PUBLISHER: Chicken House
RELEASE DATE: 4th Feb 2013
FORMAT: Paperback, 328 pages
GENRE: Young Adult, Paranormal
Camille wants to find the perfect boy, with an athlete’s body and a poet’s brain. But when she’s mocked at a college party, she kows there isn’t a boy alive who’ll ever measure up. Enter Zoe, her brilliant but strange best friend, who takes biology homework to a whole new level. She can create Camille’s dream boy, Frankenstein-stylee. But can she make him love her? (Goodreads)
Dead Romantic by C. J. Skuse has the potential to be a great book, with a concept that could be really exciting and mysterious if written in the right way.
The book opens with main character, Camille Mabb, on the way back from her Freshers’ party at college, throwing us immediately into her self-absorbed first-person perspective. She is walking back through the graveyard covered in excrement, the remnants of an initiation ceremony which she was stupid enough to eat and drink something nasty before bathing in more nastiness.
It is here that she comes across Zoe Lutwyche, the goth outsider at school whom Camille never knew existed. Initially thinking it strange to come across someone in a graveyard, she realises that Zoe is digging, potentially grave robbing. Having always had a fascination for dead things, Camille helps Zoe with her task, going on to seek her out the next day at school.
It turns out that Zoe’s father was a scientist who was declared insane after the police discovered he was stealing body parts. She is shunned by the other students and is determined to prove her father wasn’t mad, as he invented a serum capable of healing and reanimating dead flesh with the help of a little electricity. She lets Camille in on her plan to reanimate a dead human, having first experimented on smaller creatures.
Camille is initially wary of this plan, but when Zoe suggests that the reanimated human could be perfect boyfriend material she is quick to jump on board with the plan. She feels excluded from her friends now that they all have boyfriends, with her crush Damien going out with her friend Lynsey, and she desperately wants to fit in and find love. Since the humiliating Freshers’ party she feels like the laughing stock, and wants to make everyone jealous with her perfect boyfriend, even if it means seeking out dead body parts.
Summarising the plot of this book was difficult, as there is an awful lot of build up before it really gets going and I felt that the summary is somewhat misleading. This book focuses on the initial creation of the Frankenstein-style human, dragging out the construction process rather than focusing on the aftermath. I was disheartened to see that the conclusion is left open for a sequel, as by the end I was hoping it would be a standalone.
My main dislike for this book stemmed from the main character. Camille is an irritating, self-obsessed teenager, who I think treads a thin line between likable and detestable. Unfortunately I fell on the side of detest, as all she seems to care about is finding herself a boyfriend and agonising over the loss of her crush. Her first-person narration was gushy at best, with her character seeming exceedingly dumb and naïve, prompting the extreme desire to give her a good slap every few pages.
Although I admired Camille’s wish to become a friend to Zoe, I disliked how accepting she was of the most extreme situations. I expect a degree of the unrealistic in my fantasy novels, but this took acceptance to a whole new level, especially when some of the other characters discovered their plan and accepted it immediately, as if reanimating corpses is normal behaviour. However, my main source of dislike came from her language, as she uses irritating non-existent phrases such as ‘awsies’, ‘enormalous’ and ‘totes’. Personally this kind of speak made me want to close the book and never re-open it, but I persevered to see if the plot would pick up.
As for the other characters, I think Zoe was the only one I really liked. As some of her back story is revealed we can understand why she is so desperate to carry on her father’s legacy, adding at least a small degree of understanding. I can sum up the entirety of Damien’s character just by repeating that his goal is to ‘do’ every girl in their college year, being every inch the spoilt wannabe playboy. It is Damien’s friend Louis that ends up stealing the spotlight, despite the object of his affections being clear from the outset.
Overall I had a lot of problems with this novel, but this might be because I no longer fit into the target market of young teen and am perhaps reading it with too much of an adult mindset. I’m thinking this in regards to the instantaneous love in the novel, as whenever a character enters a relationship they claim to be immediately in love with each other and it just seems over-exaggerated. There was a lack of balance between real and unreal, with there being too much focus on the supernatural events and not enough attention to character detail.
I wasn’t impressed with this book, particularly as I couldn’t stand the main character and think it’s targeted at a younger teenage audience. Despite the potential for a good plot, the book is filled with unbelievable occurrences and so many examples of instantaneous love that I was starting to question every little detail by the end.
BUY YOUR COPY