January 24, 2013

Elizabeth Eulberg: "Take a Bow" (or The Of-Course Review)

Title: Take a Bow [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary
Year: 2012
Age: 12+
Stars: 2/5
Pros: Clean book (if you have an issue with swear words). A relaxing, nice read.
Cons: Lack of real depth. Predictable, single-faceted characters. Conflicts are settled too easily.
Will appeal to: Those who need to float in a dream world for a while.

Blurb: Emme has long lived in her best friend Sophie's shadow. She writes songs, and Sophie sings them. Sophie will stop at nothing to be a star. Even if it means using her best friend and picking up a trophy boyfriend, Carter. Carter is a victim of a particular Hollywood curse: he's a former child star. Now all he wants is a normal life. Ethan has his own issues - a darkness in his head that he just can't shake. Emme's the only girl he's ever really respected...but he's not sure what to do about that. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: It's difficult for me to hate this book. Even if I've been cheated into believing it could be the next "Fame" and it's not. Because "Fame" (I'm talking about the 1982 series...not the 1980 movie or, heaven forbid, the 2009 remake) may have been cheesy (hey, those were the '80s after all), but it used to have real blood and sweat... layered characters...and even managed to teach some life lessons. Well, the first three seasons at least - the last three, not so much. Anyway, the point is - this novel reads like an eviscerated version of "Fame". The story is too simple, fluffy and juvenile for my tastes. The characters  - minus one of them, of course - are too sanitized. And the one who isn't seems deprived of any redeeming quality, which is kind of sanitized in reverse. (To be honest, Ethan is not sanitized at all on the whole...but still too darn perfect in his commitment to Emme. He speaks like a book - well, most of the time, every single one of them does - and has little hearts fluttering out of his puppy eyes). Then again, I can't seem to hate this book with a passion. Hence the 2 stars.
The story revolves around four main characters. Emme is sweet and shy. Sophie is ambitious and manipulative. Carter is sensible and introspective. Ethan is self-destructive and insecure. And they all have the same voice - with the possible exception of Sophie...but even in that case, not so much.  Because especially the first four chapters (every chapter is told in a different character's POV) sound exactly the same, with regards to the structure and sentence construction.
We follow Emme, Sophie, Carter and Ethan from their enrolment in CPA (a New York school of the arts...again, Fame anyone? and BTW, I'm not sure if you can have visual arts and performing arts in the same school, like in this case) to their last year there, and their graduation. Or better, we jump from their enrolment straight to their last year, and then we follow them to their graduation, with only some small flashbacks of what happened in the middle. This makes for a short book, at least comparing Eulberg's take on the story with what it could have been. Because really, so much more could have been said. [...]

Emme has been friends with Sophie for nine years and - of course - still hasn't figured her out. Or maybe she was too scared to do that, because, in a way, Sophie has also been Emme's security blanket, singing her songs for her. Emme seems equally oblivious of Ethan's feelings for her - of course - but then again, it's probably a case of self-preservation, because she's afraid of committing, especially in the wake of Ethan's way with his former girlfriend. On the other hand, Ethan - of course - has been in love with Emme since Day One, but - of course - he has never summoned up the courage to tell her how he feels...so that a good deal of what he has done has been out of frustration, it seems. Can you imagine four years of that? The two are in a band together, along with two other students, Jack and Ben. The four of them met on the very first day of school and - of course - they instantly clicked and formed a band. Like that, at the cafeteria's table. More than that: the three boys adore Emme and are like her cavaliers and bodyguards and all the good things in one. Ben is gay, so - of course - he gets to help Emme pick out an outfit for a date; and - of course - when Jack unnecessarily addresses the band with a "Well, ladies...and Ethan", he doesn't even seem to wince. Gay boys are clearly supposed to be great outfit-counselors for their female friends...and as for Jack, he is such a clown, after all. Coincidentally, Jack is the only band member going steady, while Ben is apparently single, since no love interest is ever mentioned. I do think that Ben having a relationship would have made a statement, but - of course - this doesn't happen. Eulberg seems happy with putting a gay character in her book just for the sake of it. Like, let's have a gay specimen in my book, it's so politically correct. I hope it's not the case, but sure it's like it sounds to me.
Sophie is the villain, because, like I said, she has no redeeming quality whatsoever. She has always used everyone, Carter included, because - of course - she's going to be a star and she devised a plan in order to get there. Carter - of course - has never noticed how manipulative she is until lately. Again, can you imagine four years of that? Anyway, Carter is a former child star who - of course - can't have any more of that and is searching for his true place in life. After three years and a half, he realizes he's not an actor, but a painter at heart, and decides to start anew after opening his aforementioned heart to Emme. I don't really get how Emme's words alone can give Carter the strenght for changing the course of his life, also because she doesn't seem to offer him any profound piece of wisdom, but still.
The main theme in this novel is - of course - finding one's true self, and it doesn't hurt that real talent is recognized in the process, while false friendship and claim to fame are chastized. Also, true love conquers all...Well, you get the picture. Of course.
Having stated all this, like I said, I couldn't bring myself to hate this book. Predictable and too-easy-on-the-eyes as it is. Blame it on the fact that a part of me can't help feeling avenged when a book - or a song - rights the wrongs real life perpetrates on us. Of course...

For quotes from this book click here.
For more Contemporary books click here.
Liked this book? You might also be interested in Greg Taylor: "The Girl Who Became a Beatle".

The cute paperback cover
(yes, the title is written using a jack plug!)

2 comments:

  1. lol, i hated this book too

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, I wouldn't say I hated it...but still...it was extremely lacking in my eyes.
      Thanks for commenting!

      Delete

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