Friday, August 01, 2014

Review: Girl Defective by Simmone Howell

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I received this book for free from Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Girl Defective by Simmone HowellGirl Defective by Simmone Howell
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers on September 2nd 2014
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Source: Simon & Schuster Canada
Buy on Amazon

In the tradition of High Fidelity and Empire Records, this is the literary soundtrack to Skylark Martin’s strange, mysterious, and extraordinary summer.

This is the story of a wild girl and a ghost girl; a boy who knew nothing and a boy who thought he knew everything.

It’s a story about Skylark Martin, who lives with her father and brother in a vintage record shop and is trying to find her place in the world. It’s about ten-year-old Super Agent Gully and his case of a lifetime. And about beautiful, reckless, sharp-as-knives Nancy. It’s about tragi-hot Luke, and just-plain-tragic Mia Casey. It’s about the dark underbelly of a curious neighborhood. It’s about summer, and weirdness, and mystery, and music.

And it's about life and death and grief and romance. All the good stuff.

Upon seeing the references to both Empire Records and High Fidelity in the blurb for Girl Defective I was quick to read this one as soon as it showed up on my doorstep.  Empire will forever be in my top 5 favourite movies of all time list because I am a huge music junkie.  I love the feelings that music captures and how it can evoke so much emotion from me as a listener.  I was a big fan of how Howell conveyed the importance of music in the lives of the Martin family but since a lot of the references to bands and such weren’t ones I had ever heard of I didn’t fall as in love with that aspect of the story as I had hoped to.

Girl Defective is not what I would call a plot driven story.  We are basically shown the life of the Martin family for a period of time and we just go along with their lives.  There is no big event driving the story it’s simply character driven.  This worked for me here because I did come to care about Skylark, Gully and Bill.  The Martin family is not perfect by any means and that’s what made me care about them the most.  We’re told the story through the eyes of Skylark, a 15 year old girl who is simply trying to find her way in life.  She’s having romantic emotions for the first time and really just trying to figure shit out.  I loved her infatuation with Nancy and how she struggled with putting a name on it.  Nancy is a wild child who once worked in her father’s vinyl shop and she evokes so much wonder from young Skylark because she is such a free spirit.  Don’t get me wrong, Nancy is not someone who should be a role model, but I liked how she got Skylark to go outside of her box and she really opened up her eyes at a very impressionable age.

Also driving along this change in Skylark is the super hot Luke Casey who her dad hires on at the shop.  He was a great addition to the story because he also drives along the mystery that underlies the novel.  Popping up around town are posters of a girl who drowned years ago and once Skylark finds out her the name of the new boy at the shop and that the drowned girls name was Mia Casey, she quickly puts two and two together.  As Sky starts to get closer to Luke she realizes that they are really looking for the same answers, they want to know what happened to Mia that led her to her death that night.  Through their sleuthing for the full story they start to fall for one another slowly and it’s really sweet.  I liked that it was by no means insta-love, it buds slowly and at times you aren’t even sure if that is really the direction they are heading.  Luke became close with the whole family which had me really rooting for their love story to grow.

Aside from the romance and the friendships in Girl Defective, there is such a fantastic family dynamic.  We are quick to learn that Sky and Gully’s mother took off when they were much younger and there is a lot of resentment from Sky about it (rightfully so, in my eyes.) She’s really had to step up in her mother’s absence, not only due to it but also due to the fact that her father has a drinking problem.  It was frustrating to see Bill constantly check out and crack open a beer when the kids really did need him.  Gully wasn’t an easy child to handle at all, I can’t exactly pin point what was up with him but he had an obsessive personality and was prone to pretty extensive outbursts.

Everything I have said here probably comes across as a pretty glowing review and I do admit that I did like the book overall, but I can’t say that I fell in love with it.  It was quite slow moving and at times I was frustrated with that.  I am usually a pretty big fan of character driven stories so I can’t blame my subtle indifference to it on that, I did come to care for the characters, but I just wanted more I guess.  Some of my disappointment is also because a lot of the musical references went over my head and I consider myself a pretty big music buff.  Whatever the reason this one just felt like a 3 star for me so that’s what I am going to slap on it.


3 Hot Espressos

10 Responses to “Review: Girl Defective by Simmone Howell”

  1. Pili

    I love books where music references are a big thing, but I’m afraid if they go too Indie they’ll probably lose me and that will take out of the appeal of the book.
    And I agree Jenni, sometimes you like a lot of things from a book but it feels like a 3 stars!
    Great review!

  2. Soma Rostam

    Well, Jenni
    This is the first review I read of this book, but to be honest, I am not as intrigued as I thought I would be
    It just doesn’t seem like my cup of tea
    GREAT review, though

  3. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    This is the first time I’m hearing of this book and I quite like the sound of it. I like character driven books with strong family dynamics so I might like this. The slow pace would probably frustrate me as well.
    I’ll have to check this book out.
    Great review!

  4. Christianna

    I have this one for review and I started it the other day, but put it on hold, to read something else! You’re review makes me excited to get back into it though! I’m curious to see if I’ll get the music references, cause you know how much music is my thing too!

  5. Kelsey

    When I saw the Empire Records thing that really made me interested, but after your review I’m not fully sure that this would be a book for me. Thanks for reviewing it!

  6. Michelle

    I was seriously thinking to choose this book from S&A’s mailing list.. But I picked Afterworlds and The Bane Chronicles instead, because who can turn down Cassie Clare if they’ve read and loved every book by her?

    I’m the enemy of slow-paced books. I just hate them and they really bring down my overall rating of the whole story. So this book would really end up as a hit or miss for me. I’m sorry that this wasn’t the best read around! Good luck with your next, and gorgeous review!