Wings (Laurel Series #1)

Wings - Aprilynne Pike I will admit this up front - I've been doing a Summer reading project analysing the impact and influence the popularity of the Twilight series has had on paranormal YA and since this book had a Meyer quote raving it on the front, I thought I'd see what it was like. I didn't go in with very high expectation but even then I was just sullen faced and WTF-ing by the end of this book.The story starts of in a basic enough manner with Laurel going to her first day of high school after moving to a new town and a lifetime of home schooling. She sits in biology class – take your first Twilight drink now! – And immediately gets all tongue tied and shy over an extremely attractive science nerd called David. To give Pike some credit, at least she’s setting up her love story early and not kicking her heels with pointless descriptions of everything else going on like Meyer, but give her time and that’ll change. Soon enough, she makes a distinctly Bella Swan style comment comes through:“Below the eyes was a warm but casual smile with very straight teeth. Braces probably, Laurel thought as her tongue unconsciously ran over her own naturally straight teeth.”How nice of her to zero in on appearances so quickly into the story. Sets her priorities up quickly and believe me, it gets worse towards the end. The first 3 chapters are pretty slow moving and unremarkable, same with the characters. David seems like the sort of guy you could imagine starring in a non threatening Disney family sitcom as the doting boyfriend of Miley Cyrus or something while tweens drool over him at Hot Topic signings. On a related side note, the movies rights for the book are optioned by Disney with Miley Cyrus attached to star. This seems particularly fitting because there are points where I just want to throw things at Laurel’s face in the same way I do with Cyrus. Laurel isn’t particularly fun, smart, caring, special or in possession of any sort of personality trait. She seldom eats anything other than fruit, vegetables and cans of Sprite (haha I see what you did there Pike) which doesn’t seem to be of much concern to her medicine hating hippie parents, she’s skinny and proud of it (comparing herself to supermodels) and was abandoned on her parents’ doorstep in a basket under mysterious circumstances. This is all told to us, there’s very little showing in this book unless it’s something to do with flowers or David’s abs (seriously, which 15 year old boy is ripped? They make Channel 5 documentaries about body building teens and not to be complimentary!), which get their own tacked on scene which is completely unnecessary to the story. I can’t call it a plot because nothing resembling any sort of conflict or anything interesting happens until about 280 pages in. So yeah, grab a pillow and some caramel shortbread. 4 chapters in something finally happens. Well, if you can call a zit a plot device. Typically for teen girls, Laurel worries about the blemish (my back looked like the Himalaya mountain range for most of my teenage years) but after her earlier shallow comments, reading her worries about this rapidly growing bump turning into “something ugly” whilst being quietly judgemental about girls with similar situations doesn’t exactly warm me to the leading ‘heroine.’ Eventually the bump turns out not to be cancerous or, God forbid, a zit, and soon it sprouts into a giant flower. I will relent a little here and say this was a pretty interesting take on the fairy mythos. At least it was enough to recapture my interest after the 5 chapters of non plot and characters that give Julian Sands hope in the personality and charisma department. It’s serviceable stuff but it’s not exactly a page turner unless you mean in the sense that you want to turn the pages just to get on with something else more important. Does she tell her parents? Of course not, that would require giving them an active role in the story! At least they actually seem to care, unlike Bella’s parents in Twilight who exist to serve no other purpose than to make sure child services aren’t called out. They’re pretty useless but they occasionally show some interest in their daughter. Instead, Laurel tells David, who views it with geekish glee (which was kind of cute, don’t judge me, scientists are hot!) and decides to do some experiments, where it emerges that Laurel is actually a plant. Yep, a plant. Somehow I can’t imagine the Twilight meadows scene being as devastatingly romantic for Twi-hards if Edward had been a plant:“Say it Bella. Say it!”“Poinsettia!”Chapter 8 introduces us to the generic suspicious figure, here to buy Laurel’s family’s old house from them. How do we know he’s suspicious? Because he’s ugly. He doesn’t even say anything particularly devious but we know he’s evil and out to ruin Laurel’s life immediately because he’s unattractive. This particularly cruel element of the story only gets worse, believe me. And for those who are taking notes, now is the time to note the introduction of the unnecessary 3rd wheel in the most pointless love triangle ever! He’s a big smug but otherwise more of the same devastatingly gorgeous young male figures with no other personality traits, and his name is Tamani. He’s here to tell Laurel all about her true identity as a faerie. Laurel doesn’t believe him – having giant freaking plants grow out of your back is as normal a part of puberty as growing boobs and wanting to kill everyone for 4 days a month – and runs off. We’re 128 pages in – 10 chapters – and there’s no sign of a plot or any more action beyond moping and boy perving. But now we’ve got Tamani on the scene and Laurel can’t deny the amazing, passionate connection they shared, despite barely speaking or doing anything. Y’ know – true love! To quote the phrase that left a million nerds fuming, “It’s magic, we don’t have to explain it!” When it comes to the revelation of Laurel’s true identity, it’s all described in a very tell-don’t- show manner; surely that’s writing rule 1 broken already? Tamani describes the faerie court and their particular purposes and then the most awkward part of the book until another 171 pages happens! It turns out the flower on Laurel’s back is the faerie equivalent of that kind of flower! Faeries use their blossom, found only in female faeries, to pollinate and reproduce! In their first scene together, Tamani accidentally got sparkly pollen all over Laurel’s arm, surely the faerie equivalent of premature ejaculation. He didn’t mean to do it of course; it had just been so long since he’d been around a woman that he couldn’t help himself. She was asking for it! Showing off that flower like it was a short skirt in a dingy nightclub! The extra kicker comes when Tamani takes glee in telling Laurel that faeries may use pollination for reproducing, but sex is for fun! Responsibility free sex; no risk of pregnancy or STDs other than maybe a little prick. Way to appeal to your base Pike. Seriously, this is more appealing to teen fantasies than free cupcakes! The topic of sex and puberty is mentioned but it’s never expanded upon. It just feels like Pike’s trying to be adult and ‘edgy’ for a YA audience even though the writing itself seems more suited to a pre-teen audience. Along with his habit of fabulously coming over Laurel, it turns out that Laurel volunteered to be a faerie plant in the human world (because faeries age mentally much quicker than their bodies suggest, sort of like the uterus chewing demon child in reverse) and Tamani has been watching her for her entire life! As he says, it’s not spying, it’s helping! I wonder how distraught he was when there weren’t any opportunities to sneak into her room to watch her sleep. Laurel is also older than she thinks, and is 19 instead of 16. Instant age of consent! About 250 pages in, we get some sort of plot twist, barely one, with Laurel’s dad falling extremely ill. With this comes Laurel and David’s overwhelming urge to investigate the ugly suspicious man who is going to buy the old Sewell house (the gateway to the faerie land of Avalon is on the land). 2 of the man, Barnes’s henchmen, are described as “downright grotesque”, continuing the theme of ugly = EVIL! Initiate slow clap sequence. We get a bit of action with the henchmen attempting to kill Laurel and David in a good old fashioned drowning. But luckily, Laurel’s oxygen producing breath saves David! Finally, a life saving snog, I’ve never seen that before...wait...We get further tell-don’t-show description of more faerie mythology, combining King Arthur with Oberon from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (tell me that’s not a crossover you’ve love to see!) but it’s just shoved in there to give the illusion of Pike giving a damn about anything other than the extremely contrived love triangle. But along with this comes the scene that made this book turn from ‘meh’ material to ‘oh Christ, what the hell?’ Tamani goes into a description of the villains of the story, the trolls, in which the topic of symmetry is discussed. The more symmetrical one’s face is, the more beautiful they are, like Laurel and Tamani. Trolls lack this symmetry, ergo they are ugly. Not just ugly; hideous. The trolls lack any other defining characteristic beyond being ugly and stupid because apparently these things go hand in hand, and apparently their hideousness bothers the trolls themselves. Troll mothers are known to abandon their babies if they’re too ugly or “misshapen.” “When evolution has given up on you, death is unavoidable.”...Seriously? Really Pike? Of all the elements of fail I expected to find in “Wings”, ableism was not one of them! So if one is ugly, mentally or physically impaired we should just give up on them because evolution has clearly tried to weed them out? Forgive me if I’m a bit sensitive here, I’m not a fan of such blatant displays of privilege in books aimed at an 11+ audience! To give the book credit, it took 300 pages before it really pissed me off which is 299 more than Twilight. Maybe Bella and Laurel could get together to drink Sprite and judge the less than perfect, they’d get along like a house on fire! I’m just getting annoyed now, time to wrap this up. Blah blah blah, Laurel stops the trolls, Tamani is shot but he’s returned to Avalon where Laurel is presented with magic potion to cure her dad and a big arse diamond to give her parents enough money to be able to keep the old house and it’s all business as usual. Laurel even gets to kiss both guys. It turns out that Tamani was her former faerie BFF when they were precocious kiddies in Avalon and is hopelessly in love with her. I’d say Pike just shoved in the love triangle to make up for the lack of plot but she seems to have just shoved every plot element into the story without any real structure or thought. According to her blog, Pike wrote the book in 6 weeks and it shows. Overall, the meh factor for this book was at an all time high/low. It was an easy enough read although there are a few moments where Pike tries to Meyer out on the dialogue. The mythos is interesting enough but never focused on, instead spending page after page telling us unnecessary things, shoving in covers to fill the plot holes with no care, and mooning over a love triangle that couldn’t be more contrived if it tried. The characters are dull and everything is handled in a serviceable but lifeless manner. The attempt to shove a plot in with the introduction of the ugly evil trolls just pissed me off; not only was it shallow and ableist, it was just plain lazy writing. Pike got a 4 book deal from this story so I guess there’s hope for us all. It’s often described as Twilight with faeries and it feels a lot like a Twilight inspired/rip-off. I can see how it would appeal to the Twilight crowd and it’s relatively undemanding stuff. I’ll probably forget all about it in the morning.