Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Review - Sing Me To Sleep / Angela Morrison

Beth has always been “The Beast”—that’s what everyone at school calls her because of her awkward height, facial scars, and thick glasses. Beth’s only friend is geeky, golden-haired Scott. That is, until she’s selected to be her choir’s soprano soloist, and receives the makeover that will change her life forever.

When Beth’s choir travels to Switzerland, she meets Derek: pale, brooding, totally dreamy. Derek’s untethered passion—for music, and for Beth—leaves her breathless. Because in Derek’s eyes? She’s not The Beast, she’s The Beauty.

When Beth comes home, Scott, her best friend in the world, makes a confession that leaves her completely torn. Should she stand by sweet, steady Scott or follow the dangerous, intense new feelings she has for Derek?

The closer Beth gets to Derek, the further away he seems. Then Beth discovers that Derek’s been hiding a dark secret from her …one that could shatter everything. Goodreads.

Review - I understood from the beginning what the author was trying to achieve with her good intentions and personal connections with this journey. And I am sympathetic. Unfortunately that didn't prevent me from feeling emotionally manipulated and angry.  There was a complete lack of  subtlety in her storytelling that robbed me of any genuine attachment to the characters.

My first roadblock was the authors insistence on using an extended Beauty and the Beast analogy that a) wasn't all the applicable and b) was wrestled in unexpectedly throughout.  Beth is a character who is tormented at school -physically, mentally and emotionally - due to her gargantuan height and unattractive face. She's (apparently) so ugly that she's been let go from her daycare job for scaring the children!  It is at this point that the author infuriated me for the first of what became many times.  So ugly with pimples that she scared small children?  I wish I were kidding.

Secondly, there is the oh so expensive makeover that is sprung on Beth the Beast.  It involved waxing, lasers, a new wardrobe, spa cosmetics,etc. Why did she earn this very special treatment?  Turns out that she's an amazing soprano who has been hiding her light under a bushel.  What else would a rich parent of an acquaintance do but fund all this so their star vocalist looks less hideous?  No, I am not kidding.

With her debut as the choir's soloist, Beth earns the heart of the tormented Derek.  The controlling, passive aggressive and spouter of all things truth adjacent - Derek...who also happens to have a secret. (Of course he does).  The author seems to think all the former attributes should be excused by the 'secret', I don't agree.  I didn't feel the romance between them - the connection is based on a) his belief that he knows her soul from repeatedly listening to her solo single and b) that he's there for her when she receives some (anvil clanking, unnecessary, shoehorned) news.  And he's hot.  And she is too, now.  So what is to keep these two hot lovebirds apart?  Apparently not my sheer force of will.

Derek and Beth's relationship is no way a beautiful thing.  It makes them horrible people that are nauseating to read about.  They bring out the worst in one another, and a scary aggression, that is extremely hard to swallow in line with Beth's characterisation prior to their relationship.  She morphs into a horny, borderline hysterical and mopey protagonist that is painful to endure not because the audience emphasises but just because it's plain awful to read.  I didn't buy that their love, despite the many direct and indirect love professions.  When they are not kissing each other with the ferocity of mountain lions snacking on a deer, they are flinging passive aggressive taunts at one another.  There's no connection, no romance, no heat - reading their scenes together made me hate them both.

The author created this story to embrace those that are different or disadvantaged, to shed light on a medical condition.  As a result, the delivery is exceedingly heavy handed and not at all successful.  In keeping Derek's secret to the end she had to make her protagonist equal parts oblivious and stupid.  Beth starts out as a victim of horrifying bullying, transforms into a swan, finds 'love' with a tragic boy (who loves her for her soul and voice, though he never saw her ugly) and then transforms into a heinous, mindless, shrieking banshee.  Perhaps Morrison should have used the Jekyl/Hyde analogy instead?

Morrison's inconsistent characterisation and insistence on featuring two equally controlling and emotional insensitive make Sing Me To Sleep a hard slog.  At time the dialogue between Beth and her two beaux is ponderously. It isn't an accurate depiction of the teen mind. The arc is jumpy, the reasoning is poorly realised and ultimately, I just didn't care.  The story's conclusion was one of the most infuriating things I have ever read.

You might be asking yourself what made me wield such a poisoned tongue against Morrison's work?  The truth is - there is a good book in here...somewhere, it just has been drowned with tonnes of melodramatic dialogue, trying relationships and threadbare characterisation.  The only aspect that works, and feels  authentic, is the choir plot.  It is the only aspect that projects authentically in this tale of overwrought, clumsily written teen love with( bonus) excessive medical information.

Give this one a big pass.

Published: March 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
Publisher: Razorbill
Source: gift
Origin: USA


Susan said...

Wow! I actually really liked this book, although I agree it had a lot of melodrama and some very contrived situations. The ending really was maddening, and totally predictable. All in all, though, I liked it. Sorry you didn't. Have you read Morrison's first novel, TAKEN BY STORM? It's a lot grittier.

Edna said...

I appreciate your review a lot. It's exactly how I felt reading this book as well. The story and its characters DID NOT work for me at all.

Ynysawdre Elderly Residents Association said...

Thanks for the review. You really put your point across fantastically but I am still going to give this a go for myself.
Thanks again

Brandy said...

Based on the synopsis I knew I wouldn't read this and almost didn't read the rest of the review. Boy am I glad I did. Thanks for making me laugh on a Monday afternoon.

"When they are not kissing each other with the ferocity of mountain lions snacking on a deer"

That has to be one of the best metaphors ever.

Charlie said...

The summary didn't sound too bad but the content of your review, oh dear! I think I'll give this one a miss.

Literature for Lunch said...

A very honest, well-written review. It sounds like during the editing stage somethings could have been reworked to make the characters more likable and the plot more cohesive. This book sounds like that reality show that used to be on, The Swan. Does anyone remember that?

I am going to give this a pass. Thanks for the heads-up.

Nomes said...



I really look forward to reading your reviews Adele.

I loved the way this one is written - your lines are classics and your reasoning is solid without being spoilery.

I haven't read this one but have seen lots of love around for it.

I'm glad you're on the net withe your honest and sometimes witty snark.


John The Bookworm said...

Sometimes you and I are spot on with books, Adele, but this was not one of those times. :/

I was a huge fan of her debut novel Taken by Storm, and whether through my personal bias, my romantic side, or whatever, I adored this book. I think it just depends on how you read it. I saw it as a love story that, while overdramatic, felt good and plausible. Part of the entire conflict was whether or not Beth's relationship with Derek was a good thing or not, and in many ways, Morrison shows that it wasn't always a good thing.

But teenagers feel that way around each other, and I have to profess that I found it entirely plausible that Beth would latch onto a relationship like that, especially considering she herself has almost no self-esteem. Not to mention that teenagers do indeed get VERY VERY horny when they are dating. I know this from personal experience (TMI, but important in this context).

The secret could have been revealed sooner, and it may not have been my favorite (Taken by Storm was even better, IMO) but it was good. IMO. I do think that, as much as I love Angela as an author, that she is one that readers either love or hate. Which isn't bad, but it does make book response a little more emotional.

:) All the same, it's always an event to read an Adele review!

Audrey (holes In My brain) said...

thanks for the honest review Adele. I know horny, melodramatic teens in love may be some people's cup of tea, but it certainly isn't mine. In fact, you named tons of my pet peeves with romance these days! i'll be passing on this one!

Tina said...

I have this on my wish list, but reading your review, this reminds me of Pretty Face by Mary Hogan which I absolutely hated for the same reasons you listed here. Eh. Not my thing, I guess. Thanks for the review.

Lenore Appelhans said...

Some excellent thoughts to ponder. I'm not sure I ever will get around to reading this one, but if I do, I am sure I will think of the mountain lions!

Anonymous said...

I loved this book a lot but I agree with many of the points that you made.

Anonymous said...

Oh wow... So sorry you didnt' enjoy it! I absolutely LOVED this book - and to know that it was based on a true story just added a bit more for me,

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