My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Rating – 1.5 stars.
This book is, as a close friend of mine put it, like Schrodinger’s cat. You have to open the box to see whether it’s alive or dead and when I opened the box, this cat was definitely dead and slightly moldy.
The plot centers around one Grace Becker and her friends, all from the same art class, who are in the process of graffiti painting tags in 100 locations around the town/city/wherever the hell they live. They are all doing this for various reasons, the main being they want to join the 100 society of the title.
“Believed to have originated at the prestigious Clifton Manor School, The 100 Society was founded more than twenty years ago by the notorious graffiti artist known only as ‘A’. While the anonymous artist’s work now sells for millions, he has created a legacy of copycats, each hoping to ‘tag’ the same hundred locations.”
The fact that this is an extract from a very unprofessional sounding newspaper not withstanding, there is more information in this blatant expositionary device about the heroine than in the entire book. One of my pet peeves is when authors fail to describe, even vaguely, what the protagonist’s physical appearance is like, especially when the book is written from a third person POV. There is not a single scrap of detail regarding Grace’s appearance.
This irritation is exacerbated by the staple angst-ridden love triangle, because I simply do not know what Trick and Pete see in Grace. I started off thinking that Grace was a kind, open minded sort of heroine but she quickly devolves, in my opinion, into a sweetly simpering, selfish female who cannot think past appearances.
Grace is deathly afraid of being expelled, but every action she takes sets her even more firmly on the road to expulsion. All Grace really wants is attention from her family (Clifton Manor is a boarding school). She has an inferiority complex from being in the shadow of her perfect older brother (Jack), but instead of becoming competitive and aiming to improve, she decides to paint illegal graffiti tags that will get her into trouble and which she will never be acknowledged for. Grace’s imaginary relationship with her dad is equally bad. We all know, as Grace does, that hardworking single fathers who raise two or more kids send off their youngest daughters to expensive boarding schools because they can’t stand the sight of said offspring.
What’s more, Grace takes every action (or inaction, as the case may be) on her family’s part as proof that she is *sniff, sniff* unloved. For example, her father, who works in Singapore, does not return her call (and as we find out, that’s not his fault either) and Grace doesn’t have enough credit to call again. So instead of sensibly emailing her dad or brother, what does Grace do? WHINE.
” ‘He said he’d call.’
‘He calls Jack.’
‘He calls you too.’
‘Not this week.’ ”
Even if I managed to overlook all this somehow, there is still Grace’s complete inability to do anything using common sense. I seriously wonder how she managed to survive this long.
Grace’s Guide to Ghastly Situations:
1. When someone is in mortal danger, say, when they have acid thrown onto their face, you must not, under any circumstances, help them other than by muttering a few useless words. You may scream for help, but do not look around for any liquids or substances that could soothe the victim’s pain.
2. When you have the suspicion that your room has been broken into and a friend reports a similar incident, do not, on the pain of death, report this to the concerned authorities. Being expelled is far, far more terrifying. This applies to death threats, stalking and accidental deaths as well.
3. When you have knowledge that your friend is about to get killed, do not go with any sort of protection or weapon. Once you get to the spot where the murderer is on the verge of killing you both, do not attempt to call the police with your shiny cellphone or record conversations as proof of innocence. Only dither about until something happens.
4. Above all, do not attempt to save yourself. Wait for the boyfriend/firefighters/deus ex machina to do it.
At least her name isn’t Prudence.
If there’s no hope for the MC, you ask, what about the other characters?
What secondary characters? They are all so flat, so 2-D, you could walk over them like they were carpets, and never know it. I was briefly happy when the blond airhead, Cassie, was revealed to be more than her appearance. Here, I thought, this book is going to be different.
“The person she had once thought of as a vacuous bimbo was actually an intelligent, talented girl who just so happened to like nice shoes.”
I didn’t know that
(a) the heroine would take her place as resident idiot
(b) she’d be MIA because she was made into the aforementioned acid victim.
The only other girl we meet (apart from the perennially snoozing art teacher) is a redhead named Faith (what is with these inappropriate evangelical names?) whose only role is to agonise over how Pete doesn’t love her and to provide an extra painting for the killer to enact a scene with. Cassie’s boyfriend Ed, can’t do much except look sad and cry. Pete is painfully bland. Most of the time, you get the impression he’s there just because he’s there. As for Trick, he’s the lesson that goes “Tattoos and mysterious bad-boys do not maketh a believable person”. Everyone, including Grace, has no personality whatsoever.
Now comes, limping on three toes, the plot. In the rating of 2.5 stars, the half star is because the author is good at misdirection. Enough that I questioned my belief, even though my answer to the whodunnit turned out to be right in the end. The pacing of the novel is also good, with a steadily increasing tempo of terror and confusion that culminates in the expected revelation of the murderer’s identity. However, if you’re expecting any investigation and logical deductions here, don’t. All things are in passive voice here; the main character never actively attempts to solve problems. It just barely holds your interest, if only to see whether Grace’s naïveté will get her killed. (Sadly, no.)
Conclusion: I do not really recommend this book. Though it has no rage-inducing flaws such as racism or sexual abuse cloaked as romance, it can be annoying because it could be so much better. It’s very similar to the Scream movies, only minus the strong heroine that is Sydney. So no, it’s not for me.
*All quotes are taken from an ARC from Netgalley. Many thanks to the publishers for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review*