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REVIEW: The Almost Girl by Amalie Howard

Almost-Girl-Howard

Dear Ms. Howard,

I’ve been in the mood for some YA science fiction so when your novel popped up on NetGalley, I perked up. The premise had potential. Parallel universes and a girl sent from one to another to find the twin brother of the crown prince of her own world. Yes, I realize this sounds like the science fiction equivalent of a portal story and you’d be correct but while I dislike portal stories in fantasy, I am fond of multiple universes in science fiction. What can I say?

Riven is a Legion General of Neospes, an apocalyptic world that was ravaged by a devastating android war. When the health of her best friend, the crown prince, begins to fail, she is sent to our universe to find his twin brother, who was hidden there at some point in the past, because the twin is her prince’s only chance of survival.

It takes three years but Riven finally finds Caden, Prince Cale’s twin brother. Now she has to bring him back to Neospes, but that’s easier said than done. Soldiers called Vectors have been dispatched from Neospes to take out Caden and bring Riven back to her home universe. In addition, there are the Guardians who have been charged with preventing people from jumping back and forth between universes. Worst of all, Riven begins to fall in love with Caden — a problem since the sole reason she’s bringing him back to Neospes is because he’s Prince Cale’s organ donor. Oops.

I was initially enamoured by the worldbuilding. No surprise to anyone who knows me. It was so interesting. There’s the contrast between Earth and Neospes. Given that Riven comes from a ravaged world, I can understand her fascination with earth and its massive amounts of water. There’s also the fact that jumping back and forth between universes has clear consequences in The Almost Girl. It’s hard on the human body and eventually, it begins to break down. If you jump too much, you die.

Sad to say, the novelty of the worldbuilding wore off quickly. I liked the idea of Riven. Despite being young, she’s a Legion General and feared warrior in Neospes. I was willing to accept her being a prodigy. Her father is an important scientist of Neospes, after all.

But here’s the thing: I expect prodigies to be smart and clever. Riven isn’t. The boy she’s been looking for these past three years? Is in one of her classes. How does she not notice this? He looks like the Crown Prince who she considers the most important person in her life! That’s a major oversight, if you ask me. Also, I have to point out that making out with a boy in the house you just broke into is a rather unfortunate tactical error.

I also don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a Legion General to be a kickass warrior, right? That’s a logical conclusion to draw considering fighters in Neospes prove themselves in a sort of obstacle course arena. But despite the fact that Riven does fight a lot, she also… tends to lose. A lot. She’s constantly knocked unconscious. In fact, her first meeting with Caden is triggered by her falling off her motorcycle. Speaking of Caden, the boy she’s supposed to bring back to Neospes saves her more than once and I don’t just mean the motorcycle accident. I mean in actual fights. I hate this trope. Oh, here’s a kickass girl but she can’t be too kickass. The guy — despite not growing up on an apocalyptic world filled with killer robots — is somehow just as good as, if not better than, her!

There were other things that bothered me. Riven makes a point to say that sexual assault doesn’t exist in Neospes because girls are taught to fight back. It’s not an issue that Riven is a Legion General, by which I mean there are no sexist comments directed towards her by the people who know her identity. But despite these apparently positive things, the book is filled with slut shaming. Riven is constantly calling Caden’s girlfriend a slut and a bitch. I guess only one type of “strong girl” is allowed? Any girl who doesn’t live up to these standards is a bitch. Any girl who’s feminine, blonde and thin must be a slut.

The connection between Riven and Caden is 100% pure instalove. I was never convinced she wasn’t just transferring unrequited feelings for Cale to Caden, who’s more approachable and accessible. I never really understood why Caden was into Riven other than the stereotypical “she’s so different from other girls” reason, which I think speaks for itself. It was also hard for me to get into their relationship because Caden did have a girlfriend and not only did that seem not to matter to him, the way he treated and talked about her was crappy. What a catch.

A brief highlight was Riven’s sister, who has been hiding on Earth, protecting Caden. I’m predisposed towards fictional sisters and their relationship promised juicy narrative twists. Riven was the favored daughter while the sister was branded a traitor. This backstory would definitely rebound into the present. But alas, it was — as I said — brief and over too soon.

The Almost Girl is an action-packed, plot-heavy novel. It definitely moves at a fast pace and I appreciated that. I just wish the plot developments weren’t so obvious and cliche, and that the characters were more likeable. C-

My regards,
Jia

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Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at jia@dearauthor.com!

7 Comments

  1. Brigid
    Jan 06, 2014 @ 18:38:01

    Oh, this looks like it was a major disappointment for you. I’m way sick of slut shaming in all genres. It happens in pretty much every genre I’ve read. This looks like it could of been an amazing book.

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  2. Nemo
    Jan 07, 2014 @ 00:41:51

    I’ve stopped tolerating slut shaming or any of it’s variations. I see it, I put the book down. Usually it’s a sign of a bad writer, one who can’t actually get into the heads of different characters and is just mindlessly copying archetypes from other books or reproducing the same character over and over again. This review makes me sad because the sister thing, twin princes, world hoping, and girl warrior are all guilty pleasure buttons of mine. Special mention to the idea that being able to fight makes rape disappear. So… slut shaming and victim blaming all in one. And see? Another sign of a weak writer, taking something a monumentally complicated as rape and boiling it down to physical force. Thanks for the review. I’ll have to avoid this one.

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  3. Jia
    Jan 07, 2014 @ 06:37:32

    @Brigid: It was so close… and yet so far.

    @Nemo: Yeah, I picked this up for all the tropes you mentioned. I love these tropes generally but in this case, the package doesn’t do them justice.

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  4. DB Cooper
    Jan 07, 2014 @ 07:09:46

    OK, I’ll admit it. I start reading reviews at C- levels (and lower) to see what went wrong. With this one, though, I was genuinely disappointed. All the little tropes you mentioned aren’t my favorite, and yes, we’ve seen a lot of these before, but something about the way you mentioned them piqued my interest.

    Something about it seemed like there was…just so much potential in there, and yet it feels like it cuts its own legs off from under it. Girl goes to rescue boy, and ends up falling for boy who actually has to rescue her, several times? Blah. Seen it before. Read it before. And it was so close to the much less seen “Every time I save your life, I fall a little more for your adorable need for my help, even though I’m just going to harvest your organs in the end.”

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  5. Jia
    Jan 07, 2014 @ 09:49:43

    @DB Cooper:

    And it was so close to the much less seen “Every time I save your life, I fall a little more for your adorable need for my help, even though I’m just going to harvest your organs in the end.”

    Yes! It was so close. So close to that. I thought we were going to get that! But no. That’s not what happened.

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  6. DB Cooper
    Jan 07, 2014 @ 11:05:36

    @Jia: Side note. I know why I’ve seen this second scenario before… :D

    I seem to recall you like your anime. Moribito comes to mind here. In fact, I’m guessing a younger Balsa type and an older prince Chagum type could kind of work here. And as long as I’m referencing that, I think it makes a wonderful example of the young man growing in both capability and acceptance of his fate without compromising the woman’s ability to kick a serious amount of tail.

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  7. Jia
    Jan 07, 2014 @ 12:41:06

    @DB Cooper: Moribito is one of my favorite anime so I know exactly the dynamic you mean and I would LOVE to read a book (or two or three) with something like that.

    ReplyReply

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