Sunday, February 12, 2012

Review: Wildthorn by Jane Eagland

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland, 2010, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 352 pages.

They strip her naked, of everything—undo her whalebone corset, hook by hook. Locked away in Wildthorn Hall—a madhouse—they take her identity. She is now called Lucy Childs. She has no one; she has nothing. But, she is still seventeen—still Louisa Cosgrove, isn't she? Who has done this unthinkable deed? Louisa must free herself, in more ways than one, and muster up the courage to be her true self, all the while solving her own twisted mystery and falling into an unconventional love . . .

I wanted to love this book. Really, I did. For one, the cover is gorgeous. The earthy tones, glimpse of boned corset, swirly-curly, fancy-schmancy font. For a publisher to go all out like this on a debut novel, I thought, "This has gotta be good."  Judge a book by it's cover, right?  Hit and miss, I believe I admitted in a previous post.

Wildthorn was a miss for me. The premise of the story sounded interesting: Young Victorian girl (Louisa) locked up in an asylum (Wildthorn Hall), against her will (not that anyone is actually in an asylum because they wanna be, mind), faces various struggles, and, oh, by the way ... she prefers women. Now, I've never read a same-sex novel, let alone one of the YA variety. And while I'm on that subject, I would not--would not--recommend this to anyone under the age of 17. But back to the same-sex ordeal: I must say, while it was, at times, tastefully done, for the most part it gave me the hibbie-jibbies. Turned my stomach a little. Likely, I won't be reading another novel of this nature anytime soon.

Good points? The writing was decent, if simplistic; the history beautifully accurate. Ms. Eagland has no qualms with breathing life into the darkness of the Victorian Era. After all, conditions in asylums during those days were truly horrific, unsanitary, and cruel. Also, Louisa's toilsome journey proved decent enough to keep me reading 'til at least the halfway point.

But that's when I stopped caring. Various relationships and plot-points felt rushed. The writing even changed a bit, and not in a good way. I really think the author could've dug deeper into Louisa's character, given her more definition, made her more complex. For me, taking time to develop one's protagonist is of vast importance, especially if you expect his/her goals, motivations, and conflicts to make clear sense. Louisa, however, left me scratching my head a little too much.


Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


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