I kept reading this book even though I wanted to stop reading because I wanted to know what happened in the plot. I didn't care much about the characters. I found some of them completely ridiculous, and I didn't much relate to the heroine, but I remained mildly curious as to what crazy thing would happen next. So I kept going.
I think there needs to be a term for this, when you read to find out what happened, not because you connected and care about the characters. You know, when a book is all plot, no real characters? Sort of the book variation of “all hat, no cattle:” all plot, no heart.
I found a point to stop reading when the plot bored me as much as the characters did. Once the same sequence of events happened three times – heroine notices something ODD! Heroine is alarmed by ODDNESS. Heroine decides NOT TO TELL ANYONE about oddness, because that would be WEIRD. – I stopped. I found that reading to find out what happened is only sustainable when I care about what was happening. When the events and the characters became equally predictable, I was done.
Audrey narrates this story, and the book begins with Audrey feeling REALLY odd because she's SURE something is wrong with her mother. She tries to talk herself out of it – her mom's at work, everything's fine – but of course she arrives home to find that things are not fine, her mom is missing, and she's not sure what to do. So she's eating ice cream on the porch with her sister when a van rolls up and out pops a person who has been sent by Missing Mom to look after Audrey and her sister Meg. Super Babysitter is really young, and comes with a pet lizard, snake, and assorted other ODD THINGS. But really, if Mom said she sent Super Babysitter, then things are ok.
Then Audrey figures out that things are not ok with her mom, that her mom is in some danger, and that she and her sister may be in danger as well. PLUS she discovers she's a witch. Audrey's mom's a witch, and everyone from her mom's side of the family presumed that the kids were not witchtacular, so they were left alone. But Audrey is not only witchy, she's big powerful witchy, with a blend of talents that baffle Super Babysitter (Who is also a Witch).
A long time ago, I was neighbors in Jersey City with a writer named Jen Larson who read fantasy and paranormal romances like I did. She once described Anita Blake as assembling powers like charms on a charm bracelet, and I agreed – it was one of the more irritating things about early-before-the-real-crazy-started Anita. She was adding on the magic with no problems.
In this book, Audrey also has a charm bracelet power collection, only it's a blend of, 'Oh, by the way, I can always tell when someone is lying, don't know why,' and 'Whoa, you're the most powerful untapped witch in the history of witchydom. How did you not KNOW this?' Once she reveals that she can tell when people are lying, and then discovers she's a witch, suddenly everything is super fabulous powerful to her: smells are more intense, auras are big as billboards to her, and she can do and see more with each chapter.
Plus, Audrey reveals or discovers a power or an accessory to a power that's useful at just the right moment. Every. Single Time. I never had to worry about Audrey, really, because she was protected by her own plot.
Ultimately that became my biggest problem with this book: it was all plot and no character growth. The people in the book were wandering from scene to scene as things happened, but I never gave a crap about any of them. They all conveniently figured things out about themselves at the right moment, or missed something so arterial-bleeding obvious that I figured they'd walk into a wall next.
Audrey's sister is supposed to be non-magic, or “mundane” as Super Babysitter Witch says, except that said sister has some unique powers, such as instant poise on stage, magnetism when she's in front of a crowd, and significant musical talent. No one notices that this is out of the ordinary, all that talent and charisma that's unexpected and, you know, powerful,
Audrey loves to bake and cook, and her mother is a pastry chef. Audrey also loves chemistry and science. At one point she says,
Even though chemistry and baking might seem like totally different interests, in my mind their pleasures were almost identical. They both revolved around mixing, for starters, taking separate ingredients and transforming them into something greater than the sum of their parts.
Well, no, they are kind of identical. Baking is a lot of chemistry, in fact. Ingredients mix and transform in part because of chemical reactions.
Another irritation was the repetition of details and words that made me question the editing of the book. In three pages, the heroine mentions “jotting” something down in her notebook three times. I get it. She jots a lot.
The biggest frustration I had was the fact that truly obvious things were not noticed by anyone except the heroine, or by no one at all. There's the magical musical sister, and the instant bonding with the romantic lead, but there's hardly any questioning of either character or their specialness, or why, RIGHT NOW while all this other odd stuff is happening, these two are also marginally odd.
Also, several ancillary characters have near death experiences – like being shot a bunch of times, eaten by a shark or being hit by a bus. You know, no big deal. Happens all the time.
And in all these cases, the people who are nearly-dead or totally dead and then revived come back to life hale, hearty, completely healed, and hella attractive. Super powerful glamourous hair, incredibly charismatic – and, as the heroine is quick to notice – greasy black-grey auras, and also reeking of dead things.
But she and Super Babysitter are really the only ones who notice or question the difference. The humans, or “mundanes,” as they are called by Super Babysitter, try hard to convince themselves that everything's ok and their loved one is just as she ever was. Despite, you know, huge personality and neurological differences which would otherwise be alarming.
Once there was a huge discrepancy between things that ought to have been noticed but weren't, and things that were noticed and kept secret (because a lllllll those conversation about “Tell me if anything weird happens” were about as important as the time and temperature reports midway through the evening news), I lost interest in the plot as much as I had the characters. It sort of reminded me of a bad kid's movie – like Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer only with witchcraft: things are moving around and there's light and spectacle, but there's not a lot going on that invests my attention and my emotions seriously. So I stopped reading and moved on to something else.
I still want to come up with a good term for “all plot and no character” though.