Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Book Review: The Cilantro in Apple Pie by Kimberley Nadine Knights

Fragnut. Confused? Well so is everyone else at Lumiere Hall Prep when sixteen-year-old Rubie Keane rolls in from Trinidad and Tobago talking her weird lingo. Not that she minds the culture confusion; she's determined to leave the past behind her and be overlooked—but a certain stoic blue blood is equally as determined to foil her plans.

Gil Stromeyer's offbeat personality initially makes Rubie second-guess his sanity, but she suspects his erratic outbursts of violence mask a deeper issue in his troubled, charmed life. Despite his disturbing behavior, a gradual bond forms between the two. However, on the night of the annual Stromeyer gala, events unfold that leave Rubie stripped of her dignity and kick Gil's already fragile world off its axis.

Both their well-kept secrets are uncovered, but Gil's revelation proves that sometimes the best remedy for a bad case of lost identity, is a dash of comradery from an ally packed with flavor.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review.

I'm going to say right off the bat that I really wanted to like this book.  There is so much potential in all of it, but in the end, I felt like it was all hype and no substance, making it a pretty disappointing debut from this new author.

My biggest complain is definitely about the writing.  It's amateur at best, or at least reads like a first draft.  In fact, it reads like the first drafts I read from new writer sin my FictionPress days, all said replacers and unnecessary adverbs.  I kid you not, things like "'I know that look in your eye,' he accused me knowingly." and "'You've changed, too,' I admitted honestly." are pretty much par for the course in this book and it is so, so grating.  The dialog is also full of cliche phrases and in scenes where there's supposed to be a huge emotional impact, Rubie and the others end up just speaking like robots and ruining it.

And then there was the hook, that Rubie is from Trinidad and has her own ‘weird lingo’ as they put it.  Except I feel like the author tried way too hard on this.  All I can think of is reading books set in Maine thinking “Oh cool, I’m from Maine, I should appreciate this” only to find that they tried way too hard with it and are slapping the reader in the face with the culture and dialect.  She even goes so far as to bold words that are part of Rubie’s Trinidad dialect, which just makes it all the more obvious it’s shouting “LOOK AT ME I’M DIFFERENT.”

Another thing that caused me a lot of trouble was the big reveal, where it turns out that Gil had a twin sister who was stillborn a few days before their due date.  While I can see him perhaps being aggressive and violent as he's portrayed, I definitely don't believe that he could be given hypnotherapy and 'remember' that he 'killed' his younger sister.  The author couldn't even be bothered to throw in a quick 'oh they told me when I was three but I was traumatized and repressed it' to make it believable, but she spends an entire section of a chapter having Rubie look up the consequences of having a dead twin like she realized it sounded unbelievable and was pointing like "Look, science!" when everything Rubie looked at was likely talking about identical twins (which Gil and his sister couldn't have been, being opposite sexes).  Fraternal twins are not part of the same egg even if they end up being the same sex, so that entire sequence did nothing to make me believe the "plot twist" more.

And then was that the entire thing was about how boys and girls can have platonic relationships and it doesn't have to be romantic or sexual at all.  It's a good thing to tell people, but I was put-off that there was nothing to do with alternate sexualities, for instance, and that in the end the reason Gil wanted her to be his friend was because he thought she looked like this girl he saw in National Geographic that he 'felt his sister in.' In other words, the only reason he even approached her was he was trying to replace his sister, thus sort of defeating the point of it.

And the final thing I have to point out is that the last part of the book starting at  ~65% has a lot of mentions of religion that put me off.  I felt like a lot of stuff about Rubie was held back for nothing but dramatic effect and it failed, but the religion thing is one of the worst.  She stopped believing (or at least started questioning) in God after her mother had a stroke and her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and when we finally find out, a lot of it is just super gross.  There's even a conversation where it's pretty much said that if you don't believe in God you're wrong and need psychological help.  Not really a message you want to be sending teens who are figuring things out for themselves at that age.  So yeah, fail.

Overall, I'd say it's a two stars just because the plot could've been great.  But too much drama, too much mediocre writing, and too much Evangelizing made it fall flat on its face.  Like I said, I wanted to like this book.  I'm a bit sad it didn't work out.

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