about 70 years before her time. So strange that this book references it so much, in a teen book. How boring. Most people would not even know who this author is or what it was about. And wow that cover is so deceiving! Im glad I read this review….cuz I would have snatched that one up thinking I was about to get a great, creepy story! Thanks for the review!

  6. ParaJunkee

    Damn, ” grandpa teens with a marketing agenda” !! This makes me funked out, I’ve got this one too for review and now this makes me not want to read it.

  7. The Literary Darling

    I read The Awakening my college English class. It was written by a feminist about 70 years before her time. So strange that this book references it so much, in a teen book. How boring. Most people would not even know who this author is or what it was about. And wow that cover is so deceiving! Im glad I read this review….cuz I would have snatched that one up thinking I was about to get a great, creepy story! Thanks for the review!

  8. The Literary Darling

    I read The Awakening my college English class. It was written by a feminist about 70 years before her time. So strange that this book references it so much, in a teen book. How boring. Most people would not even know who this author is or what it was about. And wow that cover is so deceiving! Im glad I read this review….cuz I would have snatched that one up thinking I was about to get a great, creepy story! Thanks for the review!

  9. Amy

    It’s too bad that this wasn’t great for you. This is the first review I have read for it, but I don’t think I would enjoy it judging by your thoughts on it. (And I totally always take your thoughts into consideration since you rock!!) Great review babe!!

  10. Elodie

    I hadn’t heard of this book until now .. Too bad this was a slow paced read and you didn’t enjoy it that much. I won’t read this one, thanks for your helpful review darling 🙂

  11. Nick

    Well, although that cover is gorgeous, I don’t think this book is for me. After reading your review, I’m pretty much convinced that I’m not going to read. It sounds like the characters weren’t very well developed. Too bad, you didn’t enjoy this one, Giselle, but you pointed out why you didn’t like it very clearly. Great, honest review, Giselle! 🙂

  12. Michelle @ Book Briefs

    Wow, first I have to say that I love the cover AND Gilmore Girls for the references too! (have you seen Parenthood- Lauren Graham’s new show? I love it!) Anyways, this book looks interesting but I have some reservations when you said it had a slow pace and kind of unrealistic teens. I’m on the fence about this one.

    Thanks for the great review, Giselle 🙂

    Michelle @ Book Briefs

  13. russell1200

    Strange. Sweet sixteen I have always presumed was the modern take on the old debutantes ball where the young lady came out (debuted) for the first time. The rather early age of 16 was likely only possible because of the wealth in the United States and Canada (most places it was 18) allowed for households to be set up at an early age.

    Well if these sophmores are hanging out in a bar, they certainly have the wealth.

  14. Ems

    Hmmm…I think I’ll skip it. I trust your opinion on things, so if it was annoying to you, it’s almost 100% likely that it will be for me as well. Thanks for taking the hit so I didn’t have to… 😛

  15. kimbacaffeinate

    Wow, sorry you didn’t enjoy this one. I had never heard of it. On a happy note..i am a Gilmour Girls fan too, my daughters and I loved it and cried when it ended. A lot of weird things with this book unnatural characters, strange virgin things, I wil say this you made me laugh!

  16. Lalaine

    Now after reading your review, this aint my thing. I was even excited for it since the blurb and the cover was so intriguing and beautiful. Sorry that it disappoint you Giselle hope ethe next read will be better. Great review nonetheless, x

    ficbookreviews

  17. Jennifer Messerschmidt

    I enjoy pop culture references but they can be overdone. Everything in moderation as they say. I am curious to learn more about the paranormal aspect and I enjoy eerie school settings. Too bad it was so slow. I hadn’t heard of this book before but it did sound promising.

  18. Maji Bookshelf

    oh no, I was also expecting a fun mystery, plus the cover is gorgeous! (dunno how that is relevant but yea). I honestly can’t stand it when an author adds something to the plot that contributes NOTHING to the plot but just takes us out of the zone, same for the characters…

    too bad you didn’t like it, but I don’t think i’ve got the time for disappointment so I’ll be skipping this one unfortunately.

    great review Giselle!

    – Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf