Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review: Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston

Review: Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston
Release date: September 17th, 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Series: #1 in the Heart of Dread series
Source: ARC from BEA


From New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston comes this remarkable first book in a spellbinding new series about the dawn of a new kind of magic.

Welcome to New Vegas, a city once covered in bling, now blanketed in ice. Like much of the destroyed planet, the place knows only one temperature—freezing. But some things never change. The diamond in the ice desert is still a 24-hour hedonistic playground and nothing keeps the crowds away from the casino floors, never mind the rumors about sinister sorcery in its shadows.

At the heart of this city is Natasha Kestal, a young blackjack dealer looking for a way out. Like many, she's heard of a mythical land simply called “the Blue.” They say it’s a paradise, where the sun still shines and the waters are turquoise. More importantly, it’s a place where Nat won’t be persecuted, even if her darkest secret comes to light.

But passage to the Blue is treacherous, if not impossible, and her only shot is to bet on a ragtag crew of mercenaries led by a cocky runner named Ryan Wesson to take her there. Danger and deceit await on every corner, even as Nat and Wes find themselves inexorably drawn to each other. But can true love survive the lies? Fiery hearts collide in this fantastic tale of the evil men do and the awesome power within us all.

There's no beating around the bush. Frozen is a bad book. It's a bottom-of-the-slush-pile, never-gonna-happen, mish-mash-mess of a book you'd expect from someone who just woke up one day and decided to be a novelist. It is stupefying and fascinating in its awfulness. It contains poor grammar, poor plodding plotting, flat characters, and world-building that's entirely without focus. Is it a fantasy? Is it dystopian? Who knows? And, more important, who cares?

Why did I finish this book? Your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps it reached such a high level of hilarribad that I was physically incapable of looking away from it. Maybe I wanted the book to deliver on its promise so much, even though I knew it wouldn't, that I had to give it a chance.

Vague plot overview that can't be more specific because I didn't understand anything but this:

Nat is a "Marked", which means she has freaky eyes and hears a voice in her head and has weird powers. One day, she escapes from... prison? A hospital? A secret evil governmental place?... and goes to New Vegas to become a dealer. The world is frozen and post-apocalyptic-y, which means everybody is poor and the government is totalitarian like every other book I've ever read. The voice in Nat's head  tells her she must go find "the Blue", which apparently is the one place on Earth that's not all frozen over, because that is exactly how meteorology works. To do this, she hires Wes, the leader of the least exciting crew of teenage mercenaries in literature, to ferry her across the frozen nuclear wasteland to the frozen nuclear sea. Then there's a polar bear. For some reason.

Why was this book the worst thing to happen to me since that time I stepped on a Lego? Several reasons, the key ones being:

1. Grammar

Or, more accurately, a complete and total lack of it. This book makes the English language cry and my inner copy editor rage. When reading an ARC, you're guaranteed to run into the odd typo or grammatical error. I've come to expect this in ARCs every now and then, and I can tell what's accidental. But the writing in this book is not accidental. When almost every sentence is a run-on mess, or has errant commas and semi colons just hanging around wherever they please, or switches POV for a couple of words, it's not an accident. It's style. It's TACKY STYLE.

All quotes are taken from an uncorrected advance proof. I understand this, but STILL.

"Wes carried one because he had to, but he'd never killed anyone with it, he'd threatened many, of course, he'd waved it around, and shot drones and trucks and who knew what else, but his hands were clean, and so were his boys'."


"He smiled and she smiled back, and for a moment they were just an ordinary boy and girl in a car, neither runner and client, or mercenary and thief, and Nat saw a glimpse of how normal things could be."

Gillian's edit: He smiled, and she smiled back. For a moment, they were just an ordinary boy and girl in a car, neither runner and client NOR mercenary and thief, and Nat saw a glimpse of how normal things could be.

"Neither" is followed by "nor". "Either" is followed by "or". Periods go at the end of complete sentences. I... I can't.

"They will find their own way, the voice murmured, but Nat felt her stomach twist, here she was, in the safety of the truck, while outside, her friends--her friends were dying. People like her, hunted and killed. "

Gillian's edit: They will find their own way, the voice murmured, but Nat felt her stomach twist. Here she was in the safety of the truck while outside, her friends were dying. People like her were being hunted and killed.

(I'm such a bitch for doing this, but I CANNOT HELP MYSELF.)

"Wes was visibly trembling, and, more than once, he would ask Nat if it was day or night, his eyes were bothering him."

Gillian's edit: Wes was visibly trembling, and, more than once, he asked Nat if was day or night. His eyes were bothering him.

"Shakes--just plow through the fence--look there's a hole over there--we'll just rip through," Wes ordered.

Gillian's edit: "Shakes, just plow through the fence. Look, there's a hole over there! We'll just rip through!" Wes ordered.

Now, doesn't that look better? Still not great, but better?

"She realized he wasn't trying to wriggle out of the job; he was simply being decent; and she felt another rush of affection for this impulsive, good-looking boy."



 "She joined him in laughter, but they both froze, as the sound of the wailer broke over the waves again--that awful, horrible scream--the sound of broken grief--a keening--echoing over the water--filling the air with its mournful cries..." [SIC SIC EVERYTHING SIC IT MAKES ME SICK]

What--do you-- think you are-- doing--exactly--here...

2. World-building

Everything but the kitchen sink. Absolutely no logic whatsoever. Crammed, crowded, and defying logic. Fragments that emulate the tacky writing style. Nothing but fragments and run-ons. Apparently there was a big Flood but also a Freeze and the government took over for some reason but there are battles being fought in places and population control for some reason but there are also magical Marked people with dragon tattoos and voices in their heads and light eyes and nobody has money or warmth but everybody has full tanks of gas and boats and Hummers and nobody can read but some people speak in texts and none of it makes a DAMN LICK OF SENSE.

No, seriously, this book includes: a frozen, post-apocalyptic wasteland; "Marked", magical people; sylphs or something (?); smallmen (?!?!); psychic dragons; polar bears; and even some things called thrillers, which are, hilariously, wonderfully, zombies.

Literacy and English are a thing of the past. All information is conveyed in either images and sounds or an "amalgam of symbols" called TEXTLISH. YES. TEXTLISH. That sound you just heard was the booming of a mushroom cloud where my brain used to be. A very popular "Reading-Based Entertainment" is called XCLNT <3 LULZ. Oh, but Korean still exists, because they go to K-Town and all the signs are in Korean and "textlish".

The true tragedy of this is how many good ideas are squandered. A bleak and frozen future? A toxic sea dotted with "trash-bergs", aka huge heaps of garbage comprised of the remnants of the past? These are all elements that could be amazing! Things really pick up once they make it to sea, both plot-wise and world-building-wise. There's actually a nice-ish twist regarding a messed-up protection spell that's almost immediately ruined. The few glimmers of promise are drowned in an icy and interminable flood of stupid.

"But there were very few scientists these days, and the only books that remained were the physical ones that dated until the early twenty-first century."

WHY? Why are there no scientists or books?! I am a thousand percent positive the frozen apocalyptic future would have both. ESPECIALLY SCIENTISTS. THERE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN SCIENTISTS. THERE WILL ALWAYS BE SCIENTISTS. You are using futuristic technology, dolts. Therefore, there are scientists. And early twenty-first century, how clever. In the frozen future, all the little kidlets will be sitting around reading... Frozen! It will be the only book left! NO WONDER NOBODY CAN READ.

It was after curfew, when the only vehicles allowed in the streets were the Willie Winkie patrols...


There is a lack of water, and most people can't afford to drink it, and get by on a crap substitute called Nutri. HEY. PSST. GUYS. YOU LIVE IN A FUCKING FROZEN TUNDRA. YOU ARE SURROUNDED BY FUCKING SNOW AND ICE. DO YOU KNOW WHAT SNOW AND ICE ARE? THEY. ARE. WATER. JUST. MELT. IT. YOU..

"It's Bacon Fruit. Tastes like fruit, looks like bacon.

Giselle warned me about this, but no amount of warning could have prepared me for this. I laughed so hard I choked on my own tongue. Bacon Fruit. There is a thing called Bacon Fruit. They use it a jacket insulation. To keep warm. But it's edible. Why the everloving fuck would you need or want such a thing? Why on earth wasn't it mentioned BEFORE it was used to miraculously save the day? Why didn't the editor ALSO choke on her own tongue and immediately strike this from the manuscript?

But logic is not at all present in Frozen. Somehow, on their journey from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, the characters pass through Phoenix. *checks handy US map* Um. No. There's also the part where Wes implies to Nat that he can't read and then... reads the title of her book over her shoulder. And then there's the part where the engine on the boat stops working, and then later the book references someone "turn(ing) the wheel and power(ing) the engines." Also, WHY did the frozen apocalypse happen? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

3. Characters:

Everybody in this book is bland and floats around doing whatever stupid thing they're supposed to be doing at the moment, whether it be racing cars, jumping out of buildings, or standing perfectly stock still while a polar bear charges at their face. Mind you, that exhilarating car race TO THE DEATH lasts... three paragraphs. Thank you, Wes. That was thrilling. You sure showed me what an adrenaline junkie you are! Wes and Nat have the strangest flirtation going on through most of the book, and it's totally forced and awkward. INSERT ROMANTICAL FEELINGS HERE! BANTER, PUPPETS!

"We're not sticking around after that. Got it?"
"Who says I want you to stick around," [sic] she said tartly. [WHEN YOU ASK A QUESTION, USE A DAMN QUESTION MARK.] [Tartly. Honestly.]
His dark eyes sparkled. [Just say 'darkled' and be done with it.] "Careful, you might change your mind about that once you get to know me."
"Doubt it," she said, even as her cheeks flushed a little.

Also, this is the second time they've ever spoken. Why are they flirting? Why do they like each other? Wait, all of a sudden they're in the most tepid "true love" ever? Who are these people? Oh, God, is that a dragon? WHERE THE SHIT DID A DRAGON COME FROM? WHY?

4. "Plot"

Yep, this book suddenly becomes a high fantasy adventure right at the very end. Just when I thought, "Hey, wait a second, that was maybe not so terrible", BOOM! The book erupts with lunacy. In the last 20 pages we FINALLY learn what Nat's powers are and what the hell anything is. It's all so very deus ex machina, too. I couldn't understand the world-building or anybody's motivations or the "love" story. The adventure part should totally be entertaining, but its not. Nat is using a jewel necklace as a map to the Blue. How? How do you find a location using a necklace? HECK IF I KNOW. The navigating part is mostly just:


It's the same deal with the voice in Nat's head. Nat goes on this whole quest just because the voice tells her to. And then she special-snowflakes all over the place and yaaaawn. So much narrative cheating at the end, so much "twu wuv saves the day and brings people back to life" and vommmmm.

This book is a train-wreck. No, it's a plane crash-landing on a boat that takes out a bridge that explodes a train that wrecks thirty cars. DON'T READ THIS BOOK. That's all I have to say. DON'T, DON'T, DON'T.





    "Frozen is a bad book." <-- I've come out and said this once. Makes me feel so bad, but some books are just bad. Hilarribad is an amazing word.

    Her mistake: You hire Sturmhond for this. Obviously.

    Oh hey, gif. Fancy meeting you again! Also, yeah, I generally do not mention grammar in ARCs but I totally would for that shit-storm of a mess. I mean, they're usually not THAT bad, and if it's not undergone ANY editing, then I feel like there should be a message on the ARC WARNING YOU OF THAT SHIT. Also, if the authors are THAT bad at grammar, just no. Like, editing is important, and even geniuses at grammar have typos or miss things, but that sounded like way too consistently grammar fail. The editor shouldn't have to fix every sentence. Or maybe my standards for authorship are too high.


    "(I'm such a bitch for doing this, but I CANNOT HELP MYSELF.)" <-- I love that you cannot help yourself.

    (You have a typo in your edit of "Wes was visibly trembling"!

    Emdashes need to die. I mean, I like them actually, but I loathe how often they are used in literature. This is not the only way to convey a break in speaking. CHILL. THE FUCK. OUT.

    LOOOOOOOL at all the semi-colons.

    AHHHHHHHH DEATH BY EMDASHES *iz ded--iz not alive--will never release that breath i didn't realize i was holding--haz ben killeded by grammar fail*


    Because dragons are not interesting enough, they must needs be psychic.

    "sks huge heaps" <-- Is "sks" textlish? Because I do not understand.

    "And early twenty-first century, how clever. In the frozen future, all the little kidlets will be sitting around reading... Frozen! It will be the only book left! NO WONDER NOBODY CAN READ." <-- THE HORROR.

    Pretty sure Willie Winkie patrols involve pedophilia. Just saying.

    "THEY. ARE. WATER. JUST. MELT. IT. YOU.." WOOOOOOOOW. Also, the human body NEEDS water. Like, specifically water. The reason we can live without consuming plain water is that it is in EVERYTHING. Top ingredient in coke? WATER. WE COULD NOT SURVIVE ON NUTRI UNLESS IT WAS MADE OF WATER. Oh, maybe it is, but that way they can charge even more for it than Fiji?

    They WEAR the bacon fruit? I can't. I do not. What?

    Dude, Aren't Vegas and LA pretty close together? And Phoenix, like way south? I mean, that could happen if roads were blocked or something, but I'm betting they did not explain this. Maybe they're just all seriously directionally challenged. Given their intelligence, maybe they thought that was how going places worked.

    "even as her cheeks flushed a little." Fuck. An asshole darkled and I cannot help but blush, as I am a dainty lady and we cannot control ourselves. And yet pop culture also thinks ladies don't have a sex drive. While portraying them as unable to resist hotness. WHAT. THE. FUCK.

    It's always a GREAT idea to listen to the voices in your head. I mean, you could scry with a necklace, but, again, you have to EXPLAIN THAT SHIT.

    YAY! You put in my favorite Gilly quote of yesterday. HURRAH!

  2. Oh, stop! Stop! Please stop. I can't breathe. I can't breeeeeeathe. This whole post killed me, and now I'm dead because I can't stop laughing.The GIFs, the hilariously awful examples, your snarky commentary... Dear heavens. Master class of a review, Gill.

  3. I love this review. Fangirl Gillian reviews are awesome, but Snarky Without Being Mean Gillian reviews are my favorite. This reads like a good episode of MST3K, plus there are gifs from Freaks and Geeks, Billy Madison, and Hocus Pocus. I had no intention of reading this book because I vaguely remember not liking Blue Bloods. Did you read any of those books? I'm curious whether she has the same problems with grammar, sentence structure, et cetera in that series. Everyone can't be as awesome Tahereh Mafi when it comes to that :)

  4. LOL Holy. Crap. I'm laughing because your review was ridiculously funny and because that book sounds like a seriously large pile of shit. I'm so glad I didn't request this one oh my gosh... I'm clapping because you made it all the way through this. You should be proud of yourself.

  5. OH MY GOD I don't think I've read a review this amazing in a really long time. :) While it sucks that there are so many people out there willing to write terrible books (and ever, ever worse, publishers willing to pay money for them), at least we have lovely people like you, Miz Gillian, who can completely make my day, falling out of my bed laughing, at your absolute perfect calling-out of this trash heap of a novel. Kudos to you, my friend. <3

  6. Those Willies really sound like dicks.

    But more importantly, JESUS. I swear, de la Cruz's Blue Bloods books aren't even an eighth this badly written. The characters are annoying, yeah, but I don't remember such this many complete and utter failures to use decent grammar. Did the people at Penguin (her other books were written with other publishers) simply not give a fuck about how badly written it was because of who the authors are? I'm baffled and I want to boot that editor out of their job, take it up myself, and rip everyone involved in this book's creation a new one.

    It sucks you suffered through this, but you entertained us all and now have a new book against which to judge all others. If you read something else that sucks, it probably won't be Frozen-level suck unless publishing really is going to hell in a handbasket.

  7. I have an ARC, Gilly. What should I do? Should I pretend I never took it from the pile at BEA? Your review made me laugh so hard, but I am SCARRREEEEEDDDD. What do I do? Should I even attempt it? My inner copy editor is CRYING. And I do this for a LIVING!

  8. I'm crying, the tears are falling all over my face and my comp and I can't stop laughing! In case you didn't know I'm laughing so hard that the tears are flowing and people are looking and it's terrible but amazing. It's obviously not as terrible as this book though. This book sounds like people threw some words on a page, bound it and called it a book.

  9. OMG you always write the funniest reviews... I was immediately pulled in when you used the "word" hilarribad. Really what I still can't get over is how people have a low amount of water when they live somewhere that is frozen. I still am scratching my head. Claps to you for sticking it out and finishing this. I don't think I'll be reading it any time soon.

  10. And here I thought your tweets while reading this book were entertaining. But this is EVEN BETTER. Except you didn't mention the leprechauns here. I'm really curious about the leprechauns. (That was you right? And this book? I'm not crazy?)

  11. There's something about GIFs and a snarky voice that can make even the most painful of things hilarious. It's amazing how this novel wasn't immediately rejected because of the grammar alone! Great review!

  12. I love your review. <3 I never would have been able to finish this book with the bad writing and the bad everything. So you are awesome for managing to finish it :D Thank you for sharing your honest review. <3 Never wanted to read this book, and now I never will, either ;p Hih.

  13. I have read this review at least 10 times and it makes me laugh every time. Yay for bad reviews!

  14. I just laughed so hard I cried. I am SO sorry for getting you a copy of this book, I thought it would be good! haha

  15. Another of my literary dreams crushed, curtesy of Gillian ;) Just kidding! I love that your blog is one of the few I can rely on to tell me the truth about a book I'm interested in, even if it's not necessarily what I want to hear. I had high hopes for Frozen after reading its premise, but I think it's safe to say that I'll be avoiding it at all costs after reading your (hilarious) review. The poor writing alone would have been enough to discourage me from ever reading Frozen, not to mention the nonsensical world-building and forced characterization.

    Thank you for reading this book so that we wouldn't have to, Gillian! :P

  16. Your reviews are the best EVER! *cries due to laughing* *faints*

    Jaaa...I don't think I'm going to be reading this. At all.


Note: comments on posts older than 90 days are automatically moderated, so they won't show up here immediately. Thanks for commenting! :)