I’ve liked a lot of books lately, but The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things hit me on a totally different level. Sage and Shane are completely awesome, beautifully flawed characters who defy pretty much every teenage stereotype that exists in young adult novels.
Sage prides herself on leaving her dark past behind her and moving on to a cheerful future. She makes a point to leave a compliment on a random student’s locker every day (written on hot pink sticky notes in sparkly purple pen, no less). She helps out so much at home that her friends think she’s crazy. She volunteers. She tries her best to get good grades. All this so that maybe she can forget what an awful person she used to be. Shane is trying to lay low and make it through high school without ending up in juvie. He made a lot of mistakes at his old school, so he just wants to keep to himself, avoid conflict, and make it through the next few months. Sage and Shane weren’t counting on finding each other, but maybe they’re just what each other needs.
The first thing that I noticed about The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things was the beautiful writing. Each sentence flowed so well, and the dialogue felt natural. Actually, everything felt really natural, from the personalities of the characters to the conflicts to the pacing. It was pretty near perfect, and I had a tough time putting it down at night!
I felt like the characters were really well-developed, from the main characters to their friends and the minor characters who have their own little lives on the sidelines. I think it’s rare, particularly in young adult novels, to have minor characters whose personalities are so developed that we understand the rationale for their actions. I was surprised at the amount of attention given to the main antagonist in the story, and the fact that small offhand comments from the beginning of the book were followed up on throughout.
The only semi-negative comment I can make has to do with the language used in the book. Yes, it is 100% natural for RIGHT NOW. But in five or ten years, I’m wondering if the people who read it will be thinking, “She can’t even? She can’t even what? That’s not a full sentence!” or “Why do these characters keep saying ‘forever alone’ and what does that mean?!” Aguirre does a great job of not dating the book through its use of pop culture (for example, when Sage watches Crazy Stupid Love, she mentions that it came out years ago but she’d never seen it), but as a total linguistics nerd, I wonder how today’s slang is going to hold up in the future.
Aside from that totally minor complaint, everything in this book is amazing, and you should probably preorder it right now.
Thanks to Goodreads First Reads and the publisher for the free copy!
Final rating: ★★★★★ (more like 4.5)
For my 2015 reading challenge, I’m checking off #36: a book set in high school.