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I’m so, so disappointed right now. I’ve read all of Libba Bray’s books. She’s one of the only authors that I find reliably good. Her Gemma Doyle series was one of my favorites in high school. I’ve eagerly anticipated each release in the Diviners series. Beauty Queens was one of my top books last year.

I was one punk angel, fire giant, or wormhole away from hating this book. To say I’m surprised would be an understatement.

I finished each of the last five books I read in a day. Most of those were not even good. It took me four full days to read something from one of my favorite authors.

I had such trouble getting into it.

I could not bring myself to care about the characters.

I think the biggest thing here is that Cameron, our main character, is not likable. He’s a sarcastic, whiny teenager who is unreasonably upset with his parents. You know those teenagers who are all like, OH MY GOD! DAD WON’T LET ME BORROW THE CAR! MOM ASKED ME TO MOW THE LAWN AGAIN! WHAT DO YOU MEAN I HAVE TO GET A JOB? YOU’RE RUINING MY LIFE! Yeah, that’s Cameron. All things considered, he’s got a pretty good life. But he’s completely miserable, and becomes even more miserable upon being diagnosed with Mad Cow Disease.

His friend and road trip buddy Gonzo is no better. A hypochondriac who JUST WANTS TO GO HOME, OKAY, Gonzo is insufferably annoying. If he’s so upset about being on this road trip, why doesn’t he just go home then? But no, he decides to stick around and make Cameron figure out how to pay for everything. FRIENDSHIP!

The most likable character is a talking lawn gnome/Norse god named Balder. Balder is actually funny. Balder has a bad lot in life but doesn’t take himself too seriously. Balder is a good character, and he is A LAWN GNOME. Why couldn’t they all be like Balder?

I’ve really enjoyed Bray’s quirky characters in the past. With the exception of Balder, I can’t say they really did it for me here.

As for the rest, I don’t even really want to get into it here. It’s hard to say what my problems were without spoiling the entire plot.

Maybe if I were still a teenager, I’d have liked it more. It did win the Printz Award, after all. Overall, though, I was just disappointed and left feeling like I was missing some major information. Something that would have made me say, “YES, THIS IS THE LIBBA BRAY I KNOW AND LOVE. HERE SHE IS. SORRY I DOUBTED YOU.” But there was nothing. A half-hearted ending to a mediocre book.

I’m glad I got this from the library instead of buying it. I feel so bad for giving two stars to a book by one of my favorite authors, but I have a sneaking suspicion that if anybody else had written it, it would have only gotten one star.

Final rating: 

★★☆☆☆

For my 2016 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #36: a book about a road trip.

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