Saturday, December 27, 2014

Book Review - The Blemished by Sarah Dalton

Publication Date: August 7th 2012
Genre: Science Fiction/ Dystopian
My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars 

Where to Buy:
Here's the Summary:
A beautiful world comes at a price...

In a world filled with stunning clones Mina Hart is Blemished. Her genes are worthless and that takes away her rights: her right to an Education, her right to a normal life and her right to have a child.

Mina keeps a dangerous secret which she never thought she could share until she meets Angela on her first day at St Jude's School. But their friendship is soon complicated by Angela’s adoptive brother Daniel. Mina finds herself drawn to his mysterious powers and impulsive nature. Then there is the gorgeous clone Sebastian who Mina is forbidden from even speaking to…

The Blemished is a frightening take on a fractured future where the Genetic Enhancement Ministry have taken control of Britain. It will take you on a ride filled with adventure, romance and rebellion.
My Review:

I stumbled across this book on Amazon as one of the top free Downloads in the YA Science Fiction/ Dystopian genre, and oh, how I wanted to love this book. I really did. The premise had me salivating to dive into it and the way the book opens instantly had me hooked:

"Once, my mum told me a story about a princess, and it began with her stuck in a castle. My story begins with my head stuck in a toilet."

We then learn the protagonist is a girl named Mina who is considered Blemished - someone the Ministry deems unworthy of procreating because her genes carry predispositions to illnesses and/ or deformities. But not only are the Blemished deemed  unworthy of procreating, the Ministry (the new government) ensures they don't by seeing that every Blemished girl has an Operation - basically giving them a hysterectomy - at the age of sixteen. Deplorable! And the way the Blemished are treated as dirty, second-class citizens and made to serve the GEMs (the genetically enhanced, test tube babies) who are given privileges such as an education and the opportunity to have good jobs and live in nice homes filled with nice things, is also pretty nauseating... but extremely brilliant, as far as world-building is concerned. This book has one of the strongest antagonists I've ever seen (the Ministry). Then, mix in a strong-willed, heart-of-gold heroine (Mina), a sweet, gap-toothed best friend (Angela), a bully GEM (Elena, the offending swirly-giver at the beginning of the book), a super bully in Mrs. Murgatroyd (affectionately named Murder-Troll by her Blemished students), a cute GEM boy who wants to win Mina's affection (Sebastian), only to be rivaled by Daniel (another Blemished boy), and you've got potential for an exceptional story.

And... AND... Mina has a gift - telekinesis. And we all know I have a fondness for dark-haired  heroines with telekinesis. *sheepish grin*

So, given all that, I had such high expectations, but somewhere along the way the story fell flat and I ended up forcing myself to finish. I'll try and dissect it all for you below.

The Good:

The premise - I covered that pretty thoroughly above. lol

Also, Mina is an excellent protagonist. I love a strong-willed, won't-take-crap-from-anyone kind of girl. She's tender when she needs to be, strong when she has to be, and values her friends and  family. Instant likeability factors. I also like that she takes a stand for what's right and isn't afraid to break the rules to do so, especially in a world where offending Blems get the electric chair for the smallest of crimes. (Another reason to despise the Ministry). Not that we need anymore reasons at this point!

Another plus is how the author has a way of creating moments that tears your heart out; I consider that an excellent storytelling trait. Regardless of how 'meh' I felt about the overall story at times, Ms Dalton had me glued to the pages and actively trying to hold myself together at others. *** SPOILER ALERT*** For instance, the scene where Mrs. Murgatroyd hacks at Mina's hair in front of the class as punishment. I was as horrified and humiliated as Mina, and man, after I recovered from my heartbreak, I was wishing I could jump into the book and strangle the Murder-Troll right then. I'm STILL seething. lol  ***END SPOILER*** More heartbreaking scenes were with Angela's (and Daniel's adoptive) mother, Theresa. As someone who's witnessed a family member suffering from dementia, the scenes really hit home and made my heart ache for her kids. And honestly, without these tear-my-heart-out moments, I'd probably rate this book a star lower, because these were rare moments in the storyline I actually felt something.

I also like how the characters aren't all one dimensional. Not everyone is all good or all bad (minus Murder-Troll lol) or have only one temperament all the time, and they each have their own unique characteristics/ interests and things that make them tick. That makes for a believable cast of characters.

Lastly... Mina's relationship with her father. I'm a daddy's girl, so 'nuff said. lol I adored their closeness.

The Meh:

I usually don't have a 'meh' category, but some of the things I have to harp on aren't necessarily bad. "Meh" fits a little better. lol

First, one of my complaints is the romance/ chemistry between Mina and both her love interests. (Yes, there's a love triangle). Good chemistry really is a hard thing to create, and when an author successfully does so it makes the book that much better. I give Ms Dalton points for trying, but this is one of the main reasons the book only gets two-and-a-half stars - it simply didn't deliver in that department. Not for me, anyway. I get that the book isn't necessarily billed as a romance, but when budding  romances are a pretty good chunk of the book, as the reader, we expect it to deliver. And honestly, it's hard to articulate why it didn't do much for me. Maybe it's because there were more physical reactions (skin tingling/ burning with touches, etc) than actual deep connections. There WAS a small amount with Daniel because he also has a gift and they spend a good amount of time together, BUT a lot of their time was glossed over (renovating the basement together) so we never really got a sense of how close their bond had become. We were only told that it had. Showing can make all the difference. If I were the author, I'd go back through and add some more one-on-one scenes during that timeframe. As a side note, I will say I liked that Daniel was protective of Mina, and when she was wronged, he couldn't rest until it was made right.

Next, dare I say it.... the writing. Believe me, I hate to talk about another author's writing. And please know, I'm not out to bash, because we all have room for improvement, but Ms. Dalton could benefit from going back through and tightening up her prose. There were a few places I felt like her writing got a bit lazy, and as both a reader and writer, it dampens my motivation to keep reading. For instance, my example above about glossing over key relationship-building opportunities; telling and not showing; a few too many typos for my liking; using some of the same descriptions over and over. I want to add, though, that there were times her talent shined through. For example:

"There was something about serving the GEMs at lunchtime which made my skin crawl. Everything else I could cope with: the uniform, the classes, and the way they looked at us. But to stand and serve them the food I had prepared always seemed the lowest of the low. I thought about the way Dad cooks for me and the intimate feeling you get from sharing food. It should be personal, and with love. Not forced."

The Bad:

Some of the seemingly contrived situations... to the point they induced eye rolls. For instance, ***SPOILER ALERT*** When the Enforcers come to take Mina and Daniel. Right before that, her uncle Matthew says they need to pack up and head out of town since it's a possibility they could come after Mina and Daniel for the vandalism, but then he suggests everyone needs to hang out a bit and take a nap to get some rest. Ummmmm.... WHAT? If there's a possibility you'll be captured and killed, why the hell wouldn't you go ahead and leave? Rest be damned. It came across to me that the author needed something to kill time to give the enforcers time to figure out who was responsible for said crime and get to Mina's house. I couldn't help but laugh. ***END SPOILER***

The repeated use of her telekinesis in public, yet she never seemed to worry all that hard that the Ministry/ Enforcers might be tipped off and come after her. And there were SEVERAL uses of it around the school she worked at. Like when she's trying to help another classmate escape. ***SPOLIER ALERT*** Like when after Murder-Troll cut Mina's hair, and the scissors flew out of her hand and the books flew off the shelves. ***END SPOILER*** You can't blame "a gust of wind" on those things. And yet, she never seems to worry much about her little telekinesis outbursts after having moved to Area 14 because of them in the first place because it needs to stay "secret."

 The Ugly:

The ending. ***SPOILER ALERT*** So right as Murder-Troll has a gun pointed at Mina, who comes in to save the day? Elena, the GEM bully turned friend. Not that I have a problem with who saved her, I have a problem with the way it was done - in a surprise attack against Murder-Troll from behind, knocking her out. Then it was, "Oh, it's Elena! You saved me! And you're in high heels? That's so you. How did you get here?" Elena's reasoning - "I heard all the noise and violence from my house, so I decided to traipse over here in my expensive high heels to see what's going on." Holy ridiculous, batman. Because, ya know... that's what every prissy, pampered girl would do - go haphazardly seek out a source of violence and mayem in the dark. In their pumps. Just because. And, surprise! She saved her. *hand slaps against forehead* This is painfully bad. ***END SPOILER***

In conclusion, I have NO idea how this book received so many five-star reviews. MAYBE I can see how it earned some threes. But because this story has such an interesting concept with decent world and character building, it has loads of potential with the right editor and a good amount of re-writing. Until then, I can only say it fell nothing short of blah for me, borderlining on "I can never get my time back." Or maybe it just wasn't my cup of tea.

Favorite Quote: "His eyes were deep pools of suffering and I wanted nothing more than to take it away."

About the Author:

Sarah grew up in the middle of nowhere in the countryside of Derbyshire and as a result has an over-active imagination. She has been an avid reader for most of her life, taking inspiration from the stories she read as a child, and the novels she devoured as an adult.

Sarah mainly writes speculative fiction for a Young Adult audience and has had pieces of short fiction published in the Medulla Literary Review, PANK magazine, Apex Magazine and the British Fantasy Society publication Dark Horizons. Her short story ‘Vampires Wear Chanel’ is featured in the Wyvern Publication Fangtales.

She is the author of the popular YA dystopia series 'Blemished' and the gothic novella 'My Daylight Monsters'. She is currently working on a YA Fantasy series titled 'White Hart'.

Sarah's Website

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