Google+ Jen Ryland/YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading ... Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes

Monday, August 18, 2014

Just Finished Reading ... Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes

Anatomy of a Misfit
by Andrea Portes
To be published by Harper Teen
on September 2, 2014

Source: e-ARC from the publisher for review.

Synopsis from Goodreads: Outside, Anika Dragomir is all lip gloss and blond hair—the third most popular girl in school. Inside, she’s a freak: a mix of dark thoughts, diabolical plots, and, if local chatter is to be believed, vampire DNA (after all, her father is Romanian). But she keeps it under wraps to maintain her social position. One step out of line and Becky Vilhauer, first most popular girl in school, will make her life hell. So when former loner Logan McDonough shows up one September hotter, smarter, and more mysterious than ever, Anika knows she can’t get involved. It would be insane to throw away her social safety for a nerd. So what if that nerd is now a black-leather-jacket-wearing dreamboat, and his loner status is clearly the result of his troubled home life? Who cares if the right girl could help him with all that, maybe even save him from it? Who needs him when Jared Kline, the bad boy every girl dreams of, is asking her on dates? Who?
My take:  It's always interesting when I finish a book and then jump on Goodreads and see that some of my Goodreads friends have a very different opinion of the book. I cut and pasted some reviews and came up with this wordle:


Don't be fooled by the sweet Eleanor and Park-style pastel cover -- to me, this is a different kind of book. It has a way snarkier voice. Yes, it features some slut-shaming and homophobic remarks made by some of the characters -- more on that later. Yes, some of the characters are based in stereotype. And it features a YA trope that I'm getting pretty tired of:


Mean girls. 

But I still liked Anatomy of a Misfit. (And I'm now convinced that there is someone working in acquisitions at HarperTeen who has a huge weakness for snarky vampire stories, with bonus points for retro settings: Exhibit A.  Exhibit B.  Exhibit C. (And this book would be Exhibit D.))

But ... back to the book. Maybe you're put off by some of the words in the wordle. Here are the points I would like to make about this book:

Yes, Anika has a strong, snarky voice.  Strong voices tend to provoke strong reader opinions, and Anika's voice may be to your liking ... or not.  She's a bit of an acquired taste, but I rather liked her. As a character, Anika had a sly, subversive quality that, while it made her a somewhat atypical YA heroine, also made her an unpredictable one. Yes, she is one of the mean girls, but she also takes every opportunity to thwart them.

Like Eleanor and Park, this book is historical fiction. It took me a while to figure this out. But eventually I realized that the book had no references to cell phones or social media. That all the pop culture references were from the 70s and 80s. And that the girls spent time after school watching MTV. Ergo, I think this book is set in the mid-80s to mid-90s, which does help to explain some remarks by characters that reviewers (rightfully) called out as slut-shaming or homophobic.  I'm a kid of the 80s, and if memory serves, many people at the time of this story had never heard the term "slut-shaming" and felt free to call things or people "gay" or "queer" as an insult. I'm so glad that we're now aware of and trying to combat these types of derogatory comments, but I'd also argue that, for the purposes of this book, this kind of talk was also historically accurate.

Now ... to the mean girls trope. Yes, it's getting to be a pretty tired one, especially in YA, but the book does both expected and unexpected things with it. On the positive side, like the recently published Tease, this book looks at popular girls from the point of view of one. Anika is one of the underlings to the school's Queen Bee, and doesn't feel her position is secure. All it would take is one tiny mistake -- like falling in love with the wrong boy -- to topple her off her position on the social ladder. (Actually, as the synopsis above reveals, she becomes involved with two wrong boys. Which does feel a bit triangle-y, butalso sort of works in the story.) 

The one thing about the book that I felt hit a wrong note was the ending. No, not the (highlight for spoiler) tragedy at the end, which I began to expect in some form , (end spoiler) but the scene (highlight for spoiler) at the funeral, where Anika confronts Becky in front of half the town. (end spoiler) Not only did this feel completely unrealistic to me, I'd just seen a very similar scene in a movie. In this movie, that scene worked. In this book, it just didn't ring true and, for me, took away from the impact of the ending. 

I think Anatomy of a Misfit will be one of those books that inspires strong reactions -- both positive and negative -- among YA readers. While it's not the kind of book I can say I absolutely loved,  I did enjoy the time I spent reading it.

Have you read this, or do you have any thoughts? I'm on vacation this week, but I promise to get caught up on comments as soon as I'm back :)

25 comments:

  1. This one sounds like a hit or a miss. The cover is why I wanted to pick it up and I'm still picking it up to see how it turns out. Love the review Jen!

    Happy Reading
    Patrick @ The Bookshelves

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    1. Since you're an actual high schooler, I really look forward to your thoughts on this!

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  2. Uughhh, mean girls. Not sure if I will like this one. People who are mean suck.

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  3. This sounds like a book that I will definitely have to read.
    I agree with you about the mean girls trope being extremely prevalent in YA fiction. It makes books hard for me to read because I was subjected to a lot of bullying by them. However, it's a topic that can't be ignored because it does happen in high school.
    Awesome review!

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear that. but you still might enjoy this, as Anika is aware of the bullying and does try to make some of it right...

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  4. Good points while very convincing, didn't really make me want to read this book any more than when I first saw your review. This is a case of me being a stalwart reader against Mean Girls mentality and other things that you've mentioned in your "wordle" (love that, btw).

    Great review, Jen! :)

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    1. Thanks. Sorry this one isn't for you but thanks for hearing me out :)

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  5. I'm really curious to see where I fall with this book. On one hand I'm overlay critical - yet I've been pretty accepting of a lot lately and enjoying books that people hate.

    Excellent review Jen.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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  6. Sounds interesting and kind of controversial, might give it a try! Excellent review

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    1. Definitely try it! After a few chapters you'll know if it's for you...

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  7. Huh. I feel like I would absolutely hate this book O_O Meh to the "mean girls" trope. Not a fan of such "recent" historical fiction. And in general, not a contemporary fan. I'm glad you still enjoyed this one, Jen! I admit, I do like the cover - though I have not read E&P :o

    Excellent review, Jen!!

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

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    1. Fair enough! I love "recent" historical fiction :)

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  8. I am so confused, I thought this was a fun contemp but your review just confused me...
    On a side note, I think it's annoying how a book gets slammed by reviewers if it has 'slut-shaming' especially if it's supposed to be a point in the story. Tease has slut-shaming, but that was the point! It was being told from a bully.
    Anyway, I'm thinking I'll be skipping this one...I'm not a fan of historical fiction.

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    1. I agree about the slut-shaming. I see readers saying that they're not going to read a book because of that. But yes, sometimes that's the point of the book, or it's to make a point about a character, etc., not because the author agrees with what the character is saying or doing.

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  9. I feel like this book is just going to follow a lot of sterotypes. Plus, the fact that the girl's name is Anike Dragomir and she's a vampire just reminds me of Vampire Academy.

    Ifrah @ Brain On Pause

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    1. It does. And LOL I thought the same thing about her name!

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  10. I'm going to read this one and I'm slightly nervous. Mostly because I couldn't figure out if it's joking about the vampires or not?? It DOES have vampires right?! The cover just seems so so contemporary. *shrugs* Either way, I'ma bit tired of the mean girl troupe too, but hey. If it's realistic, then why not, I guess? Good to know it's in the 80s-90s! I hate it when I can't figure it out. I actually had a lot of trouble placing when Love Letters To The Dead was set. Because it seemed so modern but she wore overalls to high school and...eh, sorry, I digress. CONFUSING SETTINGS. ;) Loved the review, Jen!

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    1. I look forward to seeing what you think. The vampire thing isn't a huge part of the story, and I think it's mostly satirical...

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  11. I have to say, the vampire bit definitely got my attention. I had no idea this book kind of involved them (??) and I am guessing it is primarily a contemporary so it might not actually involve them in the way I am thinking but... that definitely makes things interesting.

    I am glad though that you enjoyed this one and I can see how the setting may require some of the homophobic and slut shaming remarks made to add a sense of authenticity. I am just not sure how I'd react to it to be honest considering the world we live in today is so sensitive in comparison.

    Lovely review, Jen!!! :)

    Rashika @ The Social Potato

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    1. vampires are not a big part of the story -- I think it's partly satirical and partly a way of showing that because of her father's backgroung, Anika doesn't really fit into the popular girls trio -- that any small mistake could get her kicked out.

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  12. Well, this is kind of different from what I expected it would be. I think I would like some parts of this book, but then again, I think I wouldn't like some. Now, I'm undecided if I should read it or not, haha!

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    1. It's definitely not a sweet-but-quirky contemporary, as the cover might suggest...

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  13. I'm not fan of historical fiction, but I love stroing voices, even if they're mean.
    I really like the summary, so, I think I'll give it a try.
    Thanks for the review, Jen!
    Lis @ The reader lines

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