Cover Story: Poor Form
I get what the cover’s going for — “The background’s blurry ’cause she’s running FAST!” — but the girl kind of looks like she’s floating. The pop of colour is nice, but the image is not at all specific to the story. Nor is it clear if this girl is wearing a short skirt and a longgggggg jacket.
With her mother deceased and her father out of the picture, Avery VanDemere has been raised by her wealthy grandmother. Avery’s stuck at a strict and miserable boarding school, and she’d do anything to get out of there. And whaddaya know, an opportunity arises as the potential answer to her solution. Grandmother’s choosing an heir to the vast fortunes of VanDemere Enterprises with a competition that pits her descendants against each other to prove their worth as a successor. (SOUNDS REASONABLE.) All that’s standing between Avery and her freedom are her relatives who all already hate her. Easy peasy.
BFF Charm: Nay
OK, I sympathize with Avery feeling like an outsider in her own family. Practically everyone else is of that blond WASP-y stock, whereas Avery favours her non-VanDemere Croatian side more, so she’s constantly reminded of how very different she is from her family just by looking at them. But Avery’s just too much of a Poor Little Rich Girl without enough redeeming features to get me to stop rolling my eyes.
Like how she constantly compares her sitch to being imprisoned. Girl — learn a new simile, PLEASE. Look, I know that having a rich family doesn’t mean you can’t have problems, and everything can be SO INTENSE AND HYPERBOLIC in your teens — esp. when it comes to independence — but dial the dramatics down a notch. You know what’s like a prison? ACTUAL PRISON. (Or, hell — haven’t you even heard of Orange Is the New Black?) Every time I think I’m coming around to liking you, like for your determination or a glimpse of sass, I’m promptly reminded that NOPE, CAN’T.
Swoonworthy Scale: 3?
Being only seventeen, Avery needs to be accompanied by an adult for the competition. Enter Riley, the slightly-older-but-not-so-old-that-it’s-fully-creepy college intern from the law firm running the competition. I guess there are swoony moments between them — things that could cause swoon do happen, but I wasn’t affected at all. Partly probably influenced by my other issues with the book, but these two also have a habit of discussing kissyface feelings at inopportune times. Inopportune times that even they themselves acknowledge that, hey, maybe this convo can be shelved until AFTER the challenge with time constraints that y’all are trying to win? PRIORITIES, CHILDREN. Holster thy chaste hormones.
Talky Talk: TMI!
I don’t mean that Avery’s POV overshares private shizz, but there is quite literally too much information for me. Not in a way that’s difficult to keep track, but there are often superfluous details that I just do not care about. I found myself saying, “OMG GET TO THE POINT ALREADY” on multiple occasions. I understand the idea of painting a complete picture, but not every single little thing needs to be spelled out. For example:
The car turned onto a rough dirt road. I wasn’t sure how the driver could even see, since the vehicle ahead threw up huge plumes of dust. A few miles later we jerked to a stop and got out to join the others. Ms. Franklin passed around bottles of water. She also gave us bug repellent, and after we sprayed ourselves, we followed her along a foot trail that wound upward.
If those bits about water and bug spray weren’t mentioned, it’s not like I would have been shouting “PLOT HOLE!” and doubting how the characters stayed hydrated and bug free. That kind of unfiltered play-by-play commentary is such a momentum killer.
Here’s another quote:
As if on cue, Riley pressed a remote. The lights dimmed and the wall near the far end of the table divided to show a SMART board. A PowerPoint presentation appeared. Black letters on a blue background said:
HERITAGE and INHERITANCE
Like, seriously — a whole paragraph on boardroom technology? Scintillating. AND SPEAKING OF: PowerPoint gets namedropped like Microsoft is sponsoring the novel. You could make a drinking game out of the PowerPoint and prison mentions alone. (By my count, you’d be taking more drinks than in some Sweet Valley High books with far fewer rules.)
And as someone who unhealthily obsesses over her own punctuation usage,* the abundance of exclamation marks in Avery’s narration sticks out to me. It’s something I don’t often encounter in narrations, and it really contributes to Avery’s woe-is-me dramatics that I found so tiresome.
Now, with all that said, I still kept reading anyway. A rich, eccentric head of a family devising a challenge for their heirs is shades of The Westing Game that I couldn’t resist. Unfortunately, those shades are v. v. faint; I wanted to see how Inherit Midnight would play out, but I kept wishing that I would like it more than I did.
*How I long for something halfway between a period and an exclamation mark, for when I want to convey my enthusiasm, but not in a hyper, crazy-eyed way in which every! sentence! ends! in! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!. Which does often happen anyway, because the recipient needs to know I am not blasé about the subject. But I guess we have emoji for that kind of nuance now.
Bonus Factor: The Amazing Race
This isn’t a perfect analogue (e.g., there is no charming New Zealander host), but the competition for VanDemere Enterprises does involve globetrotting to complete challenges for the grand prize.
Bonus Factor: Rich Family of Assholes
Avery’s fam is full of smug d-bags, which makes it easier to root for her success and their failure. Of course, as you might suspect, she discovers that a few of them aren’t that bad after all. But the decent ones are still outnumbered by the insufferable jerkfaces.
Relationship Status: On-Again, Off-Again
As soon as I met this book, I was already eyeing the door. I know, I KNOW; I kept saying that I’d dump it, but I never followed through before things ended for good.
Voice of Reason: Just break up with it!
Me: I CAAAAAN’T.
Voice of Reason: Why the hell not?!??
I wouldn’t go as far as calling this a love-hate relationship — because, trust, there is no love here. Lukewarm like, at most. I’m not a book completionist at all, but the plot intrigued me enough that I stuck with it to the very end, gritting my teeth through my many frustrations.
FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Bloomsbury. I received neither money nor froyo for writing this review (dammit!). Inherit Midnight is available now.