Honest and lively YA book reviews
I sucked at math. I mean, I barely new what way up I was during class let alone what the fuck an integer is. I spent the majority of the year doodling bubble letters in my blueberry scented gel pen (c'mon guys, it was the early noughties) and skipping class as often as I dared, preferring to spend time in the library where the marks on the page actually made sense to me. Like, what is algebra? Some kind of animal? A disease? I don't even fucking know. So when it rolled around to exam time, the most I could hope for was to be able to write my name legibly at the top of the page (and even in this task I struggled. My handwriting is bad) I barely new where I was and had a hard time comprehending what the hell was going on. Math? That's like, numbers right? I thank all the gods that the marking gurus decided, in their infinite wisdom to lower the pass mark that year to 23% because I guess we all sucked. Somehow I actually passed, not with a fantastic grade or that but I actually passed. The markers must have found something they could grade in amongst all the song lyrics, quotes and cartoon ponies I scrawled across my exam paper. Or maybe they just had a really great sense of humour.
Mercy by Rebecca Lim felt like that goddam math exam all over again - I have no fucking idea what the hell is going on here.
Mercy, I think, is an angel (though I only know this because it says so on the blurb) who wakes up to find herself inhabiting a new human body periodically. She must use her enormous wit, talent and bravery (ha) to accomplish good deeds (for some reason) and make her time on earth worth while (I think) She lands in Paradise - a small town hiding great tragedy - in the body of Carmen, posing as a participant in a multi-school choir concert. There she meets Ryan and his stick-figure parents who are struggling to come to terms with the kidnapping of their daughter, Lauren two years previously. Mercy takes it upon herself to rescue Lauren and right the wrongs of this fractured family and town.
This book is hella confusing. There are a lot of events which make zero sense. Mercy herself is a very confused character, frequently contradicting herself and seeming to take on a completely new personality about 50% of the way into the story. She begins very uncertain, anxious and nervous as she is catapulted into Carmen's body. But as the story progresses she turns into - well - a bitch. When we are first introduced it was all sweet little Mercy and I actually kinda liked her because she was lost and just trying to do the best she could. But then emerged Monster Mercy and my interest in her began to wane. She's incredibly dismissive of her host body and the girl's life who she has hijacked for the foreseeable future:
"I can imagine her being a confidante of that bossy blonde on the bus only because she poses no threat to anyone whatsoever. Not in looks or popularity or sheer force of will."
Mercy doesn't know this Carmen chick, she's just rocked up and stepped into her disguise and her life and yet, she thinks it's perfectly fine to trash talk her at every opportunity she gets commenting on her "underwhelming reflection":
"Carmen's eczema is really severe, making her naked body look leprous and blotchy. Not a bikini wearer, then."
This is not okay - how awful to have some stranger stare at your body and critique it, picking out the one thing you may be most self conscious about and turning it into something to be truly ashamed of and disgusted by, even making some sick joke about goddam fucking bikinis !! Girls need to stop judging each other. Life is hard enough without this shit to contend with. Us chicks gotta stick together !!
So then the delightful Ryan steps on the scene and of course Mercy thinks he's super hot and decides to help him find his missing sister for no other reason, it appears besides boredom:
"If you've got a surfeit of time and you need it to fly, you've gotta keep busy."
So Mercy doesn't actually give a fuck about the pain Ryan is in over the disappearance of his beloved sister, she just needs something to fill her time up with.
There's a whole bunch of crap that has no explanation. Like the mysterious Luc who appears to Mercy in her dreams. Then the dreams Ryan has, which appear to be some kind of premonition or sixth sense which is never questioned nor expanded upon. Mercy's ability to mimic voices and ahem, glow in the dark. The fact that Carmen's parents never call her, even though she is spending two weeks living with complete and insane strangers for this choir extravaganza. There's a lot of information that the characters appear to just know with little or no investigation. This is very lazy storytelling. My heart sinks when realisations are made through the medium of dreams. No. Just no.
There's a helluva lot of time spent one-upping Mercy and Carmen's mortal enemy, Tiffany so that the solving of the actual mystery ends up rather rushed and incomplete.
"I notice Tiffany's brassy head of hair through the doorway. She's one of the last of the stragglers, loitering with intent - making a beeline for Paul Stenbirg by the battered old upright piano near the podium.
The troublemaker in me decides to cut in on her dance just for the fun of it."
Where's the need ?!! Tiffany is a bit of a pain in the ass. She's desperate to be popular and will either step on or flirt with whoever she has to to achieve this but she's just a 16 year old girl trying to successfully navigate the shark tank of high school. Mercy is supposedly an angel, an ancient being made of light and intent, with business residing on a separate plain of existence. What the fuck does she care about getting one over on a petty little brat of a human girl ?!! And yet she's obsessed with making a fool out of Tiffany. There's an enormous portion of the book dedicated to describing choir practice in minute and epically boring detail, a large part of this is made up of Mercy giving the stink eye across the room to Tiffany and sadly this completely eclipses the fact that Mercy is also searching for a girl missing, presumed dead. The discovery of Lauren's whereabouts ends up almost tacked on the end amongst all the bitching and high school drama crap that I couldn't give less of a fuck about if I tried.
But of course in amongst all this Mercy is perfection:
"I've only encountered a voice like yours a couple of times before in my career, and in my opinion - you far outshine them. You are, in a word, superlative, my dear. You should never let someone like Tiffany get to you. There's simply no contest."
This is her choir teacher, kissing her ass. And this happens countless times. So many times, I got real tired of hearing how incredible, how amazing, how talented our darling Mercy is. And how shit everyone else is in comparison. Because sure, the teacher has no problem telling Mercy how super-fantastic she is, but he also has zero qualms about making derogatory and hurtful comments about other students who don't match up:
""Those two," his voice is slightly scornful as he inclines his golden head at Tiffany's back, Delia's, "are mere cattle. Ordinary. But you ...""
How is this okay? To encourage a student to consider her peers as "mere cattle? Really? And is it really okay for teachers to say things like this - ""It's a pity she got so tall and fat"" - about alumni? What kind of people is this school employing?
Where I got really lost was the dream sequence in the middle of the book that seems to hold no significance to anything else in the rest of the story.
"There's a talk figure standing at the foot of the bed, and I can't move a muscle to speak, lift a finger, run."
What ensues is such a massive mind-fuck that I actually lost consciousness (nah, I just fell asleep. But I think that says a lot about how enthralled I was with this mysterious and seemingly irrelevant happening) This dude, Uri appears to Mercy and then insults her, shares some messed up information about some city? Or some war? Or something. And then promptly fucks of, adding absolutely nothing to the story whatsoever.
"We burn, burn, and our mouth is stretched wide to scream, to bring the walls of this house down when I see, I see -"
What do you see Mercy, hmmm?
"two great human armies doing battle on a desert plain; beings like Uri among them, above them on the ramparts of the beleaguered city, doing nothing save watch as hundreds go down, armoured and on horseback, on foot."
And so it carries on like this. The biggest issue I had with this goddam scene was the fact it goes on for pages in such a hideous, roundabout convoluted explanation of why Mercy is on earth that I completely missed the point of the whole fucking thing. I still don't really know what her deal is, and I've read this scene like three times now. The 12 pages describing this interaction between Mercy and the mysterious Uri basically reads as a bunch of words on a page, peppered with more commas than anyone has any business using, and at the end of it Mercy just gets up in the morning, grabs some coffee and heads off to choir practice as if nothing has happened. And I have no fucking idea what the point of the whole debacle was. I'm so confused. I mean, did I miss something ?!!
I'm also confused about how one minute Mercy is in a room so dark that she can't see her own hand in front of her face, and then the next minute she can see "as clearly as if the sun is shining overhead." She never feels the cold and she never gets sick, but all of a sudden she's vomiting over the side of a camp bed. She hates being in the limelight, but she apparently revels in people looking at her. Mercy constantly contradicts herself. I don't know who she is and seemingly she doesn't know who she is either, so we were never going to be off to a winner here I guess. I just don't understand how this book could have gotten itself so lost. It's a relatively simple premise so how did this happen ?!! I mean it's packed with what reads like filler crap - Ryan and Mercy breaking into people's houses with no outcome, positive or negative. Ryan setting a tree on fire with no consequence. Ryan and Mercy visiting poor Lauren's grieving boyfriend which adds nothing to the story. None of the "clues" the dynamic duo follow up offer them any insight into what happened and they seem to stumble upon the answer by accident and with a lot of leaping to conclusions and incorrect accusations.
***There are kinda spoilers ahead. (They are very minimal spoilers because the blurb tells us what happens.) I'm warning everyone just in case you were planning on reading this despite this unfavourable review. Actually, I would appreciate someone else reading this and then explaining it to me because I am not following.***
The end is such a bunch of fucking shit. Mercy reveals her true identity, despite not knowing who or what she is herself, and everyone around her just goes "Oh right, okay. Fair play." And then !! And then !! She pokes a guys eyes out:
"And with my burning left hand, I put out his eyes, first one and then the other, so that he may never see again"
Yup - shit got real.
I don't really know where this came from, or how it was actually achieved. But there it is:
"Blood streams from his ears, from the wounds his eyes once were"
What. The. Fuck. So Mercy rises up and smites this pervert who kidnapped Lauren, which is fair enough. But she has been trapped inside a human body for fuck knows how long, mucking about with people's lives and trying to right some wrongs along the way. And then all of a sudden she's able to leave her human host and gains enough substance to enable her to yank this guys eyeballs from his head. Like, how? And then afterwards, she just kinda falls back into Carmen's body in time for the paramedics arriving. I'm sorry, but I just - I mean - I can't even - like, what?
What are this ?!!
Thank fuck this book is only 280 pages long, otherwise we could have had my very first DNF on our hands because this book caused me physical pain - the vile characters, the nonsensical plot and the commas ?!! There are fucking commas everywhere !! Enough with the freaking commas !!
Over and out !!