Friday, 19 February 2016

'Love Me, Love Me Not' by Alyxandra Harvey

*This review will contain spoilers!*

First things first, I need to say a huge thank you to Entangled Publishing for accepting my request to view this title on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide. 
'This was her night. She was only fifteen, but she was giving up the blue cloak of childhood. She'd found her swan cloak. She'd fallen in love.'
In 'Love Me, Love Me Not', there are two rival families: the Renards and the Vila, foxes and swans. Ana, our protagonist, is part of the latter camp, and the novel starts with her and all of her many, many cousins celebrating one of them discovering true love and earning her swan wings.
Let me stop right there, and say this: if you're expecting a reason for the ability to transform into swans or foxes, this is not the book for you. I'd been hoping there would be a reason behind it, but it's just taken as a given - they can transform into animals. That's the best explanation that we get. As you can imagine, this leaves me unimaginably frustrated: it just takes away some of the realism and makes me a bit skeptical about the novel, because if you can't come up with a great backing story for your mythological creatures it's a bit worrying.
Anyway: to get your swan wings and the ability to transform, you need to find your true love. Yep, not just platonic love or familial love, it has to be fully blown, first and true love. It might just be me being pessimistic, but I feel that this is a bit harsh for teenagers, and with all of the desperation surrounding their search for true love I'm guessing that they have a time limit on it happening, too. But I wouldn't know, because of the aforementioned lack of development around the creatures.
Ana is in a panic, because she really wants to get her swan wings and her magical feathered cloak, which can only be acquired when she finds true love. Her best friend, Pierce, is truly madly deeply in love with her, but she writes that off - it's obviously just a side effect of her magic! - so she instead pursues the dark and brooding Edward (have we heard that somewhere before? Oh, wait...). And there, one of the most unconvincing love triangles that I've ever had the misfortune to experience commences.
Ana tries to force herself to love Edward, even though she feels nothing about him and is thinking about Pierce all of the time. But Pierce is her best friend, so of course she'd be fantasizing about kissing him while Edward's tongue is in her mouth: that's just common sense!
Meanwhile, dead swans and fox parts keep appearing everywhere. The Renards think the Vila are attacking their people, and vice versa, so the tension between their two families gets unbearably thick and the blood feud deepens. Swan girls go missing, but so do members of the Renard family, and despite the fact that both families are point blank denying their involvement, neither of them pause for a second to listen to each other.
This is the point where I started rolling my eyes so hard that I thought they might potentially get stuck in my brain. If your family is in danger and there's a feasible explanation as to why there might be third party involvement, you most definitely listen to it. You don't keep blindly attacking without a second thought! It's very over-the-top and completely unrealistic. Also, the size of the family is just distracting: there are either six or seven aunts (I lost count, because they kept getting dropped in and out without any character being added to them) and a heck load of cousins that don't really do a lot (especially Soliloquy, who gets kidnapped and then never mentioned again...) and it's just unnecessary. Don't shove that many characters into a brood-like family unless you can give them all a unique selling point and a reason for existing, because it's just unnecessary.
When you combine that with the cliched relationship and the constant internal debating about feelings and magical responsibilities... This is one of the most stereotypical teen romance books I've ever read. It certainly puts the 'young' into young adult, that's for sure!
I really enjoyed the start of Alyxandra Harvey's Drake Chronicles, which is why I jumped on the chance to request this book on NetGalley. Now I kind of wish I hadn't bothered. I really liked the Drake Chronicles the first time around, because I was a young and naive hopeless romantic, and I thought the idea of true love and soulmates was romantic rather than just a little bit sickening. But this book is definitely too sugary sweet for me.
If you're looking for a quick read with a unique creature, this book will appeal to you! But if you're looking for something with a bit more substance and some stronger characters, I'd probably avoid it. 

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