Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Smokescreen by Nancy Hartry

Smokescreen ended up being a good book. However, there were definitely moments when I thought I wasn't going to get through the entire thing.

Kerry, the main character, didn't make much of an impression at first. She was passive and a little bit whiny, but not obnoxious enough to really bother me. Yvette, her French Canadian co-worker, was a little over the top, but still realistic (after all, what teenager isn't occasionally over the top?). The sprinkling of a couple French phrases through the book gave her a nice touch, though I'm not sure how I would have felt if I didn't speak French, as not all the translations were immediately obvious.

What did bother me was the grating "correct the foreign speaker's English" game Kerry played, especially at the beginning. Yes, it is perfectly reasonable for someone to occasionally struggle in a foreign language, and constant mistakes would be realistic but awful to read. But so many authors reconcile this by having their otherwise perfect speakers mess up a phrase so the native English speaking characters get to giggle and say, "I think you meant to say this." It's usually supposed to be a funny moment, but let's think about that for a minute - what's actually humorous about it? There's a tinge of "oh, look at the funny foreigner who can't speak our language!" and while I understand it is not meant to be mean, it wears on me quickly, especially when it happens as frequently as it does in the first part of this book.

Around page 85, I seriously considered putting the book down and walking away. I wasn't interested in the character or the story, and just wanted to be done. I kept reading largely because I didn't have anything else to do that day. Thankfully, after a few more chapters it started picking up and Part 4 was easily the best part of the entire book. I could have done without the reemergence of Kerry's mother issues, but that was small compared to the rest of the ending. Overall, it is a good story for those patient readers who can wade through the mess at the beginning for the strong end.

Many thanks to Tundra Books for providing me a copy of Smokescreen via NetGalley!

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