Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review: Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood

It is thundering and lightning-ing outside my house right now! The windows are shaking in their frames, and all of it adds up to a very good reading atmosphere. I made tea and chocolate chip mac nut cookies. I think I'm in love with spoiling myself.


RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Think Mean Girls mixed with Sloppy Firsts, and a bit of black-and-white movie aficiando flair.

Girl meets bitch. Girl grows up with bitch. Bitch betrays girl. When the opportunity arises, Girl decides to hit back, and hit hard.

Helen has hippie parents, a more traditional grandmother, and the best friend (Lauren) she grew up with who always took advantage of her. Due to her dad's work, Helen hauls ass to another state just as Lauren betrays her in a classic 'I wanna be popular, so I'm making you the scapegoat' move. Long story short, Helen will be hated at the high school she's leaving behind for a long, long time. OF COURSE life makes her come back to it, and OF COURSE Helen's going to take opportunity of her puberty transformation to invent an alter-ego and exact revenge.

Except in this book, revenge isn't best served cold - it's best served chock-full of humanity.

Helen and I have disturbingly alike upbringings - at least one of our parents are radical hippies. While mine weren't quite that BAD (Helen gets a dripping fish-oil brownie sent to her via Fed-Ex from her ever-thoughtful mother), there were similarities enough that had me chuckling. Helen's coming of age (period) is greeted with wine and moonlight pagan ceremonies, and that's what mine was, word for word. Helen and I shared in the awkward 'I have a smelly hippie for a parental unit' thing. We bonded.

Character-wise, Helen is solid. She's tons relatable and just snarky enough to keep you reading on. What's more interesting than her original character make-up, however, are her moral issues with herself as the book wears on - she's relentless in her revenge save for the last few chapters, and those are the moments where we get to see the real Helen. Those are the moments Cook hammers the humanity home most fiercely. She weaves it in bits and pieces, othertimes.

Supporting characters? Believable, if not a little cliched - Bailey is the standout cliche good girl hanging around with the mean popular girl. Brenda's transformation is awesome, from nerd to drama nerd in the course of a few months, and with all the disapproving qualities of a best friend, to boot! Christopher is the ever-dreamy, smart cookie loner, the Heath Ledger with a heavy dollop of suspicion. For some reason I imagined him Middle-Eastern looking...?

The thing with revenge novels - you get to know the nemesis just as well (if not better) than the hero. The nemesis DEFINES the hero, and the book reminds us of that constantly. Helen is a solid character more defined by her hate than anything. (A hat tip to the Count of Monte-Christo. Helen's alter ego even has the same last name; Dantes.) Helen compares nicely to Jessica Darling of Megan McCafferty's series, but without all of Jessica's quirkiness. Helen is the more subtle, more supportive, and less self-absorbed version.

The revenge is not too mean, if you look at it in the larger scheme of things. The whole book's theme was that 'everything happens for a reason', and the revenge acts as more of a cauterization than a 'poke-some-salt-in-that-head-wound-Johnny'. It's good, therapuetic for everyone involved.

Honestly? I liked it! I breezed through it, Cook's writing is sparse, need-to-know sprinkled with just a dash of lemon wit to keep things interesting. While the spiritual metaphors were all but pointed out with Vegas signs, and the foreshadowing a rather blunt hammer to the side of the head, their impact was much more elegant. Nothing was overdone, or underdone.

The book gets one half star off for leaving me wanting more. It was an entertaining, absorbing read, but I wanted MORE from it. For a YA book there was little to no drama, and even less melodrama, but I kept expecting it! Maybe it's just my taste, but I wanted the deep to go a little deeper. In a way, it's perfect how it is as a reflection of this modern era - quick, fun, carrying just a hint of a deeper message with the overall message being; take absolutely nothing too seriously.

I read previous reviews, and some people were upset with the drinking/party scene, which tells the world quite frankly what American teenage parties are; sex, booze, and a blatant disregard for anything, let alone themselves. As a just out of teenagerdom young adult, I'll tell the naysayers this right now; it's a lot worse, folks. Cook downplayed for ya'll. Seriously.

This book was never gritty or dark, but it was never meant to be. It's a perfect slice of karmic life - and how it always winds up not neccessarily BETTER than it started, but definetly different.

The final verdict? Keep it comin', Cook. You know what you're doing.

There's even something in here that struck me as a metaphor for the writing world, almost. Maybe it's because I'm in the midst of querying, but I found some comfort in this awesome passage, and I hope all you queriers/writers/awesome authors do too.

"So the astronaut goes into an air lock. It's sort of a waiting room. They suck the oxygen out, and then when the pressure is equaled they can go outside the spaceship, and then they do the same thing in reverse when they want to come back in. It isn't instantaneous. The transition takes some time. Go too fast and someone could get hurt; go too slow and you could run out of time."



  1. Thanks for the review! Looks interesting; maybe I'll check it out. I loved the Jessica Darling series when I was in high school.

  2. Reader - Thanks! Me too, that series was my favorite YA contemp, hands down. Getting Revenge is definetly LESS snarky, but at points almost equally hilarious. It's hard to match up to the Darling series' wit, but this comes a little close.