Friday, April 19, 2013

Review: To Be Maria by Deanna Proach

To be MariaTo be Maria by Deanna Proach
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(This should be a 4.5 – anyone care to help me out on how to increase this rating by half a point?)

Wow! This was a surprise!

I borrowed this book from Netgalley and was thereafter contacted by Ms. Proach herself. Now that was a treat all on its own!

I had not read the book yet (I had just gotten the approval to borrow) and I promised her that I would read it, make my teenager daughter read it and ready two reviews: one from my perspective as a mother and from the perspective of a teenager.

Here’s the blurb:

Seventeen-year-old Anya Preschnikov wants to become a famous actress but she's faced with two problems. Her father ignores her and doesn't have any money to support her. At school, she's bullied on a daily basis, yet she believes that she will gain her stepping-stone to stardom if she's accepted by her peers.

All of this changes when Maria Hernandez--an immigrant from Spain--comes to Peach Valley Senior High. Maria knows what it takes to fit in. She's assertive, confident and she dresses suggestively, characteristics that all of the popular kids admire. Yet she sees in Anya what no one else sees: beauty and talent.

When Maria extends her hand of friendship, Anya is elated. Her rise to popularity is about to become a reality, but it ends at a house party when a boy's rude comment sends her into a rage.

Desperate to belong somewhere, Anya and Maria seek new friends outside of school. They meet Alex and Marissa, a young couple who eagerly welcomes them into their world of parties and drugs. Anya and Maria soon find out that Alex is a drug dealer, but they are so lured by his wealth, good looks and aggressive confidence that they can't resist his friendship. They don't know that Alex's gang is at war with a rival gang--one that's run by Anya's older brother, Adrik--until one incident puts their lives in danger's path. To make matters worse, Alex won't let Anya and Maria out of his sight. The two teens are forced to make a decision that's a matter of life or death.

Here is my daughter’s review:

At first, To Be Maria seemed like one of those books where the author picks a predictable "Oh-my-God-I'm-like-bullied-by-popular-kids-and-I-hate-my-dad-so-feel-sorry-for-me" storyline. But then unexpected twists in the plot happen. One example is when Anya and Maria leave home, and make friends with a drug dealer, which spirals the plot into one huge mess.

The writing style was very fluid and easy to read, but I still feel that the author could have done better. The author made Anya into a Mary Sue-ish character, making her seem that she does nothing wrong and is flawless, even when she beat up her little sister and everyone was like "Oh it's not Anya's fault!". Overall, the plot development was good, but the ending was definitely lacking. There too many loose ends in this book's ending. So, I rate this book a 3.5. I really think the author could have done better, especially in the way the book ended. I felt it was way too lacking.

Here is my take on To Be Maria:

I was very hesitant to read a YA, angst-ridden book. Everyone knows that I like my HEAs too much, and especially as reading my blog, it is obvious that I really am a fan of the MM genre. However, there are some exceptions to be made, To Be Maria being one of them.

I honestly did not like the beginning, especially with Anya talking to herself, feeling sorry for herself, etc, etc, etc. It was too much of a reminder of my past and nothing to do at all with the story line or how this book was written.

When Maria’s character was introduced the book started to have a life of its own. No longer was the teen-aged angst plot typical of most YA books, it turned into something more. It made me think of the characters in terms of how they were similar/dissimilar to my own children and their peers. The characters' activities turned darker as I read further into the plot and I just got even more scared and hesitant and yet, curiously, unable to put it down.

Anya, as a character, was brilliantly penned. I came to actually hate her character and I started to lean more towards Maria. This reaction is only possible, at least in my thinking, when an author can successfully bring a character to life and make them believable and “real”. (Note: There are many young people out there who are “Anya.”)

The plot development was brilliant. There is the usual angst, the usual vie for popularity common in all teen-aged lives, the daydreams were hedonistic – again typical of any teenager, and the need for acceptance from even those who should not merit a glance. However, reading on through the story, it took a hold of me and kept me reading until the end. Now that was a surprise (for me at least, hey! It is YA!)

Then there was the ending.... The end was not an end. My daughter did not like that ending. Reading over the other readers’ reviews I found that many did not like it either.

Initially, I was dumbfounded: Is That It?????? What next? Did I get an unfinished book?

But no! It was the end, and it leaves the future of Anya to – well to the future. Ms. Proach made it in such a way that anyone and everyone can speculate on Anya’s future: brilliant or fatal. No one really knows what will happen! This is an ending that Anya deserves.

As I got to think and delve more into the message, I finally got it at the end.

No, this is not an HEA book, anyone can see that from the blurb. Her ending it this way was like a lesson; it made me ask my own daughter: what if she were Anya? What if she had a similar life? Would she, my daughter, have an HEA or an ending similar to this?

My daughter never answered. I think she is still mulling that question over.

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