Book Report: Our highly scientific analysis of a book, from the characters to the writing style to the swoon. See More...
There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom!: A member of the male species dares to step foot into our YA world. See More...

A Book About a Book

The new guy in Annabelle's life is so perfect. It's like he was Literally written for her.

A Book About a Book

BOOK REPORT for Literally by Lucy Keating

Cover Story: Word
Drinking Buddy: Double-half-caf-half-decaf-soy milk cappuccino
Testosterone Estrogen Level: Scripted
Talky Talk: Not a Bad Idea
Bonus Factor: Author Cameo
Bromance Status: Imaginary Friend

Cover Story: Word

Cute idea, almost too adorable. I nearly went blind trying to read the words, though.

The Deal:

Annabelle is a hard-working, driven high school student from Venice Beach California. She's never had a serious boyfriend until, halfway through her senior year, Will moves to town. Handsome, cool, and fun loving, he almost immediately sweeps Annabelle off her feet. Not like Elliot, her brother's obnoxious friend, with his mocking nicknames, scruffy looks, and musical talent. Not at all.

But something is not right. Famous YA author Lucy Keating (the actual author of this book) visits her class and talks about her new book, about a girl named Annabelle, her new boyfriend Will, her dog Napoleon, and...well, everything in Annabelle's life. And she freely admits that Annabelle is a character. One whom Lucy created. And everything in Annabelle's life, from her relationship with Will to her parents' unexpected separation, is nothing more than a bunch of plot devices.

How do you control your own life, when someone else is writing it?

Drinking Buddy: Double-half-caf-half-decaf-soy milk cappuccino

I liked the characters, in the sense that I didn't dislike them. It's just they were pretty wooden stock characters. The lonely smart girl, the too-good-to-be-true guy, the sexy bad boy. You know. Whatever.

Testosterone Estrogen Level: Scripted

Typical romantic triangle, the guy who she should like vs. the guy she shouldn't like but still does. However, everything seemed very forced. Of course it does. Lucy Keating is pulling the strings. Every time Annabelle thinks she might have feelings for Elliot, who she's known forever, Will comes by with his hipster food and fun plans and perfect taste in music. Or Elliot has unexpected car trouble and can't make it. Or gets knocked out by a flying drumstick.

Yes, this is all the 'author's' doing, trying to make Annabelle wind up with the book's hero rather than go off script. However, it was kind of hard to distinguish between what the author and the 'author' were writing. Sometimes it was hard to tell the difference between the book's premise and just sloppy writing.

Talky Talk: Not a Bad Idea

Okay, this was kind of a cool idea. What if you found out your life was literally being controlled by someone? Not God, not a deity, but a caffeine-swilling author with a deadline and a penchant for romantic triangles? This is never ambiguous in the book, Lucy Keating frequently leaves Annabelle notes on her personal author stationary warning her to follow the plot outline. The sudden failure of her parents' seemingly-strong marriage? That's a subplot. And she's going to end up with Will, the author's pet, no matter how strong her feelings for Elliot are.

The thing is, Annabelle only seems to look at this situation in terms of her romantic problems. She just realized that she, and everyone she knows, doesn't technically exist. Could she go full on Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, living a life with no consequence? Does she even have a soul? When she finally kisses Will, will they fade to the 'also by this author' page and blink out of existence?

No, Annabelle only seems to only be concerned about how Lucy is interfering with her love life.

Bonus Factor: Author Cameo

It's great when an author succeeds in flawlessly placing themselves in their own book. That book is is Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut. Usually, when an author like Clive Cussler or Brian Katcher (yes, I'm guilty) throws in an author avatar, it seems like a gimmic, or plain ego.

Unfortunately, that's how it comes off in this book. By modeling the fictional author after herself (name, appearance, and biography), everything seems too cutesy and meta. I would have liked this a lot more with a fictional author.

Bromance Status: Imaginary Friend

All novels are about fictional people, but this was a fictional character in a fictional world starring a real-life author. Not for me.

FTC full disclosure: I received neither money nor Hawaiian poke for writing this review.

 

Brian Katcher's photo About the Author: Brian Katcher wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.