Second Hand Stops – Katie St. Claire – Netgalley

I’m sorry, this was rather dreadful. I hit a streak of Netgalley books I flat out could not finish, and this might have been the one that irritated me the most.

It slowly and rather painfully is revealed that Julia Malone is one of six young people who were dumped when very young and raised together in a strange sort of foster home. All six – including, apparently, three brothers – are eighteen as the book begins, and are coerced to drink some potion for some reason, which changes all six of them – apparently enhancing already existing characteristics.

Second Hand Stops is another one set in the present tense … sort of. The author seemed to forget that now and then. Or perhaps the writing is just so inadequate that it seemed that way. “She gazes my direction”. “He’s heavy with rain, and so is my heart.” (Her heart was heavy with rain?)

What I have been known to call reality-show-recapping is recurrent even in the small amount I managed to read. “My father abandoned me on the doorstep of an old English manor when I was three.” – Yes, I know. THE PROLOGUE SAID SO, just a second ago. Also, one of Julia’s fellow orphans is kind of evil, one’s kind of bitchy, and she’s all kinds of love with one. I was somehow able to extract and retain this information after being told each thing several times. And like I said, I didn’t read all that much.

And like the recapping, the Mary Sue game is strong in the book. The first person narrator is probably the most obnoxious I’ve ever come across. “My ability to spot the nuances of body language is uncanny” … she said humbly. And this is the most cock-eyed collection of backhanded self-compliment I’ve ever seen:

” I’ve thought of my future and cross super model off the list because confidence is a prerequisite. I have a hard time imagining myself as anything special. Everyone says I’m gorgeous. So, define gorgeous. I never could. Sometimes I stand before my bedroom mirror, gazing at the willowy body and piercing green eyes, trying to determine society’s definition of beautiful.”

Gagging now.

Wait! It actually gets worse!

“Nevertheless, I am the brave one. Impetuous and stormy, mercurial and confusing—but brave.” Oh, and she has “radiant emerald eyes, surrounded by a darker ring of jade.” Gagging still.

Something keeps showing up in books lately (and, I believe, television) which seems like a new and ugly pattern: adjectival commas where they really, really don’t belong. Like “four, twenty-foot windows” or “pale, terra cotta walls”. I don’t remember this horrible habit happening even a couple of years ago … it must stop.

What else… oh, just generally muddled writing: “giving her lifeless body the illusion of death. We stand in silence, wondering if she’s dead”. “Lifeless” does pretty much equal “dead”. What on earth are ginger-blue flames? How does one of the teenagers know her own eye color has changed immediately after taking the mysterious potion, when she has no mirror and no one told her? How does one character bow when a second earlier he was “nose to nose” with the heroine? “Lillian didn’t utter a word”, says the narrator, when Lillian in fact did utter. This is too convoluted to have the effect that was probably wanted: “It rained last night as if the heavens needed a good cry to clear out emotional cobwebs.” And this – this is just nasty: “My relief drips on his shirt until there’s a wet spot the size of an orange.” Ew.

So. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity; I’m only sorry I hated it.

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