Saturday, March 24, 2018

Book Review: Full Fusion

Book Review: Full Fusion by NJ Damschroder 

Goodreads Description: Eighteen-year-old Roxie Sebastian lives a charmed life, and she knows it. Too bad she can't feel it.

All her life, she's felt disconnected from the world around her. Everything changes just before graduation, when she's drawn to an eerie, brilliant light-which narrowly misses her as it blows up her friend Lincoln's car. Clearly someone's after Roxie, and finally Lincoln tells her the truth: He and Roxie are angels, beings from another dimension, and that light is her soul, separated from her human body in a traumatic birth.

Once a skeptical Roxie rules out the other possibilities-like Lincoln created this delusion to escape his abusive father-she accepts her gut-deep knowledge of the truth. But someone has been screwing with her light, using it to commit crimes, and their actions are about to cause irreparable damage to two worlds: the one she lives in, and the one she can't remember.

Aided by her best friend Jordan, her boyfriend Tucker, and Lincoln, Roxie tracks down the criminal and uncovers many more secrets not only of her past, but of the history of their race on Earth. And then Roxie faces a horrible dilemma-the only way she can stop them from ripping apart both worlds is to fuse with her light...which could be tainted by the evil with which it was used.

My Review: I was given a review copy of Full Fusion by Rockstar Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Eighteen-year-old Roxie Sebastian has always felt lost in life, disconnected from her loving family, devoted friends, and even her own emotions, but she always considered herself normal. Until the night a brilliant white light destroys her friend, Linc's, car in a blaze of fire and Roxie discovers she's an angel who was separated from her soul during a traumatic birth. That angelic soul, rife with power, has fallen into the hands of a man named Phillip Porcini, who seems to know way more about the angels than he should. Roxie sets off to get her soul back with her best friend, boyfriend, and her friend Linc, who is actually a full fledged angel sent from another dimension to help Roxie regain her soul. But Phillip plans to use her soul to open a gateway between dimensions, which could end up destroying both worlds. The only real way to keep the soul out of his hands is for Roxie to fuse with it and become a full angel again. But have the crimes Phillip committed with the soul tainted it? If so, could fusing with it turn Roxie into something evil?

Where to start with this book. When I picked it up, it seemed like a fun, light-hearted ride through an urban fantasy setting. When I finished, I felt about as far from "fun" as you could get, but it had me questioning: is this simply a book not written for me? Most YA I connect with very easily, but there are a certain subset of books that are written for a young teen audience that have little appeal for adults. Does that make them bad? Not necessarily. After all, adults are not the target audience of YA. It wasn't written for them, it was written for teens. That's something I keep in mind while reading YA, and definitely applies somewhat to this book. Do I think a thirteen year old girl would enjoy this book a lot more than I did? Absolutely! Hell, if I was thirteen I probably would have enjoyed this book a lot more, because I would've been in the maturity bracket for it.

The book itself was written well, with a simpler style lacking flowery prose. There were times where the description was a little thin, but not in a way that really took away from the story or made it confusing. The pacing moved nicely, and so the story itself was very easy to read. The fundamentals were there, but it was the story itself that made me falter. Starting with the characters, we have Roxie, who is a very obvious Mary-Sue. She has a perfect life, perfect family, doting mother, plenty of money (I'd die for a pool in my backyard), a gaggle of besties who do everything she wants, good grades, and is the "nice girl." The only thing missing from the Mary-Sue package would be the cheerleader checkbox. As for the rest of the main characters, they were all really flat with no motivation outside of Roxie. Even Linc, who was arguably one of the more developed characters, was still little more than a typical YA bad boy: dark hair, brooding, rough home life, aggressive under a guise of "protection," obsessed with the main character, etc, etc. Even the bad guys, who were driving the plot for most of the book, were about as developed as bumbling cartoon villains that resemble the Three Stooges.

The book itself was filled with classic YA tropes and cliches: the Unqualified Protagonist, a love triangle, the Gullible Martyr, Unambiguous Bad Guy, I Didn't Know I Had Powers, a bit of Chosen One, etc. I was hoping the author would play around with these tropes a bit, but they're about as predictable as can be. In fact, most parts of the book are highly predictable, and the actual actions taken by characters to move the plot forward are pretty sad at times. Roxie charges into an enemy lair with no plan after dumping her supplies and is surprised when she opens the door and finds bad guys, the villains are professional criminals but can't physically overpower a few teenagers (most without any powers), an explanation for how the bad guys found them was just "Science. The methodology isn't important." (I sh*t you not). The list could go on. It seemed like there was very little creative thought put into the actual actions or plot in the story, which made it kinda boring to read, and made the characters (all of them, good and bad) come across as incredibly stupid.

All the "meat" in this story, per se, was in the romantic tension. The love triangle between Roxie, her boyfriend, Tucker, and their friend, Linc, was what ultimately kept the book moving. And it's the very reason why I could see a lot of younger teens really enjoying this book. As much as it leans into heavy cliches, the romantic plotline fulfills that "dirty little secret" read that you know is bad, but you like it anyway. There were little parts of me getting caught up in that romantic subplot, and I found myself enjoying it most out of the book, probably because it seemed like there was more effort put into it. Up until this point, I could have recommended this book as a read for teens and say adult YA readers might not enjoy it, simply because it wasn't written for them. What made me change my mind from "this book isn't for me" to "this book is bad" came down to the messages it was sending.

The first message being very sexist, as about three or four times throughout the book, and in very minor ways, the main character refers to how girls are weaker than boys. It tried to play it off as "it's not sexism, it's just fact," and then as Roxie stating it's "one of the reasons she didn't like being a girl," and then finally by the last mention, the author gives up all pretense of trying to sugarcoat her opinion: "Bing went with Jordan, and I heard her hissing her displeasure at even more sexism. But I felt better, anyway. Call me an anti-feminist, I don't care." (Direct quote). I'd like to play it off as a character trait, but it has no other influence on the story, and is just an ideological piece that the author seems to be hammering into the reader, finalizing it by having Roxie (who sort of initially resisted the sexism, or called it out for what it was) settling in that she's happier this way (that her girl friend has a man to protect her during a fight) and that she's proudly anti-feminist. What kind of message does that send to young girls, who are devouring this book for the romantic plotline?

The second message, which really broke the book for me, was that cheating was okay. Much of the romantic tension between Linc and Roxie was heightened by the fact that Roxie was dating Tucker, and so they couldn't be together. Of course, during the climax, both characters forget or don't care about this, and Linc kisses Roxie anyway. Nobody is mad at each other, nobody feels that guilty, and instead it becomes a thing that "Tucker must never know," until Tucker reveals he does know at the end, and forgives Roxie anyway. Which made me feel awful for Tucker, because even cardboard cutouts don't deserve to be treated like crap. The message comes across that it's okay to cheat, that things will work out okay because she loves both of them and so it can't be bad. There are literally no repercussions that Roxie faces from this and she manages to shrug off the problem, which comes across as pretty heartless.

The part that infuriates me the most about the above two messages is that the book is written specifically for young YA readers, and that's obvious by reading it. So these messages feel specifically targeted towards that young audience, and that's where I draw the line. Entertainment is one thing, but knowing your audience is much more important.

TL;DR: All in all, 2/5 stars. An uninteresting YA romance with decent writing and awful anti-woman messages.

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