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REVIEW: Rosebush by Michelle Jaffe

Dear Ms. Jaffe,

It has been a while since the young-adult world has seen some high profile novels in the vein of mystery/suspense.   The 90’s was an epic burnout of the genre, and the book world hasn’t gotten over it entirely.   Slowly but surely   it seems as if the genre is coming back – if not to the feverish pitch it got to in the 90’s.     I’m normally not interested in those types of plots as a centerpiece in young adult fiction, but your book intrigued me because of the striking cover and the concept of the heroine being paralyzed while trying to figure out who killed her.

Rosebush by Michelle JaffeJane wakes up in the hospital unable to move.   Her body is paralyzed.   She can’t even speak in coherent sentences.     Memory nearly destroyed, she has no way of remembering exactly what happened the night before.   Someone had tried to run over her in a car, causing her to land in a rosebush.   She was left to die,   and has since attempted to figure out exactly what happened.   Her instincts tell her it wasn’t an accident, but everyone else seems to be happy to sweep it under the rug.

Then she sees a message drawn on the mirror in her hospital room’s bathroom.   Taken in for a simple sponge bath after seeing her best friends and family, she lets out her first words when she sees a glaring message promising death.   Whoever tried to murder her is at it again.

Popular old Jane has a lot of enemies.   Her killer could be anyone.   The boyfriend she loves despite his constant abuse.   One or both of her close, gossipy, and very rich friends.   A boy that likes her and pretty much stalks her despite her disinterest.   The step-father that makes her cringe.   No one is safe from Jane’s suspicion as she tries to regain the movement of her body following the traumatic stress of the accident.

Your attempt at creating a sense of intrigue and suspicion is a fair one, and I have to hand it to you for making me unable to guess the murderer in the end.   There were some problems that ultimately contributed to me not finding the novel something I would return to for all-around recommendations, however.

The name of a protagonist can sometimes signify greater things within a book.   In this case, choosing the name Jane was pretty obvious a tool for the greater theme.   She’s a girl that is ultimately average.   She has problems and ambitions, but nothing beyond the imagination or accepted humor.   While it makes the book easy to read and makes her a protagonist that is identifiable, it makes the narrative entirely too lackluster.   There is jut nothing that makes me care about this narrator.   If not for the plot, I probably would have put it down and given it no more thought.   A great narrator can turn a story about washing their socks into an ‘A’ worthy grade if they make it interesting and deep enough.   This is why I focus so much on characterization when I read.   Finding a book with a character like this just feels rather bland.

Her friends aren’t much better.   They are mean girls and do the general trendsetting/teen girl snarking and manipulation.   Nothing too out of place.   A flashback scene later in the novel between Jane and one of these two friends adds some interesting depth.   Mainly, they are a part of the cloak Jane puts around herself.     Jane contributes to the group dynamic and gets included in various popular activities, and the girls get a clique that is impenetrable.   She hides behind them and refuses to look past their kindness to her for a long time, barley realizing that selective kindness isn’t really kindness at all.

The biggest thing in this novel character wise that is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness involves Jane’s relationships.   For a majority of the book she is dating a guy she claims to be in love with.   At times he can be very sweet.   Very sweet.

He also hits her when he gets angry.   If she doesn’t follow up on plans or has to cancel them, he yells and screams at her like a madman.   He’s fucking scary and I could not see how Jane would go back to him.   She continued to apologize for him while she was lying in a hospital bed and being threatened by a mysterious and insane figure she couldn’t remember.   Really!   She had every opportunity to be safe in a hospital that would know if he visited and could easily trace him to any physical wounds – plus the fact that she could have dumped him over the phone several times.   It just stretched my level of believability.

Not to mention it’s just not addressed.   Yes she gets out of the bad relationship.   Yes there are more hints and it reflects towards an overall personality problem she has to overcome.   That doesn’t mean you just ignore the fact that the type of relationship is totally not okay and should be addressed.   This also nearly happens a second time.   I know a few other readers had various reactions to this, and personally I liked the idea.   The idea.   This idea showed me that you had something you wanted to do.   The book could have been more.   The execution just didn’t work, so I read it as something that was just there.

There were a few other plot points that got on my nerves, too.   Readers of suspense and mystery novels may find this even more annoying, since I see it as a major cop-out in these types of novels.   At least two characters went insane – including the murderer.   In fact, that was probably the only reason they had for doing what they did to Jane.   Major cop-out.   Up until that point, you did a fine job of making everyone have a motive.   Afterwords?   Could care less.

So many flub-ups ultimately made me just not care.   Cardboard   characters and a lot of mistaken plot points just make this a read I don’t care to remember.   I had no emotional attachment to the characters, and the suspense was quickly diminished once what little characterization fell through.   Some readers really enjoyed this book.   I, however, did not.   D+

All the best,


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Ever since a good friend brought him a copy of Johanna Lindsey's Gentle Rogue, he has been hooked on the romance genre. Though he primarily reads in young-adult, he loves to spend time with paranormal, historical, and contemporary adult titles in-between books. Now, he finds himself juggling book reviews, school band, writing, and finding time to add to his TBR pile.


  1. Ana
    Jan 22, 2011 @ 12:09:05

    Yeah, I agree. I couldn’t even finish it.

  2. Marie
    Jan 22, 2011 @ 12:46:32

    Wish she will come up with another great work like Bad Girl. It’s one of the best (and unforgettable)books I’ve read ever.

  3. cate
    Jan 22, 2011 @ 13:09:08

    I’ll probably give this a try, but I’m with Marie, I loved Bad Girl & it’s sequel,& her other adult romances, but so far I’ve found her YA books to be really bland

  4. DS
    Jan 22, 2011 @ 14:57:22

    Yep, having your characters go insane either to explain their bad behavior or as a response to being found out really annoys this mystery reader.

  5. Jo Ramsey
    Jan 22, 2011 @ 16:47:41

    I haven’t read this book, and because of this review I probably won’t.

    I just wanted to say, though, that Jane’s reaction to her abusive boyfriend the way you’ve described it here rings completely true to me. That often is how victims of dating/domestic violence behave: they make excuses, they blame themselves, and they love the abuser so much that they can’t bear to leave even though they know they have to. Or they’re too afraid to leave because the abuser might escalate even further. So if Jane keeps going back to her boyfriend and excusing his behavior, and not taking opportunities to get out, to me that would be completely realistic.

    However, if after she does finally leave the relationship the aftereffects are ignored, as the review says, that would be my book-against-wall moment. There are long-lasting effects from a relationship like that, and the victim needs time and help to heal from it.

    So maybe my first paragraph is wrong…Maybe I will read this so I can see how that aspect is handled.

  6. Jane
    Jan 22, 2011 @ 20:16:53

    @Jo Ramsey It wasn’t Jane’s reaction to the abusive boyfriend, but the latter part, how it wasn’t dealt with that frustrated me in reading John’s review. Sarah Dessen did a great abusive boyfriend book but a book that features abuse and then doesn’t really deal with it would be frustrating.

  7. John
    Jan 23, 2011 @ 08:41:39

    @Jo Ramsey: Just like Jane said, I felt like her entrenchment in the relationship was fine – it was how she totally ignored it the entire time, had no friends step in and notice it, and had little to no real aftermath of it that frustrated me.

    When you make a character have a relationship like that, you need 1.) an emotional connection with the reader, and 2.) a way to make it plain to the reader and the character that it isn’t healthy. Jane never admitted (at least in my eyes) that it was a super serious problem and with the lack of an emotional connection any implied realization was lost.

  8. Jo Ramsey
    Jan 23, 2011 @ 10:38:58

    @Jane, @John: Ah, okay, Now I get it. I completely agree that the lack of follow-up/aftermath would definitely be a problem. And might, in my opinion, be a disservice to teen readers who might be in a similar situation.

    Jane, I think I’ve read that Sarah Dessen book, but it was a while ago and I can’t remember how she handled it.

  9. Has
    Jan 23, 2011 @ 11:48:56

    It is a shame that this book didn’t expand on the emotional elements well had wasn’t that good and from this review I will also wont pick it up. But I loved Jaffe’s historicals and the Bad series and I hope she writes another book in that vein.

  10. Silvia
    Jan 24, 2011 @ 19:22:28

    I really miss the mystery/suspense YA from the 90’s — I devoured every Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine available when I was a teenager and sometimes it’s fun to go back and re-read them now (glorious, nostalgic trash! *g*)

    It’s too bad this one sounds so lifeless. I definitely hope that trend comes back around.

  11. Amanda
    Aug 23, 2011 @ 00:14:04

    This was actually a pretty good book

    Check out my review of Rosebush here

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