Monday, May 19, 2014

1 Heart Review: Something Pretty, Something Beautiful by Eric Barnes

Something Pretty, Something Beautiful
Eric Barnes

Page Count: 247

Release Date: June 1st, 2013
Publisher: OutPost19
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, OutPost19 and TLC!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

In Tacoma, a circle of friends finds their leader in Will Wilson. Together, they drink, they get high, they take girls to the woods—but Will Wilson keeps pushing toward darker extremes. 

As the descent gets steeper, there is a way out: Another friend’s fishing boat off the coast of Alaska. There is life after Tacoma.

But the choice has to be made. And some friendships feel more than inevitable.

Something Pretty, Something Beautiful is a novel about bare and common violence. About the simple horrors taking place in the house that's down the street. The house along the road you drive past every day.

It’s about cars moving fast along streets lit white and gray. It’s about the crashing screams of a roller-coaster echoing out from the county fair.

Yet Something Pretty, Something Beautiful is also about quiet days in a small boat out on Puget Sound. Quiet days working hard in a fish plant in Alaska.

And it’s about the sadness of how to make those lives finally connect.
Will Wilson made our lives. He broke down limits Coe and Teddy and me didn't want. And by the time I left Tacoma, Will Wilson had given us all the kind of purpose and power that little kids fantasize about and most adults can never quite achieve.

I got up to page 52 of this book before I reached my "can't take this any longer" threshold, so I'm unable to reflect upon the storyline, but am more than happy to elaborate upon my DNF (did not finish) reasons below:

Something Pretty, Something Beautiful carefully details and juxtaposes the dark, wild antics of one group of friends's teenage years with the responsibility that comes with the adult world. Centered around the leader, Will Wilson, and the consequences that ripple out from childhood decisions, this book is descriptive but ambiguous, and reads like an extended vignette.

Stylistically, a novel-length vignette may sound attractive, but in this book, it's my biggest point of criticism. Eric Barnes tries terribly hard to sound poetic, but his sentence structure and word choices are off-key, and the pace of the storytelling is too sluggishly set. It took a lot of effort me to get just to page 52 (about one-fifths through) because I would find myself rereading certain sentences to try and process them.

The comprehensive effect is even worse; the awkward, choppy sentences paired with slow-moving scenes just make the book unreadable. What little I got out of the characters, I didn't like because they weren't very humanly portrayed—too flat, too uncertain—and the story was near impossible to follow because the mechanics of the writing just didn't keep my attention. The narrative and plot are constantly unclear, making it a confusing effort for me, which is why I eventually had to put it down.

Pros


Attractive cover and title

Cons


Even the synopsis is so incredibly vague that I don't know what the story is supposed to be about...?? // Writing style is superfluous and choppy // Poorly structured; setting, time, and perspective are never specified // Characters, or the narrator, for that matter, are superficially portrayed and hard to relate to // I couldn't even get through half of the book

Verdict


With ambitious attempts to be stylish in prose, but ending up more stylized and long-winded than anything, Something Pretty, Something Beautiful is a difficult, plodding novel I simply couldn't get into. It's pretty rare for me not to be able to finish a book, but the poor composition and uncertain storyline were too disorienting and floaty for me, and not in a good way (this is no Gabriel García Márquez, mind you). I tried hard to like Eric Barnes's sophomore novel because of its weighty, sinister undertone, but unfortunately gave up after 52 pages Americanflag

1 heart: Could not finish and have nothing positive to say; use this book to see if your pens still have ink, and keep it far, far away from me (x)