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Friday, July 31, 2009

Review: Tara Bray Smith' 'Betwixt'

Betwixt by Tara Bray Smith

My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Betwixt is the story of three teenagers (Ondine, Morgan and Nix) who have always felt different. Ondine is fiercely independent and can’t seem to cry; Morgan has grown up in a trailer park knowing that she is destined for more, and people seem to bend to her will and her beauty; Nix can see rings of light around people who are about to die, and is afraid he is causing it. Over the course of a summer, these three are drawn together as the truth about them is revealed.

Without giving anything away, that is the basic summary of Betwixt. I read this as part of a challenge, and for one task I had to go to the library and pick two books with my eyes closed. The first was excellent (Little Brother, review is here ); the second was Betwixt. If I hadn’t been reading this for a challenge, I would have put this book down after about 20 pages. Actually, I probably would have thrown it out the window. But since I had to read the whole thing, I figured I might as well read it closely and give an honest review. The best way I can think to explain what it was like reading this is to say it feels like it was written by a teenager who is out of touch with what it means to be a teen. The writing was young and amateurish, stunted and weird. There wasn’t a lot of follow through, and Smith tried to hard so keep the “secret” secret that she ended up muddying the story and making it confusing and, at times, near impossible to follow. It was filled with clich├ęs and contradictions, and the characters (who should have carried the story) were flat and boring.

 For all of these reasons, it felt like it was written by someone very young. However, the “young” person writing it didn’t seem to have a clue what being a teen is all about. The dialogue is horrendous. It honestly felt at times like it was written by an alien who had come to earth, learned all of its slang and conversational style from outdated, cheesy sitcoms and movies, and combined them all together. Every character, regardless of age, background, location, etc., spoke the same way, peppering every sentence with “dude”s and “man”s and “bro”s; there was this weird mish-mash of surfer, hippy, gangster and hipster slang, and more often then not, it wasn’t suited to what was going on. The characters’ verbal reactions to things tended to be delayed and then over the top or weirdly out of place. Smith seemed to think if she just tossed in a few curse words and some drug use and sexuality, she’d have the teen base covered.

The plot was loopy and pointless, and the ending highly unsatisfying: perhaps Bray is setting up for a sequel, or maybe she realized after nearly 500 pages that she need to wrap it up, because there is absolutely no resolution. This book is terrible, and I wouldn’t recommend wasting any time on it. There are so many things out there to read, in this genre and otherwise, that is seems a shame books like these are out there, taking the spots of ones with much more merit.

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Alright, that was my full Goodreads review. As I said, I read this as part of the Wild Things Summer Reading Challenge. It was a random book pick with a sort of cool cover, and I don't mind a good fairy story, so I thought I would like it.
Sometimes, when I'm reading a book, not only do I wonder how the author managed to get published, but I mourn a little for the trees that died to bring such a monstrosity to life.
Not quite as bad as the worst book I ever read (Julia Barrett's Charlotte, a completion/murder of Jane Austen's Sanditon), but in the Worst Writing Book-Off, Betwixt takes a solid 2nd.


  1. I hate hate hate when books have terrible, contrived dialogue.

    Good thing you didn't spend money on this book.

    I love your honesty, it makes your reviews more trustworthy.

  2. Well, and I don't want someone to go in thinking it's going to be great and waste their money on it, and I don't want authors getting false feedback and thinking everything's peachy.
    There's a blurb on the cover comparing it to Twilight, which could get it a lot of sales it doesn't deserve.

  3. If I had read your summary alone, I probably would have added this to my wishlist. Not going to happen though. Just the idea of the language of someone who's a teen but not a "real teen" has me so frustrated. I don't think I could handle this book. The voice has to be there, or it's not going to work. It looks like this is one of them. Not going to waste my time. Great review!

  4. I found this book at the thrift store and read the inside of the dust cover and thought "meh, worth a shot". NO, NO IT IS NOT. I do not want to go on, but I don't like leaving books unfinished.


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