Wednesday, 30 September 2015

'The Girl's Guide To The Apocalypse' by Daphne Lamb

First things first, I need to thank Booktrope for inviting me to participate in this blog tour! I'd also like to thank them for allowing me to access a copy of this book through NetGalley, and to thank NetGalley for the service that they provide. 

*This review will contain spoilers!*

I've never been disappointed in a Booktrope release, so it saddens me to say that I really, really disliked 'The Girl's Guide To The Apocalypse'. I was very excited about this one after participating in the cover reveal way back in July, but I ended up not enjoying it at all. 
I'm afraid I just really didn't like Daphne Lamb's writing style. Writing comedy is difficult, because there's a very thin line between great comedy writing and average regular narrative. At points, this book was humourous (by this I mean I enjoyed one or two of the one-liners) but for the majority of the novel it just fell short. It was attempting to be a parody, twisting aspects of multiple apocalyptic stories into one to create a smorgasbord of end of the world drama, but it just felt ill thought out and badly prepared.
Because there was so much focus on shoving as many events into the novel as humanely possibly, it meant that the characters were hardly described at all and had no personalities. If you ask me what Verdell Sonobe looks like, I can tell you she's wearing a Batman t-shirt and a UCLA sweatshirt (because, apparently, clothing associates you with gang leaders at the end of the world) but I couldn't give you a hair colour or a definitive description... Apart from the fact that everyone seems to be calling her fat. Given the fact that the other characters surrounding her are constantly complaining about their carb intakes, I'm assuming she's just a regular sized girl surrounded by irregular sized women - it just makes Verdell even more nondescript, apart from her unusual name. 
I mean, yes, Verdell had a personality, if only because we're in her head and are constantly receiving her bitterly complaint-filled internal monologue. That's more than I can say for the other characters, who were flat and one-dimensional, but Verdell's personality was so gratingly irritating that I sincerely wished that she would hurry up and succumb to her inevitable end. I know that the point of this book was that the survivor is lazy and unenthused by the whole "survival" thing, but I just assumed it was a selling point - disastrous, regular person survives apocalypse, so you can too! - and she would end up becoming a better character... Really, she didn't change at all throughout. 
The ensemble of various other characters are just as bad, if not worse. Somehow they keep splitting up and getting pushed back together again, which is logistically impossible in a situation like this, but even if I suspend my disbelief in this aspect I still can't believe how idiotic the characters were. This was because the humour wasn't coming across well - some of the idiotic comments were supposed to be hilarious, but they were just eye-rollingly cringey. It might have been okay if I'd actually liked some of the characters, but because there were so many popping in and out it was impossible to feel a connection with any of them. 
Verdell constantly thinking about how to break up with her boyfriend, her boss constantly telling her to do work-related things for him, her self-obsessed supervisor constantly getting her name wrong... These could have been hilarious, if they'd been executed in a good way. Alas, none of it worked. 
This is the first book that I've read in a completely neutral state. I had feelings of boredom and exasperation at times, sure, but that was with the writing rather than with the characters. It's quite badly constructed and it plods along - Verdell will jump from doing one thing to another thing to another thing, and the amount of dialogue included means that there's hardly any description to set a convincing end of the world scene. We get some generic mentions of crumbling cityscapes, but there's nothing specific to evoke emotion and really invest you in the characters. Yes, I read the entire book, but I didn't feel happy or sad or angry or shocked throughout... It seemed like too many things were included just to evoke a shock from the audience (such as the multiple appearances from cannibals, the multiple deaths of named characters and the multiple random gunshots ripping through the various camps where our protagonist stays) but because there was too much trying to get a reaction, it completely desensitised me to any reaction. 
I will concede to this, however - Daphne Lamb is brilliant at social commentary. Having a survivor scouring a dating app looking for fellow survivors might seem ludicrous, but it's one of the easiest ways to find people near you that you could potentially shelter with... It terrifies me to think that during an apocalypse this could genuinely become a thing, but it's scarily accurate. 
I'm not saying you won't like this book, because you might - I think it just takes a more childish sense of humour, or a more easily entertained mind. Someone else might find this the funniest book of all time, it just wasn't to my taste. The idea was great, but I think I'm going to have to look elsewhere for my sardonic apocalypse tales. 

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