Book Breakup: Envy by Gregg Olsen
‘Some of this story is completely true. And some of it isn’t. Like truth, evil comes in all sorts of flavors. Some bitter. Some deceptively sweet. Sometimes it comes with a heavy price. Most people don’t invite evil into their lives. The dirty little secret is that an invitation isn’t necessary. Locked doors don’t matter. Neither do fancy security systems. Evil is kind of amazing when you think about it. She knows how to get inside.’
My main issue with Envy is that I really didn’t get on with the style of writing. I found it painful to read, awkward, plodding, and melodramatic while attempting to be ominous. Olsen tries very hard to create a strong sense of tension, suspense and mystery by over dramatizing every. little. thing, through repetition, bullet points and italics.
Every. Single. Thing’
~ page 16
‘And finally, not far away, one person got online and started deleted the contents of a file folder marked KATELYN. Inside were copies of emails, messages and photographs that had meant to trap and hurt her so hard. Each item had been designed as payback.
It’s not the least bit subtle, was irritating, and frankly as a reader, I felt a little talked down to. I believe this is the author’s first YA book (he has, according to the back of the book, written several best-selling adult novels), and the way in which he over-emphasizes so much tells me he doesn’t yet understand or trust his younger audience. Instead of allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions, he bashes us over the head with it.
The editor’s note (which may or may not appear in the final publication), had a similar effect,
‘Young Adult readers beware: there are no cupcakes, ponies or rainbows in this book. Life is messy. Death happens. Evil is all around you – and right within these pages. Envy is just the beginning. Don’t wait for Gregg to push you… jump in.’
The whole thing is just trying too hard.
Aside from the style of writing, the paranormal aspect felt weak. Taylor and Haley, twin protagonists who don’t believe Katelyn killed herself (with an espresso machine, in the bath), have some odd abilities. Haley is compelled to inanimate objects and with a touch can ‘see’ a memory or feeling. Taylor receives coded messages from the dead when she is submerged in water. They first sense something isn’t right surrounding Katelyn’s death when, in the middle of the night, from their bedroom window, they see a small boat spell out the message ‘Look’ in the water. (I’m still not quite sure how or why the boat did this, something to do with the foam in the water creating the letters, either way, it’s all too random for me).
The characters are flat and lack any sort of personality. The almost clinical way Envy is written makes it very difficult to form any sort of emotional attachment to anyone, something not at all helped by the fact that the majority of the characters came across as fairly unlikable in any case. I’m also not a fan of using text message speech within a narrative, which Olsen utilizes quite a lot, while failing (in my opinion), to create an authentic teenager voice.
Basically, everything, from the editor’s opening letter, to the author’s misogynistic note, (considering how women have long been blamed as the root of evil, I don’t particularly appreciate the labeling of ‘evil’ as ‘she’), to the writing, it all served to annoy the hell out of me. Maybe I was simply in a bad mood, maybe this book just put me in a bad mood, but there it is. It’s a shame, because this could have been a solid story about the growing issues of cyber-bullying. As it was, I wasn’t interested in finishing this one.
Read: 105/285 pages
*Many thanks to UK Book Tours for providing this for review*
Book Breakups was created by the lovely Lori at Pure Imagination.