What I was not prepared for was just how exceptionally, jaw-droppingly, amazingly ludicrous and unbelievable this book was. This is not even your usual teen-chick-lit fluff; this actually insults the intelligence of any reader over the age of 10. I've also never seen a piece of writing in which it is so blatantly obvious that the author is writing about nothing more than her own fantasy wish fulfillment. Most poorly written thing ever.
Plot setup in a nutshell: After finishing her English essay (the night before it's due), Jamie writes a journal entry that turns into a story, featuring a beautiful (curvy) main character, Isabella, who becomes "IS" in superhero mode - using a "FLICK" motion to send positivity rays that take down mean, catty, bullying girls and make the less popular girls feel better and believe in themselves, girl power, etc. Then, since she doesn't have a printer, she e-mails her essay to her friend, who prints it out and turns it in for her.
Except she accidentally sent the journal entry, and her friend was apparently too stupid to notice it wasn't the assignment (do they not have headers and/or double space their papers?). Jamie's English teacher raves about the amazing message in the story, and in fact thinks it is SO good that she gets in touch with her literary agent friend, and things just kinda snowball from there. Now, up to this point, it doesn't objectively sound that bad, does it? Well, my friends, just wait and see.
There are a spoilers for the book below, but honestly, unless you're deeply invested in reading this book someday, I hope you'll finish reading the entry so I can confirm that I'm not crazy, and this really is worthy of my scorn.
Said intro ends with Yeah, I was pretty surprised to knock the wizard boy off number 1*. It's me, Jamie Bartlett. The best-selling author of the year.
* = I just want you to remember that quote when I get to the story excerpts.
2. On the next page, I fall out of my seat laughing at the HILARIOUS AND PROBABLY UNINTENTIONAL IRONY as Jamie's best friend reads from a magazine, "Out of 500 teens and tweens polled, 84% included lip gloss as one of the three most crucial items to have if stranded on a deserted island," and then says "Who writes this garbage?"
Seriously, I bawled like a donkey. I might actually have started rolling around on the floor. And I didn't even know how much worse it was going to get.
A) IS found the first Villainess from the Evil Clique of Populors at cheerleading tryouts.
"Nice haircut," The Insultor was saying to a girl who was trying out. "Your mom put a bowl over your head?" She laughed and started to toss off another putdown. "Nice zit--" But IS raised her hand. The Insultor gasped. FLICK!
IS put her down. On the floor. Permanently.
B) Your belt is SO last season," the Fashionistor sneered. "And your jacket? Can you say Discount Store?" But then she gasped. IS had appeared!
The Fashionistor tried to escape, but this season's must-have heels were so high she couldn't run in them. The Fashionistor exploded in a burst of fabric.
C) "Size zero is the only way to be," the Dietor said scornfully. "Why, I'd be a negative number if I could!" The Dietor turned around to drink her diet soda and eat her single lettuce leaf. Then she gasped. IS! IS raised her fist and FLICK! the Dietor wasted away...to nothing.
Yeah. I'm crying tears of blood right now. I just...I...what the hell is that? That's like how you write a story in second grade. "This happened and then this happened and then this happened. The end." And just about every excerpt is like that - literally just recounting a series of events. I do not understand how any high school English teacher in their right mind could see potential in that. In my head, I'm seeing, like...Captain Underpants for girls. (please don't talk to me about how hideously successful those books are)
And the spelling! Oh my God, I can't even begin to get into the deliberate-yet-for-no-apparent-reason misspelling of words that should end in -er or -ar all ending in -or. So while we're empowering girls and giving them a role model, we can simultaneously teach them that spelling doesn't mattor! Woo-hoo!
4. In my essay about lazy authors and the 21st century YA novel, I included a special section bashing the excessive use of not only IM conversations, but IM conversations in which teens are consistently incapable of using capitalization, punctuation, and/or proper spelling. DeVillers embraces this concept with way too much glee. Example:
W: u ran faster than IS today getting 2 that bus!
J: lol! If i were IS i would have just flicked ss away! Flick! cu later! 2 bad i am just me who runs away!
W: We need 2 work on that. EVERY1 is reading yr story. Lindsay sez it made her cry!
J: Oh shut up. What ru doing 2nite?
W: Helping Kameelah. She's having a hard time learning 2 read. [RS: *snickers* UNINTENTIONAL HILARIOUS IRONY STRIKES AGAIN.]
J: g2g. ttyl.
Oh my God, how do people even type like that?? I was just transcribing and it still required extra effort to deliberately insert numbers and shorten words. What is with using "2" every single time? Is it that difficult to remember the proper usage of to/too/two? And up there in line two, she capitalizes "IS" but then can't keep the shift key down to capitalize "I" when it is the very next word???
5. Back to "The Story of IS," allow me to give you a brief recap/summary of what's happening: Jamie turns in her story during homeroom. By classtime (just after lunch), her teacher has not only read it but has decided to read it out loud to the class; at the end of the day she sends it to her literary agent friend. By the end of the week, the agent has shopped it out to "some big publishing companies." And then:
THEY HAVE AN INSTANT BIDDING WAR. That's right, this story - by a 14-year-old - is so amazing that publishing companies are fighting each other to get their hands on it. Author fantasy fulfillment...rising...
6. Now officially signed on, Jamie starts working with an editor to see that her journal entry actually becomes long enough for a full-fledged book. Phew, I was getting slightly upset that a 1-night journal entry could suddenly launch you into fame and fortune (she mentioned, without being a specific, an apparently huge amount of money she was getting for the deal).
Oh wait. Turns out that what actually happens is she takes a week off from school to finish writing it. A WEEK. She not only gets to skip school, they're satisfied with what she could produce in a week. And I am so not even to the best part yet.
7. "Usually, there would be many more revisions on your end," Denise [editor] told me over the phone. She probably realized I didn't know what that meant [HOW STUPID IS THIS CHARACTER?] so she explained, "Which means I would edit your book and ask you to make suggested changes. Most authors would have to do many, many rounds of what you just did. But in your case, I'm trying to leave it pretty much untouched, since it rings so true in your own words."
AHAH. AHAH. OKAY. So now, she gets to skip the entire revision process. She writes a book in the space of two weeks and doesn't even have to edit it. We are so far down the path to fantasyland...
8. So anyway, it usually takes a year or more to get a book out in the bookstores. But to take advantage of the buzz, they were making it a rush book. So it would be out in like a couple of weeks.
*makes funny squeaking noise; head suddenly explodes* I seriously cannot take much more of this.
9. Did I mention the part where she hits number 1 on the New York Times bestseller list? Knocking off Harry Potter? (who is only ever referred to as "wizard boy," which is odd and somewhat annoying. Some pop-culture references need to be made) I mean, she gets bumped down a peg when another new HP book is released, thank God, but still.
10. Amidst the ludicrous backdrop of Jamie's impossible success, DeVillers has Jamie getting involved in the most cliche internet-illiterate-teen situation ever. Jamie's getting fanmail, you see, from all kinds of girls who think she's "kewl" and "sooooooo neat" and such, but also some from a weirdly clingy fan who writes letters about how sad she is that her friends are ignoring her, she didn't make cheerleading, her parents are fighting, and she gained 3 pounds. Her life totally sucks.
Jamie responds positively to the first letter, but after that it gets weirder and more depressed (her crush said "let's just be friends," the only guys interested in her are in chat rooms, and that's only because they don't have to look at her fat self - she gained 4 pounds), so Jamie holds off on answering...and then "Altan8" sends an e-mail about how...oh no, God, you've got to read this one for yourself. I think I got a sore throat from laughing so hard at the truly terrible writing. I thought the letter was going to turn out to be a fake scenario, a cry for attention, because I could not believe I was supposed to take such transparent, cliche crap seriously.
I've been emailing with this guy I met in a chat room, he's really kewl. His parents are divorced and they were always fighting so he knows what I'm going thru. He lives in San Francisco and he wants me to go out there and meet him. He knows I'm only 15 but its ok with him [well, as long as it's ok with HIM!] even tho he's 28 since I'm really mature for my age. I really need someone who cares about me, you know? And he's there for me. So I'm going to do it. I'm going to the bus station in a little bit and by the time my parents even notice I'll be way gone. I won't even have a computer so I just wanted to say bye to you and thanks for listening.
*headdesk* So this is sort of the climax of the book, I think...lacking-in-self-confidence Jamie finally realizes that she has the power of IS within her and helps this poor other girl
11. Oh yeah, and at the end of the book, they want to turn Jamie's book into a movie. *headdesk* (And that's not even the worst part, the worst part is that this book actually did get turned into a Disney Channel movie. At least it's not the big screen, I guess, but still: MOTHER OF GOD, WHY?)
I may need a while to recover.