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Thursday, January 12, 2012

'Chime' by Franny Billingsly

Oh, god. The drama that occurred over the National Book Awards. For those of you that haven't heard of it yet, 'Chime' was nominated for the award - but someone misheard it as 'Shine' and accidentally released 'Shine' by Lauren Myracle, a novel about a teen investigating a hate crime about homosexuality, as the nominee. Then, when the mistake was realized, Lauren Myracle was asked to withdraw to protect the integrity of the judges and the award.


Anyways, the real review. I read this before all that drama, so my review should be mostly untainted.

'Chime' is about Briony who believes not only that she is a witch, but that she should be burned at stake for it and that she deserves the worst punishment (but she doesn't turn herself in). Her crimes are of killing her stepmother and making the mind of her sister strangified. It's no surprise that she believes this - she can see spirits and speak with the Old Ones, a power that no one but witches have.
Along comes the electric Eldric, humming with golden energy. He is the catalyst to secrets unfolding, about Briony's past, the true nature of her 'crimes', and what Briony really is. Oh, and some romance. I believe I've already mentioned that, for the most part, I skip romantic parts?

I had some trouble with the characters. Briony was an interesting character, but she seemed too, I don't know, predictable? Her narrative was a strange mix of self-hatred, darkness, some mother-like feelings for her sister, insecurity, oddities, and general depressing-ness. It's a little off-putting, not by any means enjoyable, but definitely... interesting to read. There are good quotes, though, as Briony's plucky. For example:
“'You mind your tongue!'
'Oh, I do,' I said. 'I sharpen it every evening on your name.'”

A side-effect of this type of narrative, plus the plot, is that it's terribly difficult to read the book. There's a lot of jumps, where you'll suddenly not understand anything. The sequence of events is just a mess, like a train of thought trying to teleport through a jellyfish. Makes no sense, right?

Then, there's the romance (Did I say I skipped it? I lied). Without this kind of romance, I definitely would have loved this book a lot more, as there's a great plot and setting, and very decent characters (Briony, although a slightly depressing narrator, was one of my favorite characters). However, the love-rectange-lines-jumble-thing just messed everything up. I can deal with a love triangle, and I can deal with true love between Eldric and Briony. But... a strange, enchantingly beautiful woman that is obsessed with Eldric (and the obsession could be mutual)? A determined, crazy suitor for Briony? I'm stretched a little thin here.

So, this book gets a 3.7. It's like trying sushi for the first time - some exotic flavors, new flavors quite unlike anything you've tasted before. Not disgusting, but... not completely enjoyable either. There are different textures and contrasting flavors, some of which you dislike, and some that are simply amazing, and you're not quite sure what you're going to bite into next, or whether you'll like it or not.

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