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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pretty Crooked

I have not done a review in a while (at least it seems), so I've decided to review the second ARC I recieved: Elisa Ludwig's Pretty Crooked.

Willa’s secret plan seems all too simple: take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones.

Yet Willa’s turn as Robin Hood at her ultra-exclusive high school is anything but. Bilking her “friends”—known to everyone as the Glitterati—without them suspecting a thing is far from easy. Learning how to pick pockets and break into lockers is as difficult as she’d thought it’d be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls, who are ostracized just for being from the “wrong” side of town, is way more fun than she’d expected.

The complication Willa didn’t expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, Valley Prep’s most notorious (and gorgeous) ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her: evening the social playing field between the haves and have-nots. There’s no time for crushes and flirting with boys, especially conceited and obnoxious trust-funders like Aidan.

But when the cops start investigating the string of thefts at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could Aidan wind up being the person that Willa trusts most?

Pretty Crooked was the second ARC I recieved. I love mysteries and retellings, but was less eager to read this one. I'm not quite sure why, and I think after reading that there was one reason. I don't really like romance, and the paragraph about Aidan threw me off. The romance aspect wasn't the greatest, and I had some nitpicks, but Pretty Crooked was pretty cute (haha, bad pun).

The basic story reads like a Cinderella story: Willa's struggling artist mother's paintings sell for a large sum of money, and Willa and her mother move to Paradise Valley, Ariz. so that Willa can attend the posh Valley Prep (nicknamed VP) high school. Right away, Willa attracts the attention of the Glitterati, the most popular girls in school. Aidan Murphy, Mr. Hottie Pants, also finds some interest in her.

So yes. The story is cliche in some aspects. And to be truthful, I'd regard this more as MG than YA. It's marketed as YA, but I think a lot of the aspects would work better with younger readers. The only true YA aspect is the high school; everything else seems like it would be more MG, and some of the aspects (BFFs who shop a lot, fancy school) are used more in MG to me.

Onto the characters. Willa's character is bubbly, cute, funny, and smart. She's nice, but a little naive. (Her mom specifically mentions that Willa is attending VP to get into a good college, a fact that Willa doesn't realize until later.) Willa is a sweet character, with enough development and backstory to be realistic. She could be annoying sometimes -- hello? Dump your popular girl friends? Duh. But overall she was sweet, but a tad naive.

Cherise was the best of the mean girls. She actually seemed realistic, annoyed with her friends often and disliking the gossip blog that they ran. She constantly was trying to get the girls to stop their petty ways, and had a great background, dreaming of becoming a doctor like her parents. Sometimes she was more interesting/realistic than Willa, and more likable. Sometimes I also wished the story was in her POV; she seemed more likely to do the "Robin Hood" thing than Willa. Willa had known the girls for such a short time before BAM! the idea appeared; Cherise had known them longer and I think that it would have been more realistic for her to go Robin Hood on them (especially with her constant frusturation over Kelly and Nikki's antics).

Kelly and Nikki....ugh. They were basically every element of popular mean girls mixed together. Rich, loved by everyone, cruel, taunting everyone they meet, and (unsurprisingly) doing cruel things to scholarship girls. They had almost no dimension, just the classic rich and mean girls, and no backstory. The story ends on a cliffhanger, so I assume they'll be more developed in the sequel....I hope. They were my least favorite characters, and their big surprise (the fact that they taunted the scholarship girls online) was predictable and lame. They had almost no difference as characters, not distinguishable as characters in any way. They were just the same walking cliches.

The scholarship girls I liked. Mary, Alicia, and Savannah were good. They broke down usual "scholarship" girl cliches, and had understandable pasts. (Savannah's father was out of a job; Alicia's mother was pregnant and searching for a job; and Mary's father couldn't make enough money to support his family.) They also had understandable emotions, surprised but not greedy when they recieved their items, and angry sometimes over their disappointing lives. They also responded well to their teasing, after being called "Busteds" and racist names, responding nicely but still with anger.

The online bullying was a huge aspect. I appluad Ludwig for bringing that in -- it was a very interesting examination of that, which is huge now. The blog was realistic: a gossip blog where people posted awful pictures and posts anyonomusly, just like anyone can do now on popular gossip blogs or trash websites. But there was another issue I had: the name-dropping. Gosh, they name dropped everywhere. It would be fine if it was just clothes, but nope it was everywhere. Look at that Wii and that Pizza John's pizza, that show about Martha Stewart and the Barefoot Contessa is amazing, and this schoool is for the future Steve Jobs and I want the new iPhone and god, why can't I have that new iPad?

It. Was. Annoying. Ludwig, I think was trying to make her story "current", but it was ridicolous how much name dropping there was. Like, every three pages some character would remark on something current.

And now onto the plot. The Robin Hood aspect could have been developed more, I think. It could have been really interesting, seeing the parallels between Willa and Robin Hood. But it was hardly developed, with Willa absentmindely remarking once that "[I] was kind of like Robin Hood, just better dressed".

And Aidan. Okay, Ludwig pulled out every stop on the "cute hot guy" here. He's mega rich, snobby, dashing, and everyone adores him. Willa thinks he's HOTTTT the second she sees him, but hates him (of course) since he's so snobby (of course). But wait! Now I understand his true emotions and we're in love and kissing in Porsches. :P He was just annoying at the beginning, but I grew to like him more as the story continued. He still kind of fit the hot rich boy, even though he was nicer (big shocker) but still portrayed well (there are too many parentheses in this paragraph).

The ending isn't a big surprise, but it was cute and fun to read. The book is set up for a sequel, with a cliffhanger at the end. I found out that Pretty Crooked was first in a trilogy as well.

And the truth is, even with all of my nitpicks, I liked it. It was a fun, cute romp with quite a few problems but still a fun read. The book was far from perfect but a good escape from reality. I might read it again, but it wasn't one of my favorites. It was cute, fun, and charming, and a good way to spend my time.

It wasn't brilliant or awe-inspiring, but it was cute and that's all that matters. So if you're looking for a fun, cute mystery, this is for you.

3 stars.

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