by David Levithan
Published: 8th January 2015
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Love and I once had a great relationship, but I fear we’ve broken up. It cheated on me.
When Ben’s girlfriend, Marly, dies, he feels his life is over and the prospect of Valentine’s day without her fills him with bitterness. But then Marly arrives – or at least, her ghost does – along with three other spirits. Now Ben must take a journey throughout Valentines past, present and future – and what he learns will change him forever.
I picked this up when I was in Waterstones a little while ago, because I spotted it and realised this was one of David Levithan’s books that I didn’t have, and it was also in the buy one, get one half price deal. I read the blurb and thought the premise sounded interesting. This book is described as a remix of A Christmas Carol, which some of you know is one of my favourite books. I thought this would be an interesting read for that reason, and because it’s also written by one of my favourite authors.
I got to reading it fairly quickly after I’d purchased it, and I wasn’t immediately struck with love for this book. I honestly thought several times that I would give up reading it, if it wasn’t for the short length of this book I probably would have. I thought I would enjoy the remix of one of my favourites but it actually turned out to be disappointing, and was the main reason I didn’t enjoy this book. As I was already very familiar with the plot of A Christmas Carol, I obviously knew how the plot would fall in this novel. This meant that I needed to be carried through by another element, perhaps the characters.
I knew straight away I wasn’t going to enjoy the book, mainly because I didn’t like the characters. Ben (E-Ben-eezor) has just lost his girlfriend, Marly, and is grieving her loss. He has become very cynical and aggressive, and basically takes out his anger on anyone that approaches him. I understand that this is supposed to represent Scrooge’s bitterness, but there was something about the way the character did this that rubbed me the wrong way. I wasn’t filled with sadness for the character, and his loss, I was just annoyed by him.
At first I liked that it referenced some of the more popular quotes in A Christmas Carol, but this in the end rubbed me the wrong way because I was hearing an older gentlemen, Scrooge’s voice. I didn’t like that the language wasn’t updated for the characters. I have never heard a 16 year old speak in that way, so the characters felt unrealistic, and even harder to engage with.
Also, I didn’t appreciate that it was set over Valentine’s Day, because in the end it just read really soppy and made me roll my eyes. I’m not an anti-Valentine’s Day as such, it’s just that the message and feeling you get after reading A Christmas Carol doesn’t have the same power in this novel. I’m too busy mentally vomiting over the heavily written romance.
One thing that was a pleasant surprise was the illustrations throughout the novel. I quite enjoyed seeing those. Granted there is pros and cons for this, because some people don’t like images of the characters forced upon them, but it didn’t bother me and I thought it was a nice touch.
Overall, I was really disappointed with this novel. I thought that if it was going to be a retelling of A Christmas Carol, it needed to be updated for the times and for the characters, the language didn’t fit and it bugged me. It’s a shame though because I’ve really enjoyed the other books I’ve read from this author, and I’ll continue to read more of his work. Just because I didn’t enjoy this novel, doesn’t mean that you won’t so it could just be a matter of opinion.
Disappointing read. Wouldn’t really recommend.