How do I approach this book? I want to be honest, but I don’t want to be too over the top in either direction. I received a copy of Marionette via the author, who is a great blogging buddy, and this is my honest response and I received no compensation for my response.
I guess I’ll just rip the band-aid off. I HATED the first half of the book. (Sorry TBM!)
I can’t put a finger on it, but I’ll call it sophomore slump. I’ll talk more later in the response, but I just could not identify with Paige even though there was a great line which convinced me I was going to! TBM’s first book, A Woman Lost, was a phenomenal debut novel, but this one fell short (at least for the first half of the book). However, with that said, the last half of the book was AMAZING (mostly :-D).
So I’m going to get the ‘bad’ out of the way first (and it’s really not even that bad, it’s just frustrating because I KNOW TBM is a great author and storyteller). Looking at the book as a whole it was great story and the writing, specifically in the latter half is mostly brilliant, is well done, but the first half of the book just didn’t sit well with me. In the words of Tim Gunn it felt like “student work,” which is totally understandable as TBM is flexing her writing muscles and finding her voice as a writer so it’s not in the least bit worrisome.
Part of the issue is that the first half of the book felt unfinished (and there was one portion in the last part too). As a(n presumed) new author, TBM I think went a little overboard in the book references, which I of course loved – especially the Austen reference – but there were just a few too many and it seemed disparate, even though vital to Jess and Paige’s personalities, when compared to the rest of the book.
Now the reason this bothered me so much is TBM writes BRILLIANT characters. Within the first few pages TBM writes,
“I’ll stop talking–that’s another way to become invisible. I might nod my head, act like I’m listening. I’m not. Most people, though, don’t really care whether anyone else is listening. Many people don’t even notice. They just want to talk. They just want to feel as if someone is listening. How many people really care what others think? Not many, from my experience. That’s one of the hardest things to live with, feeling alone. Even when I’m with others I feel alone. Even more so I don’t think many people can relate to me. I know I can’t relate to them. I feel like I’m on the outside, looking in.” (loc.41)
Her characters, especially the minor characters in this book, are wonderfully written and she really gets into the characters minds and brings that to the reader exceptionally well. I couldn’t help but fall in love with Tom (and Jake), Julia, and even the roommates because there were so many hints at their adorableness and their own issues! I did have a lot of issues with the main character, Paige, but I don’t know if that is because of writing decisions or if I just didn’t like the character. I did grow to like her by the end and that was definitely intentional on TBMs part (I’m assuming), but it was a struggle to get to the point where I liked her.
Where TBM shows her mastery is in the second half of the book where the story turns into a page turner that you don’t want to stop reading. Everything that happens in the last half makes up for the struggles of the first half, but you do have to power through to get there! There are a few revelations I had a vague notion of earlier but a couple that still took me by surprise! You cannot deny TBMs ability as a suspense/mystery author in a non-traditional suspenseful setting.
Recommendation: Honestly, I’d recommend A Woman Lost (TBM’s site) over Marionette, but there are definitely hints of greatness in this novel. If you can get through the first half and Paige’s annoying persona then you will thoroughly enjoy the last half of the novel and the multiple reveals!
Opening Line: “The plan was simple.”
Closing Line: “And for the first time, the thought didn’t scare me.” (Whited out.)