Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Review: All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab
Rating: 2 out of 5
Neily was Carly’s ex-boyfriend. Audrey was Carly’s cousin and ex-best friend. Right before Carly was found murdered, she called Neily’s cell phone, and, when he didn’t pick up, left a cryptic message. Audrey’s father was found guilty of the murder, but now, a year after Carly’s death, Audrey is fairly certain that her father didn’t do it, and that the real killer is still out there. Audrey and Neily team up to discover Carly’s tangled secrets and implicate the real murderer.
I have to admit, I did not take to this book. Excellent writing clashes with unsympathetic characters and a snail-like plot to make ALL UNQUIET THINGS a difficult read for me.
There is no question that Jarzab’s writing is great. Like Curtis Sittenfeld, Jarzab meticulously analyzes nearly every facet of Neily, Audrey, and Carly, making them feel as if they could be your flawed classmates. However, also like Sittenfeld’s characters in Prep, Neily, Audrey, and Carly simply aren’t very likable, sympathetic, or appealing. We know their history and their thought processes as if they were our therapy patients—an overly intimate and annoying form of relationship that I, as a reader, found disturbing and unenjoyable.
I don’t really mind psychoanalysis—at least not when the person has some ultimately redeemable qualities. However, the three main characters in ALL UNQUIET THINGS are just so unlikable. Neily spends most of his time sulking and remembering the past, his relationship with Carly, while Audrey bullies Neily into helping her uncover the mystery behind the identity of Carly’s murderer.
I also found an unsettling disjuncture between how Audrey and Neily are in the present time, and who they were in their flashbacks. I think this is a result of all the telling-not-showing that went on in the narration. I don’t want Neily to tell us that he hates Carly’s new friends, then be shown a passing moment in which they snap off, like, two biting remarks to one another; I’d rather see the tension between the characters, the strain of the past versus the present, of what they think of one another versus who they truly are. As a result, I couldn’t connect to the main characters as real people, so much like untouchable character sketches they were.
I mentioned earlier that Anna Jarzab is a great writer, and I’m not contradicting myself by saying so: if you enjoy ultra-complete character analyses, you’ll find this a great book, a wonderful achievement by a debut author. However, I felt that her writing skills were unfortunately used in the wrong way—too much in the telling and flashbacks, and not enough in the playing out of a genuinely interesting story arc—which led to my lack of connection with the book.
Curtis Sittenfeld (Prep)
Amy Efaw (After)
Overall Rating: 2 out of 5
Cover discussion: 4.5 out of 5 - This is a fabulous cover. It's stark and eye-catching, and doesn't fall into all the YA cover cliches noticeable out there. Personally I'm a big fan of "blocked" covers, in which a portion of the cover is one solid color. This one uses it well. So creepy, yet eye-grabbing.
Random House / Jan. 12, 2010 / Hardcover / 352pp. / $17.99
Review copies received at NCTE and from Random House.