Book Review: Envy by Gregg Olsen

Two weeks ago, I attended the Whitehot’s Children’s Book Display at the Mississauga Library.  I was able to speak to publishing reps about upcoming new releases and get the scoop on the best reads.  I asked the rep from Sterling Children’s Books for his top pick of YA titles and he immediately picked up Envy by Gregg Olsen. The book cover itself is a high selling point, but at the same time scared me because it reminded me of the scariest movie ever- The Ring. Yes, I am still terrified of that film, and really haven’t watched a horror movie since.  Luckily, Envy isn’t so much a horror story as it is a suspenseful mystery.

Summary from Goodreads:

Envy, the series debut, involves the mysterious death of the twins’ old friend, Katelyn. Was it murder? Suicide? An accident? Hayley and Taylor are determined to find out–and as they investigate, they stumble upon a dark truth that is far more disturbing than they ever could have imagined.
 
Based on the shocking true crime about cyber-bullying,
Envy will take you to the edge–and push you right over.

I must admit, the story kept my interest. But I’m not sure it’s because of Olsen’s story or the fact that I knew the book was based on the true case of Megan Meier. If you aren’t aware of the case, Megan was 13 years old when she committed suicide after being cyberbullied by an unlikely individual. The case was highly publicized and shed light on the dangers of social media. 

Now for my critiques…

😦

–         This book had some of the worst cliffhanger lines ever. For example—When Katelyn is found dead in a bathtub with an expresso machine, Olsen writes: [someone in Port Gamble was] “loving the sad moment to the very drop”.  I also found that Olsen loved writing short empathetic sentences. For example, he ends a chapter with “…beginning of something that would change everything. Everything. Every. Single. Thing (p.16)”. The majority of chapter endings were so terrible that I was surprised there wasn’t a dramatic ‘duh duh duh’ written after them.

–         I think Olsen tried too hard to reference popular culture. From Twilight, to Smashbox makeup. Yes, it may be in ‘in’ thing now, but in a couple of years, these references will date the book.

–         Umm…did I miss something? Why exactly was the espresso coffee machine even near the bathtub in the first place?

–         SPOILER— I didn’t buy the ending. Once they found out Katelyn’s death was an accident, it was like ‘ohhhhh okay, no problem, it was an accident, end of story’.  The storyline of Katelyn was pretty much dropped there.  Then, the next chapter thrusts us back into Hay-Tay’s supernatural issues and the annoying reporter Moira. Yes, she was a little crazy stealing their dog and all, but did she really need to be murdered so that the twins could be ‘protected’? I really doubt being ploughed down by a car would look the same as falling down a rocky bank. To be ruled ‘accidental’ Port Gamble must have the worst policemen and coroners in the world.

🙂

 -I liked the supernatural ‘special’ powers between the twins and wish that it was a bigger part of the storyline. However, the ending of Envy does suggest that their powers will be more played out in the series. 

-I enjoyed reading a mystery and searching for the clues within the story to try to understand what really happened to Katelyn.

-I appreciated the fact that Olsen addressed the issue of online anonymity and the dangers of cyber bullying. Today kids are so tech savvy and cyber bullying is sadly becoming a more prevalent form of bullying.

 

Want more Envy?

Click to watch the Youtube book trailer

Or visit www.emptycoffinseries.com for more information on the book and cyberbulling. You can even take a ‘how mean are you?’ quiz!

 

Notes from the Blender by Brendan Halpin & Trish Cook

Summary from Goodreads-

Declan loves death metal–particularly from Finland. And video games–violent ones. And internet porn–any kind, really. He goes to school with Neilly Foster and spends most of his classroom time wondering what it might be like to know her, to talk to her, maybe even to graze against her sweater in the hallway. Neilly is an accomplished gymnast, naturally beautiful, and a constant presence at all the best parties (to hich Declan is never invited). She’s the queen of cool, the princess of poker face, and her rule is uncontested– or it was until today, when she’s dumped by her boyfriend, betrayed by her former BFF Lulu, and then informed she’s getting a new brother–of the freaky fellow classmate variety. Declan’s dad is marrying Neilly’s mom. Soon. Which means they’ll be moving in together.
 
Just as the title suggests, Notes from a Blender has a ton of elements
mixed into one contemporary story about two angry and confused teenagers learning the meaning of family. Mix up a little bit of heartbreak, a touch of grief, two tablespoons of divorce, one cup of homosexuality, with a pinch of bullying and you get one touching, relatable, humorous story.
 
For me, the best thing about the book was the male/female author
collaboration of Halpin/Cook. Readers are clearly able to tell the difference between the two distinguished voices. I loved the alternating points of view, changing from chapter to chapter that show each side of simultaneous events happening throughout the story.
 
Having both female/male points of view will appeal to both female and male readers. Males will be able to relate to the awkward and hormonal Declan. Although Declan is painfully honest about his inner feelings, I really didn’t care to hear about his frequent boners, masturbation, love of porn and sexual thoughts. Too much information! Girls will relate to the beautiful, popular Neilly. Although she is sometimes shallow and self-centered, she falls for the wrong guy and is betrayed by her best friend. For all the unexpected surprises thrown at her, she continually demonstrates how strong and loyal she is.
 
Declan and Neilly together are an interesting duo. Despite their differences, they quickly take to each other, becoming friends and in
turn, help each other grow and change. While this is all nice and great, I would expect a blended family to experience a little more difficulty. Yes, both kids had anger toward their parents, but I would expect a little hostility toward their new step-siblings as well. There was none in this case, and that’s why I’m not so sure this family blending is realistic.
 
Another aspect I found unrealistic, was that almost every character
expresses their disgust with anyone who drinks. Since Declan’s mom was killed by a drunk driver, I can understand why he disagrees with drinking, but why is Neilly so against the idea? For trying to be edgy and in-the-know with teens, you would think that the authors wouldn’t try to be overly preachy about not drinking. I felt the subject was pushed too hard.

Overall, a solid 3.5/5.

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