My least favorite book that I’ve read from Shinn so far. ¬I’ve read quite a few of her books, both ‘adult’ and YA, and while she sometimes comes dangerously close to stepping off that romance cliff, and plunging into sentimentality, usually she hovers [happily] on the brink. However, here the romance was at the annoying level (even if the love triangle functioned more as a symbol of rejecting one culture and embracing the Oppressed, than an actual romance), and I also felt something I haven’t felt in any of Shinn’s other books: that it was written ‘down’ to a younger (teen girl) audience.
I felt like the author said: “Hey! I’m gonna sucker the tweens in with the promise of a romance, and then I’m gonna hammer in some Important Points: Colonialism is BAD! Imperialism: AWFUL! Racism: NO GOOD! Oh yeah, and girls should stick up for themselves! GO GIRL!”
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against books which show the conflicts and harm inherent in the maintenance of an empire. There’s near-infinite potential for powerful stories there. But this story simplifies to the point of absurdity. The characters are all one-dimensional (which also makes Our Heroine, Averie’s main romantic decision conflict-less and unsurprising), and Averie is naive to a degree that beggars belief. (But of course, once her eyes are opened, she instantly sees her way to Righteousness and Saviourdom! [Good thing she’s insanely wealthy.])
About three-quarters of the way through, I was really fed-up with the whole thing. Then the ‘twist’ happened (the ‘friendly’ local turns out to be a terrorist spy/freedom fighter), and I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. But the chance to explore some moral ambiguity was passed up completely.
I did however, appreciate that in a romance novel, for ONCE, the girl is the one who proposes and has a strong opinion of what she and her fiancé should do in the future. But even that wasn’t quite enough to redeem this book from its clunky and ham-handed politics.