Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review: Drawn

Title: Drawn
Author: Cecilia Gray
Published: December, 2013
Publisher: Gray Life
The premise for this novel is a little out there.  Okay, brace yourself.  The book follows a 15 (almost 16) year old orphan girl, Sasha, who works for the FBI.  She has anomalous vocal chords that cause people to blurt out what they're thinking. When the story opens, Sasha is tapped by the CIA to work in Brussels to work on a "black propaganda" case.  The CIA hopes to infiltrate European graffiti artists — in particular an artist called Kid Aert — and influence them into painting images that promote U.S. interests. Posing as an exchange student and living with her CIA handler's family, Sasha makes friends with Vivi, her handler's daughter and Vivi's friend Sebastien. They happen to be graffiti artists who specialize in animal rights messages.  Working on this case, Sasha discovers herself, grows in confidence, finds friendship and family and love, etc.
The premise is kooky, isn't it?  What hooked me out of all of it was the mention of graffiti.  I have a soft spot in my heart for novels that focus on art. I was also looking for a graffiti-artist fix after reading Graffiti Moon. It definitely piqued my curiosity, thinking about how the author would mix supernatural truth-detection with political vandalism. Ultimately, though, Drawn did not live up to my expectations and I found little enjoyment in it.

Firstly, there is the nonsensicality of the plot.  Not every detail in a novel has to make sense, but Gray pushed the envelope too far. It doesn't connect that the CIA would bother itself with European graffiti artists. The black propaganda aspect was intriguing, but Gray might have worked with that in a different way that seemed more believable. 

As for the supernatural-ability element, it seemed to exist merely as a hook. The origins of Sasha's vocal cord mutation talent are never explored, which makes this plot point seem like it fell from the sky. 

Most damaging to the story were several HUGE coincidences that can only be called overt deus ex machina. I don't want to provide details that will spoil the story for any potential readers, but Sasha receives a number of breaks in her case that defy belief and sense, being ridiculously convenient.

For all of these weaknesses, however, there were a few qualities to the novel that won my admiration.  The writing had a lot of heart to it.  It was apparent that Gray was invested in her characters and her plot, and a lot of that emotion came through in the writing.  In particular, Sasha's relationship with her ex-handler, Chelsea, was very affecting.  The comics that preluded each chapter were cute and funny, despite being unsophisticated.

I'm disappointed that I could not write a more favorable review.  I had high hopes coming into this book, with its emphasis on art and what drives people to express themselves through visual media. I'll have to keep looking for a good art-driven novel.

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