Here’s my debut book review post. I’ll be reviewing a wide range of styles and books. Here we have a YA Romance, but I have plans to review a classic Scifi novel, a western, a post-apocalypse novel, a romance novel, and many, many other genres. Just like with my writing, I really enjoy reading a wide variety of genres. So let’s get started.
I must say, this is an excellent book to start with. Not only because my debut published novel will be YA romance, but because this is by far one of the best books I have read in a while. I rave about it. I told my mom and all my sisters to read it. Told my friends at church to read it. I’ve picked it up and skimmed the pages a few times since I finished it.
I know. You’re wondering what this amazing book is. Let me welcome to the spotlight…
Painted Blind by Michelle A. Hansen.
Every story has a story, and I would like to tell the story of how I got this story. (Whew. My editor would be like, “Repeated word usage here.” I know. Sorry.)
I picked this book up at an author conference back in October. Michelle had two books and I asked her which she recommended for me and she suggested this one. After reading it I’m ready to go get her other novel; Before They Find Us.
But first, let me tell you about Painted Blind.
This is a case of bad inductive reasoning. I bought Painted Blind at the same time as I bought another book that I…um…did not enjoy. So Sherlock mind of mine assumed that this story would be exactly the same. Don’t think about the fact that it was by a different author, was a different story, different category, etc. etc.
So it went home with me and sat on my bookshelf for three months. One afternoon I was cleaning up around the book shelf, noticed it, and thought, “Hmm. I should give this book a chance.” So I took it upstairs and put it on my headboard. Where it waited another week.
Then one late evening while I was feeding my sweet little baby, I was bored. What better way to cure boredom than to pick up a book. Thankfully, Painted Blind was on my headboard.
I read the prologue, and thought, Hmm. Interesting.
I read the first chapter and thought, Very interesting.
By the end of the second chapter I was hooked. Oh. No. Every fear Psyche had in the first chapter has now come true. I needed to find out what she would do, so I chewed through that book in a couple of days, (which is an impressive feat when you have two young children at home.)
What’s it about? you ask. Well…
Psyche is a down-to-earth drop-dead gorgeous girl who has just gotten back to her small Montana hometown after a summer of modeling. She promised her dad when she left that there would be no nude photo shoots, and she…mostly…kept that promise, but that one single shoot she did that was questionable, ends up on a billboard in the center of town.
She meets Erik, a mysterious and–strangely–invisible young man who is willing to help her out of all the trouble and publicity she’s dealing with because of the ad.
They pretty much fall madly in love with each other. Want more details, go read the book. I’m just going to spend the rest of the time telling you why it was so perfect. (Well, almost perfect. Make sure to read my post about that here.) I could go on forever writing all my reasons, and explaining them to death, but I’m just going to turn it into a nice little list.
- The Hook: I felt like Michelle did a great job of introducing the conflict right off the bat. The end of chapter one leaves us with some foreshadowing of what’s about to come. By the end of chapter two, Psyche has seen her face and nearly naked body on a billboard in the center of town.
- The Conflict: There is constantly increasing conflict in the story. As I read I thought, “oh yeah. That’s bad, but…she can fix it.” then something happened, and I thought, “Yeah. That’s worse. But she can still get out of it.” And then…something worse happened. Every time I started to feel like things would work out and Psyche could solve this on her own without too much pain, then there was another problem and another.
- The Pacing: This is kind of related to the above, but the pacing was really good, (for the most part…more on this later.) I would read a chapter and feel all tense and worked up, and then she’d put in this chapter where the hero and heroine just talked and hung out. It was a real nice break from the stress of the novel. Then she’d hammer me again with another problem.
- The relationship: More of my brilliant inductive reasoning that I mentioned above came into play here. When I read the blurb on the back of the book I thought, “A hero who’s invisible? How the heck are we supposed to fall in love with that?” You know how? Banter. I loved the way the two characters talked. The relationship, the conversations were natural and funny. One of the few books I’ve read that has made me actually, literally laugh out loud. (I chuckle sometimes when reading, but full on laughing? Not often.)
- The Characters: Besides having a really great hero and heroine, the supporting characters in this book were great. I was having an internal battle trying to decide if I was more in love with Rory or Aeas as supporting characters. Not sure that I decided which, but I do have to say, the epilogue made me laugh and cry. (and it has to do with Rory, so he might have won the battle.) I love to mention the characters I love, but my goodness, she can make you really hate some characters, too. The only word I can come up with to describe the antagonist is “despicable,” (and not in the cute “despicable Me” way.) But last of all when talking about the characters, I simply can’t leave out that I truly feel awful for the poor wolf that got pepper sprayed. To this day I think about that pup and just want to join in its pitiful yips and whines.
- The Settings: I swear, I felt like I was traveling the world as I read this book. The settings were absolutely beautiful, and stunningly described.
Whew. Now that the list is over, just a few more things and then I’ll let it be.
There is only one major complaint I have about the novel. I personally felt like the journey leading up to Psyche’s final task was too long and drawn out. Don’t get me wrong, the descriptions and setting were beautiful, and I actually had the opportunity to ask Michelle a few questions and think I understand the reason for the rather drawn-out journey, but I found myself feeling extremely bored in those couple of chapters. The ending is worth slogging through them, though, and here’s why…
She’s a princess.
Yeah. It’s a YA novel. Like, every girl becomes a princess, right?
Well that’s not what I said. She doesn’t become a princess. I said she IS a princess. The whole book long.
I’ll try not to give too much of the ending away, (but seriously, it’s a romance. If I tell you they lived happily ever after I’m sure you won’t be surprised.) So I’ll just say it. They live happily ever after. And at one point near the very end, Psyche stands up and commands people–just like a princess. When I read that scene I had to stop and think for a moment. Was she acting out of character to give such royal commands? Where did she learn to be a princess and act like that?
As I reflected on the book, I realized that she acted that way throughout the entire story. I won’t tell you where, but as you read it, (because you should) keep an eye out for her princessly acts. You may be as pleasantly surprised as I was to realize that she is royal to her soul.
This point alone was what made me love the book so much. As a mom, even though my children are young, I am constantly on the lookout for novels that portray the kinds of values that I believe are important. Having morals is one of those values I respect. In Painted Blind, Psyche was real. She held standards for herself, but they were part of who she was, not just thrown in in order to make a point. They were integral to the storyline, and she certainly wasn’t perfect in upholding those standards at times. Her imperfection is what gets her in trouble, but her willingness to change and stand for her values at the end is what saves her. I have read some YA novels by christian writers who force their character to have morals. Those books feel more like a lecture than a novel. I believe it’s important to show morals in a realistic way, with the characters failing and screwing up sometimes, because, let’s be honest, nobody is perfect.
So there you have it, basically every reason I could think of for you to go out and buy the book. When I get enough time to read her other book, I will almost certainly be posting another review here again. So tell me what you think in the comments section. Have you read the book? Did you love it, or am I crazy? If you haven’t read the book…Um, what are you waiting for? Buying it is, like, two clicks away.
A big thanks to Michelle A. Hansen for writing her book, and for sharing some fun insights into the project through an email conversation. Perhaps if anyone is interested I’ll write another post and share some of the info she said I could use on my blog. This one’s already really long, though, so…
Have fun and enjoy the writing.