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All Our Pretty Songs - Sarah McCarry

Have you ever had dreams where they were so surreal and weird that they didn't make sense at all? Those kind of dreams where the most random of things meshed together in a gruesome way, making them visually look like Dali's paintings, except only ten times more bizarre? It's this book. A huge sloppy mess that gave this out-of-the-world feeling, like you're frozen in time and surrounded by distorted faces and deformed objects. I wish I could describe it better, but in a nutshell, this was how All Our Pretty Songs felt like to me.

The story could have been pretty decent, you know? Two girls who are co-dependent on each other, both of them being each other's strengths and weaknesses. They've gone through a lot since they were kids, and have only each other to rely on. The nameless narrator describes herself as a bit tomboyish, and describes Aurora as free-spirited and beautiful. Then a musician named Jack appears, the narrator falls in love with him, making her spend less time with Aurora. Aurora meets a skeleton-looking man who promises her things she can't resist. A dark story of a strong yet also fragile relationship. But of course, there were things that got in the way...

1.) The writing

Here's the thing. I hate walls of text. When I turn a page and I see a lengthy paragraph, I internally groan inside. Huge paragraphs make me sad and grumpy, and they demotivate me from reading any further. They feel boring, read boring, and they make me exhausted. Unless that paragraph is explaining something about the world, I don't want any of it. Nada. Zilch. Unfortunately, this book was full of it. Walls of text after walls of text, and the worst part is? A lot of them have purple prose.

You see, the narrator has this tendency to talk about certain things in metaphors and similes, over and over. Jack would play a song, and she would give dozens of sentences comparing it to the sea, to the moon, to the grass, to the barking of dogs, to a deep internal despair that it's like "an animal is living inside you", on and on and on, back and forth, yada yada yada blah blah blah. IT WAS EXCRUCIATING. Like, I get it. He owned that song. His voice was great. Is it really necessary to continue giving it flowery descriptions that mean the same thing anyway? I didn't see the point. I understand that it was meant to make the prose more poetic, that the narrative of stream consciousness was supposed to make it deep and dream-like, but it was highly annoying and over-the-top. I just rolled my eyes and balled my fists to control my growing annoyance.

Here's an example:

A single note, faint and sweet, travels all the way from the stars to fall lightly to earth, and then another, scattering soft as rain. His music is like nothing I have ever heard. It is like the ocean surging, the wind that blows across the open water, the far call of gulls. It catches at my hair, moves across my skin and into my mouth and under my tongue. I can feel it running all through me. It is open space and mountains, the still dark places of the woods where no human beings have walked for hundreds of years, loamy earth and curtains of green moss hanging from the ancient trees. Salmon swimming against the current, dying as they leave their eggs, birthing another generation to follow the river back to the sea. Red-gold blur of a deer bounding through the woods. Snowmelt in spring, bears lumbering awake as the rivers swell, my own body stirring as though all my life has been a long winter slumbered away and I’m only now coming into the day-lit world. As he plays the party stills. Birds flutter out of the trees to land at his feet and he is haloed in dragonflies and even the moonlight gathers around him as though the sky itself were listening. The music fills every place in my body, surges hot and bright in my chest.


AND THAT'S THE INCOMPLETE PART OKAY. AND THERE ARE MORE OF WHERE THAT CAME FROM.

Honestly, I really appreciate McCarry's way of connecting words and making them sound more beautiful than they are. I don't have that gift, and it's a struggle for me to do the same, but there's a limit where it gets too much too quickly. There's this line where it doesn't give the book justice anymore and only muddles them (coughShatterMecough). In the end, it only made me want to gouge my eyes out. Walls of text + purple prose for me is a bad, bad, BAD idea, and it only makes me feel disoriented. I guess you can say that while I was reading this book,I envisioned it as a Dali painting (which are awesome, but they're bizarre...)

2.) The Paranormal Aspect That Popped Out of Nowhere

Even though there was an abundance of lengthy paragraphs and purple prose, I liked where the first half of the book was going. It totally gave me that contemporary feel of growing up and finally becoming your own person separate from your best friend. The fact that they've been together for so long and then having their own identities seemed like a good story that I was willing to forgive the purple prose and walls of text... but around 60-75%, it became one huge clusterfuck and I found myself shaking my head and wondering if I was reading a new book altogether. Suddenly we have talks of people transforming into beastly creatures, of visiting Hell, of meeting Satan, of draining your souls, etc. etc. and I'm like... WHAT THE FLYING FUCK IS GOING ON?! The transition was horrible. And things were jumbled enough already and the PR aspect just had to make it worse!

I have no idea why this is a trilogy and how this will be continued, but one thing is for sure: I am not continuing. Aside from these two complaints, I found the nameless narrator annoying. She insta-loves this musician dude who's way older than her and gets jealous easily. I mean, I'm all for age gaps and stuff like that, age is just a number after all, but their romance wasn't developed enough in my opinion. The narration had too much flowery descriptions and flashbacks, a lot of them unnecessary and irrelevant, that it was just left out and we're simply expected to accept their relationship as the best thing ever.

But I do appreciate how the narrator realizes later on that the world doesn't revolve around her. I do love how the book gives the message that there are things out there that are larger than us, that our loved ones may love something more than you (like art, music, careers). But that's it, I guess.

Overall, I'm not sure if I'd recommend this book. Sure, it's dark and kind of gritty in a certain sense, but I'm not kidding about the walls of text and purple prose. If you don't like that, I recommend steering clear. Otherwise, feel free to try it out. Many others have given it 4-5 stars, and it may be a hit for you, but it was definitely a miss for me.

A copy was provided in exchange for a review. This did not influence my thoughts in any way.