Thursday, May 28, 2009

Book Review: Stealing Bradford

Title Stealing Bradford (Carter House Girls Book #2)
Author Melody Carlson
Genre YA, Commercial Fiction
Rating D

Summary The Carter House Girls go back to school, further fleshing out who are the smart ones, the athletic ones, the artsy ones, the pretty ones, etc., and continue their boy-related drama. Things get "crazy" when Taylor (the "pretty" and "athletic" and "smart" one) flirts with Bradford, the boyfriend of Rhiannon (the "artsy," "funky," "well-adjusted," "Christian"), and the rest of the house turns against her.

First Line "'I'm sorry, but my car's just not big enough for all the girls,' announced Eliza as they were finishing breakfast."

Review ...And cue the drama. Who will ride in what car? (Because we all know from Carter House Girls Book #1 that we are all supposed to hate Casey, the "troubled" "Goth chick" with safety pin piercings).

Believe it or not, I hated this book actually worse than I hated book number one, Mixed Bags. I didn't think it could get worse, but it did. DJ (the "athletic" "girl-next-door" protagonist), who I kind of liked in Mixed Bags, was schizophrenic in this book--first she can't stand this person, then she can't stand that person; first she's embarrassed by this boy, then she's mad at him, then she's "confused," but happy that he's her boyfriend. Check out some of this prose that occurs during a discussion at the lunch table about what kind of car D.J. should get:
[Conner, DJ's boyfriend, said:]"'Man, I hate to think of what Taylor might pick for you. Probably a Corvette or Mustang.'
'Why's that?'
'Well, my dad's always saying how those are the most dangerous cars on the road. More people get killed in them than any other car.' [Her boyfriend might actually be a girl... what guy would be anti-Corvette or Mustang?]
DJ nodded. 'Okay, definitely no Corvettes or Mustangs.'
'I'm pretty sure that goes for Firebirds and Camaros too.'
...Soon everyone at the table was giving their two cents' worth of car information to her, and by the time they exhausted the subject, she felt completely confused," (p. 131).
Really? Don't teenage girls just go to the lot and say, "Cool, that one's really shiny and I like the color. Let's get that."? I mean, personally, I took the '88 Ford Escort hatchback that my parents gave me and was grateful, but I think anybody that would get "confused" by advice about a car from her friends might not be the brighest bulb in the box.

How about this gem of introspection:
"DJ smiled to herself as she went into the auditorium. Having a boyfriend, although it took some getting used to, was kind of fun," (p. 133).
Kind of fun? Takes getting used to? What is this girl, Amish? Give me a break. She's got a cute guy that she's been friends with for as long as she's lived in town (and they had a serious make-out session in Book #1), but she's not used to him? What? I'd be all up on that (as would most any other 16-year-old girl, right?).

If you've been reading these reviews very long you know that all books start out as an A+ and then get docked a letter grade for everything that is bothersome--plot inconsistencies, down a point; over-characterization, down a point, etc. Well, Stealing Bradford was so bad it was nearly an F, but I made myself persevere and it earned two points (moving it up to a D).

Here are where the points came from:

1. Taylor became an interesting character. In order to not spoil the story, I won't tell you how, but Taylor actually becomes interesting, we get more of her back story, and I found myself wanting to hear more about her. Granted, Carlson's likely to screw the pooch in Book #3, but until I'm sure about that, the character of Taylor was worth something to me.

2. Carlson got into some heavier stuff. There were some plot points that I don't think you'd expect in a Christian-bubble-gum fest like the Carter House Girls, but we got them (finally) in the climax and leading into Book #3. As I said above, I hold out little hope that Carlson will follow through on the interesting set up, but I've got to give her a little credit.

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