Witches on Parole by Debora Geary
I really wanted to like this book. I was intrigued by the cover. It seems the little witch-looking dot on the i is actually a candle when I look at the big view! You can read more of my thoughts about the cover here.
It took me 3 evenings to work my way through this book. The first two nights, I read about a quarter of the book in each sitting. Last night, I finished it off. There was one state of mind that I found myself in while reading:
I was waiting for the story to really begin.
This book breaks the rules. In a way, she has some very interesting characters. Or, let me clarify — she has some interesting characters if she let them have true darkness to them.
This is a story of redemption and of personal growth. The problem? The two girls in need of redemption?
They're about as threatening as a pair of fluffy bunny slippers. Sure, they can strike fear into the hearts of people who don't like warm, soft things hugging their feet, but as a general rule, they're harmless. They're soft, they're warm, they're fuzzy.
These characters started out repressed, but they were good people from the start.
This is a story of people helping people. Except, however, the people needing help weren't very bad off to begin with. Their inner demons were pink fuzzy bunny slippers instead of truly ravaging beasts that were a threat to everyone around them.
The characters seemed to think these two women were problematic, but they just aren't. They weren't. It was like watching a gang of girls in high school decided that these two women would be in their clique whether they liked it or not. Their weapons of choice were the same weapons a bunch of girls in high school would use to persuade another girl to join them. The problem? These are full-grown women and men.
Through the book, I was waiting for everyone to start growing up a bit. I was waiting for a bad witch to show up, or the characters to turn bad — I was waiting for someone to do something more than gossip and turn people into the mold they wanted.
This is a story about happy people forcing others to fit their image of happy.
Maybe I'm jaded, but I need a story that challenges me. I need a story that forces me to cheer for characters. I need a story that challenges the characters to become things other than what they are because they truly need to change or they truly want to become something other than they are. This story lacked these characteristics for me.
I could have forgiven the lack of an actual antagonist, if the inner demons of these women had been demonic, rather than harmless, fluffy bunnies. I could have forgiven the lack of true conflict, if the conflict of their existence and their desire to be better people had a stronger foundation to stand on.
This story is a story of ideals — of near-to-perfect people. Of people who start off already on a high plateau, and find ways to fly, without ever diving deep into the canyons and getting their hands truly dirty.
These characters didn't shine brightly for me, because there was no darkness around them. They were lights in a lit room; the shining they did was dulled by the lack of shadows.
Redemption stories, in my opinion, only work when there is someone in true need of redemption. Stories of saving others from themselves only works if there is true risk to what will happen to them if they aren't saved.
This story fell short for me on all of those things.
It wasn't a bad story; Debora Geary has a decent sense of humor. There were a few moments she drew a snort out of me. But, this was a book of silly moments, of high school gossip, and of characters wanting to be even better people than they already were.
Compared to the meanest character in the book, I'm the devil, and she's an angel that got a little dirt smudged on her perfect, albeit tattooed wings.
This book would have worked for me if these characters were deeper, had more substance, and didn't remind me of a free-for-all at a high school home ec room where the subject is baking cookies. It's as sickeningly sweet as that, except the men are as likely to join in as the women, until I expect them all to break out into song and dance.
Which, for the record, they do.
I wanted to like this book because I liked the cover, but all this book had was characters, and the characters just weren't deep enough. They weren't edgy enough. They felt shallow and fake to me, because none of them had true secrets to haunt them, none of them had any worries about anything except fitting the patterns people want for them. These people didn't have the depth I needed to believe they were more than, well, young women who had a chance to relive their high school days.
I wanted to like this book, but I can't say I did. It just didn't have the punch, the swerve, and the drive I need to get taken away to somewhere else. All it did for me was take me right back to high school and remind me of just how people will try to force people to fit an image.
This book would have worked for me if the two women the book focused on hadn't been good people from the start. But, they were, and I came away keenly aware that there just aren't communities like that in the real world.
And if there were, I'm not sure I'd want to belong to them. Without darkness, we can't learn, we can't grow, and we can't shine nearly so bright.
Aside from my personal feelings on the characters, there are a few other things I want to discuss about this book. It wasn't a bad book — some people will enjoy it, especially those who don't want to have to worry about things like huge challenges. There are days where I want fluffy and sweet. (This was just far too fluffy and sweet for me, no matter what day of the week.) The book's language is extremely simple — it could easily go into the hands of someone in middle grade with absolutely no problems. I'd hazard a guess a 4th or 5th grader would enjoy it. I might even try a 3rd grader on it.
There are big words, but that's because the one character just likes big words. It was an interesting trait. A little overplayed until it felt like the author was showing off her impressive use of language and the ability to make her way through a thesaurus, but some of the moments with words did appeal.
There were a few mistakes throughout, but nothing severe — the book was edited, and it shows. No more mistakes than I'd find in the average traditionally-published book, which is a great thing.
Perhaps the book was written a bit too simplistically, but it wasn't bad in terms of language, wording, and style — just not as advanced as I'd personally like. It did make for an easy read, though.
I would recommend this book to those who don't want to be truly challenged, who just want a light, mindless read, and want something fluffy. This is a feel-good story.
Not my sort of book.