Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Secret Diamond Sisters

Madow, M. (2014). The secret Diamond sisters. NY: Harlequin Teen.
Young Adult for mature young adults

I gave this book 2 out of 5 stars.

This is a hard review to write given how impressed I have been by the author.  Oh how I wanted to like this book, but I can't even figure out who an appropriate audience would be. If the book is going to be aimed at young adults, there needs to be some value to it: a lesson, a role model, outstanding writing, enlightenment?

I enjoyed the three books in Madow's Transcend Time Saga  and promoted, recommended, and shared them with many high school students. I expected The Secret Diamond Sisters to be similarly written with great storytelling, likeable characters (with a role model or two thrown into the mix), clean romance, and some twists and turns to keep readers engaged.  The Secret Diamond Sisters had none of these qualities, and despite its main characters being highschoolers, it's not really a high school book.  To match their actions, the characters should have all been four years older and you would have the makings of a great new adult book.

What disappointed me, beyond the writing itself, is that the precedent set in Madow's prior books was thrown aside. In this book, we have heavy drinking (truly, alcoholism), casual and careless sexual encounters, eating disorders, extreme vanity and materialism as the norm for kids ages 15-17.  I know it's Vegas, but I also know this isn't the norm, even there. And I would pray that even in Vegas, being a millionaire's child doesn't mean all laws are "overlooked." Seriously, a fifteen-year-old is going to be allowed in 21+ bars in Vegas? In reality, there would be adult bar patrons complaining about that. This is a stretch I can't accept. I also just didn't like or care about any of the characters. Courtney is most promising, but she also doesn't have anything that makes her interesting or exceptional: a willowy model body and a brain aren't enough.

Okay -- I will acknowledge that extreme vanity and materialism may be a norm for this set, but for the rest of it, there weren't even any "lessons" for a young reader to learn. We start off with one character who is exercising and on an 800 calorie/day diet. She is adored by all, and is considered the hottest girl at school. And she sacrifices food calories to have alcohol to calm her nerves, deal with stress, escape reality, be brave. . . Never do we see a downside. And there are plenty more examples of horrible behavior and decisions made, but no ill consequences. (literally - hangovers without vomiting? For the amount consumed, these girls should have had alcohol poisoning.)

I have heard comparisons to Gossip Girl, but not enough happens to merit the comparison. I loved Gossip Girl, but this book has no real plot and barely a hint of a secret or two which might unfold in the next book. This first book is just a day by day, four person viewpoint of who gives each girl chills, what designer shoes will be worn, and what amount of alcohol will be consumed. This will probably appeal to some because it seems voyeuristic, but I never found that hook to keep me interested.

Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for providing me this free ARC in exchange for an honest review -- painful as it is to give.

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