Not Quite A Ten

With a hook claiming to be a modern-day Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, I had high hopes for Ten by Gretchen McNeil. Then I realized Gretchen McNeil did the voice of a character on a short-lived but very much-loved (by me) animated show on G4TV called Code Monkeys, a show dripping with raunchy witty humor. I thought this would be brilliant! I first fount this title during my Young Adult literature course (it was on a YALSA list somewhere… or won an award… one of the two), and purchased it through Amazon’s Kindle store for $1.99. Seeing what I paid for it again in print doesn’t make me feel as bad about buying it… But part of me wishes it was only $0.99.

 

ten

 

The structure should already be familiar to anyone who read And Then There Were None, or fans of the movie Clue. The story even starts the same — guests traveling on a ferry-boat to an island in the middle of a storm. Ten introduces us to a cast of high school students, all fraught with ex boyfriends and jocks, the one black guy, an asian girl, and nerds. Okay, I’m thinking, cliché, but let’s see where this leads. The cast is spending the weekend on this island to celebrate graduating. I think. It wasn’t really clear, and didn’t really matter anyway. They make dinner together after awkward interactions, and someone nearly dies from finding nuts in their salad. Ooh, scary nuts! Yes, they were allergic… So I suppose anaphylactic shock would be a little clever way to knock someone out right away… but let’s move on. The kids find a movie and pop it into the DVD player and there’s an odd reel of slashing and scrambly clips and words flashing on the screen and paint slashes on the wall, like a college freshman’s first attempt at a visual arts assignment. The film foreshadows everyone dying, basically.

For anyone wanting to read this, I suppose I’ll leave out the spoilers… but I found the whole story played out like a discount-bin horror flick. I suppose that’s all you really need to know. The story whittled down to somewhat of an anti-bullying story, except the victim was a kook. And I had to recount the number of people who died, because of the ten teenagers… **SPOILER** two survive… meaning only eight died… (Oh, but that’s right, there were two random neighbors’ bodies found in that one scene…but that seems like a cop-out).  I suppose retitling the book to EIGHT wouldn’t have had the same impact… Unfortunately, Ten did not inspire a ten-star ranking.

To wrap things up: The idea was there, the creativity was sorta there, the execution was a bit lacking. The book would have been a bit more enjoyable if it had been shortened. In defense, I think it’s a bit difficult to compose a mystery like And Then There Were None without duplicating it. Sadly, I think the blurbs you read about this book may provoke a more imaginative story in your  own imagination than reading the full story.

Now if only I could slash this title off my list with a swatch of red paint just like in the book. That would be satisfying.

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Where You Belong

Veering slightly off the track of my trajectory of books for the year, I couldn’t help but read No Place Like Oz, the prequel e-novella by Danielle Paige, as soon as I caught wind of it. I was fortunate enough to have the pleasure of meeting her and listening to her talk about her (now New York Bestselling) book Dorothy Must Die at my local bookstore, The Odyssey.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of one of my favorite franchises of all time. I mean favorite. I’m talking: I had a Wizard of Oz birthday cake, y’all. FAV. Over the years, Baum’s books have been adapted countless times, and I would say that this newest addition to the world does not disappoint. Thankfully, I can launch myself directly in to Dorothy Must Die without having to wait. Though I haven’t finished many  of the original Baum books, I have completed the more popular of the stories, which is where Paige’s books draw their inspiration.

“Home isn’t where you’re born — it’s where you belong” 

No  Place Like Oz

 

This prequel brings us back into Dorothy’s life a few months following her return to Kansas. Though she’s been happy to get home after all of her adventures, she has gotten a bit stir-crazy knowing that there’s a whole world out there beyond dusty old farmlands. On her sixteenth birthday she receives a mysterious package containing fancy red heels that end up transporting not just her, but also Uncle Henry and Aunt Em to Oz. Once there, she resolves to never return to Kansas, despite her family’s protests, and to reunite with her old friends. Instead, she ends up spending much of her time at the Emerald City and becomes the acquaintance of the new ruler, Ozma…. And I won’t spoil anything else — but it’s good!

Reading through Paige’s text feels so familiar. Whether it’s the subject of Oz or perhaps her style of writing, I breezed through this novella in just a few hours. One thing I always appreciated about Baum’s original Oz stories is his ability to describe characters and scenarios in such a way that is brief, yet provides just enough detail  to allow your mind to spin these marvelous images. I find Paige achieves this in very much a similar way. Her prose is contemporary, yet not too “current-dated,” by which I mean, it does not fall into today’s vernacular common place in other young adult works. That said, it does still feel very Y.A.. (I’ll have to re-read some of Baum’s books to get a sense of how they match up.)

In this little novella, we see quite a development in the character of Dorothy, from a very familiar “oh-fiddle-dee-dee” corn-fed girl to… well… I won’t ruin it… But trust me on this: it’s worth the read. This, so far, seems like the perfect primer for the full-length Dorothy Must Die, and at a very reasonable $1.99 from Amazon’s Kindle Store, it’s worth the buy. You can bet I’ll be writing about Dorothy Must Die when I finish that, too.

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Special shout out — Hey Ma, if I wasn’t clear in the rest of this entry…

GO READ THIS!