Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I Now Present to You...Feather: A Book Review

And your patience is definitely appreciated. I have just finished re-reading this book to refresh my memory of it, and I must say, the experience was interesting for the second time.

You may be wondering how I came across Feather. Here's the story. About a year ago (maybe a little more) a writer, Jordan Scott, tried to bring a lawsuit against Stephanie Meyer. Scott claimed that Meyer had stolen text from her obscure book, The Nocturne, and used the ideas in the not-so-obscure Breaking Dawn. Being immensely curious, I had to look into this case more, and found parts of The Nocturne on Google Books, then looked up reviews on Amazon. One reviewer mentioned that this book was "nothing like Twilight" and that the Feather book series was better for Twilight fans. That got my attention, because I had never seen Feather or the sequels in a bookstore. Long story short, after a couple of days of reading previews on Google Books and some hemming and hawing, I ordered Feather to see for myself, just out of curiosity. I found that the author, Abra Ebner, had published this book herself along with several others that she wrote. (Here is her blog, with links to her other blogs.) Ambitious, to say the least, and she definitely knows how to market, which did impress me. Despite taking 20 credit hours in college at the time, I read this book eagerly, hoping to give my mind a break.

Not possible, sadly.

I'm a notoriously picky person, but if a book is enjoyable enough, I can push aside some of my nitpicking and just enjoy the book (hence the rather odd place that the actual Twilight series has on my bookshelf. I like it. End of story, no pun intended.) I was willing to give Feather a chance to wow me, but it didn't.

The plot is of an 18-year-old orphaned student named Estella. This character has grown up being able to inexplicably manipulate plants and make them grow, being ridiculed by her peers because of her green thumb, and basically being beautiful and perfect. Estella leaves her foster home and goes off to a secluded little college in Washington State (hmm?) to earn her master's degree, having already gotten a bachelor's from night school in her "spare time" (I just got a four-year degree. It took me four and a half years. Methinks Estella is unconvincingly perfect.) The first person she meets is a plucky ginger named Scott, who has a crush on her. It is clear that Estella, while wishing for friends, shows disdain for other people, and knows that they hate her because of her "different" appearance (platinum blond with "crystal" blue eyes.) However, she starts classes, and has a near disastrous encounter with Professor Edgar, a permanently 18-year-old college professor.

Estella and Scott form a fairly convincing friendship, while Estella tries to get closer to Edgar. Estella fixes Scott up with someone who is giggly and really doesn't act like she's in grad school. In a rather sudden turn of events, Edgar and Estella fall in love and Estella begins to learn more about who she is. At the end, Estella, Edgar, and a character named Sam face off against a particularly nasty villain who is nasty for apparently the heck of it. The story concludes and leaves open the option for a sequel.

This book had promise. The concept of Edgar and Estella's magical-ness (hint: they're immortal) and the lack of vampires was pretty refreshing. Some of the dialogue was decent, and the descriptions of the setting (Washington State, and it never rains once either) are quite detailed. Despite the promise, though, the book reads like a first draft. There's a lot wrong with it, and Ebner just wasn't careful enough.

Feather was written in first-person perspective. First-person is an interesting way to write, because it can be used like a diary entry or a memoir (Princess Ben is a good, and funny, example of this use of first-person.) In Feather, Estella describes herself several times (hint: don't do this in your writing.) She rolls her eyes at her friends, ignores professors' lectures when they're boring, says lots of things "sarcastically" and "angrily," and basically gives you a play-by-play of her facial expressions. She even goes so far as to describe herself as perfect.

The secondary characters in this book are very flat. Scott and Sarah, Estella's friends, are always plucky, giggly, and clueless (according to Estella.) The nurse in the book has a "slight British" accent. (I couldn't decide what Ebner meant, so I just imagined Mrs. Doubtfire.) The main villain seems to have no motivation other than destroying the world so he can have all of its energy. All of the other college students don't apparently like Estella because of her perfect looks and the fact that she sticks out like a sore thumb (she's pale with white blond hair, as she reminds us many times.) In short, no one at this grad school acts like they are 22 years old. Lots of granola and tofu are consumed in the cafeteria, and everyone wears sandals and has a tan.

I will have a more detailed analysis of this book later. I may have to do it in parts to keep the posts from getting too long, but I'll go deeper into every problem that I saw. Don't worry, I'll also go over the good stuff, because this book does have some good things in it.

Bottom line is...Feather had a lot of promise. But with the lazy editing (Ebner runs her own publishing company, Crimson Oak Publishing, and turns out a surprising amount of books every year), inconsistencies, and character problems, Feather is missing some things. If you want to read some of it, here's the Google Books entry for the first book in the series. Take a look, read some, gather your thoughts, and then I'll move on to the analysis of the book. My personal opinion? With a professional editor, agent, and publishing house behind her, Abra Ebner could have turned out a really great story, but Feather falls short of its promise.

I'll be back soon with an entry on stereotypes and generalizations, and how to avoid them. Stay tuned!

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