Fabulous Terrible – Sophie Talbot
Found out about this while looking around for my YA page who was asking about books written in the second person. I had heard that Choose Your Own Adventure had been resurrected, but couldn’t find any in the library. So I jumped at the chance to get a free copy of this from the publisher when I saw one offered. The cover of mine is different than the one pictured at left, instead of the Choose Your Own Adventure stamp it has “The Adventures of You.” You know why? This isn’t a Choose Your Own Adventure! It’s just written in the second person. So that was disappointing. From what I can tell, the rest of their new books are, but that this one is merely supposed to be “interactive.” Theoretically there was supposed to be an internet component, but other than a facebook quiz, I didn’t see anything.
So the deal is that you’re an orphan and foster kid who has never been able to fit in, in large part due to these psychic fits you have. So instead of being sent back to a girls’ home, you apply to a bunch of boarding schools and not only get accepted to the best of them, but get a full ride. The first, and best, half of the book deals with how you begin to make friends and adjust to being surrounded by wealth and privilege. This would all be hard enough, but from the beginning someone seems to be sabotaging you. And there are hints that the reasons for it are bigger than you or anything you can imagine. But you make a couple of really good, true friends, and they help you figure out what’s going on.
I didn’t find the second person narration distracting, it was handled well and actually helped gloss over what might have otherwise been shortcomings in the storytelling (it made it easier to tell, not show.) And I genuinely enjoyed and got caught up in the story. The “you” character (I think a name might have been mentioned, but I forget it) is interesting and complex, especially in the first half of the story. She’s wary and a bit damaged from her experiences in the foster system, but not permanently so. She’s anxious to begin a better life, but doesn’t blindly want to become like the worst of her spoiled classmates; the future life she envisions for herself and the women she wants to emulate are all worthy of the effort. Where the story loses a little bit of its steam is in the unfolding of the treacherous plot. But luckily the book doesn’t fall into the A-Great-and-Terrible-Beauty trap of making her question her powers too much or of having friends who don’t back her up. For the most part, when she does falter it’s just for a second and then she acts sensibly again. Like with the Lemony Snicket books, one of my biggest dislikes is when plots are advanced because the main characters stand passively by while bad things happen. They hem and haw and are scared even though they are meant to be exceptional. I’ve come to realize it’s a personal preference, and try not to judge books as being badly written just because of it, but I really can’t enjoy many books because of it. Grumpy Harry Potter I’m looking at you.
It’s a fun book, and may be good for younger teens or older ones who are reluctant readers. It’ll be a series, with the next one told from the perspective of one of the minor characters. There is one F-bomb that gets dropped, but to good effect. It comes as a shock in this otherwise squeaky clean book, and it’s meant to.