Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review: Made For You

Title: Made For You
Author: Melissa Marr
Published: September, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely books Melissa Marr’s first contemporary YA novel is a twisted southern gothic tale of obsession, romance, and murder. A killer is obsessed with Eva Tilling. Can she stop him, or will he claim her?

When Eva Tilling wakes up in the hospital, she’s confused—who in her sleepy little North Carolina town could have hit her with their car? And why? But before she can consider the question, she finds that she’s awoken with a strange new skill: the ability to foresee people’s deaths when they touch her. While she is recovering from the hit-and-run, Nate, an old flame, reappears, and the two must traverse their rocky past as they figure out how to use Eva’s power to keep her friends—and themselves—alive. But while Eva and Nate grow closer, the killer grows increasingly frantic in his attempt to get to Eva.

For the first time, New York Times bestselling author Melissa Marr has applied her extraordinary talent to contemporary realism. Chilling twists, unrequited obsession, and high-stakes romance drive this Gothic, racy thriller—a story of small-town oppression and salvation. Melissa’s fans, and every YA reader, will find its wild ride enthralling.

This is a snappy little mystery with romantic parts and creepy parts, and a low-key supernatural twist, and I can see a lot of people enjoying it.  Thing is, this book irritated me in so many ways.

  • Our heroine.  
According to Jeff Gerke, an author who teaches wannabe writers (like me) how to write, a protagonist must connect with readers and this can be done in many ways.  The hero/heroine can be selfless, heroic, compassionate, generous, kind, humble, charming, principled, smart, sympathetic, or deliciously bad. In my opinion, Melissa Marr's protagonist fell short of all of these qualities.

Eva Tilling, the heroine of Made For You, did not connect with me.  She is the most popular girl in school, daughter of her town's most influential residents, attractive, connected, you name it.  Yet, she has lots of reasons to be upset — whine — about her life.  Her parents are constantly out of town.  Her friends are boring.  Her boyfriend is the perfect high school placeholder guy, but she really wants to be with her estranged ex-best friend.  And yet, I am unmoved.

Throughout the book, Eva comes off as vain, hypocritical, unprincipled, insincere, and bland.  Her constant pity-party over her new facial scars had me irate.  I mean...

"I’m not vain, not really. I’m not the most beautiful girl in the world, but I’ve always been pretty enough to not be jealous or insecure. I have dark blue eyes, a smallish nose, lips that look pouty, and cheekbones that are defined without looking razor-sharp. I’m not opposed to wearing makeup, but I’ve always been happy that I don’t necessarily need it.  I gaze at the reflection in the glass. The girl I see now needs makeup badly...
 The day of the accident was the last day I was pretty.
I close my eyes, and Grace takes the mirror from my hand. She doesn’t tell me that everything is okay or that it’s not as bad as it looks. She might try to hide things from me when she thinks it’s for my own good, but she doesn’t ever lie to me.
(Note: This quotation is taken from an uncorrected proof. Let's hope it's corrected.)

There are so many things wrong with this quotation that I could spend this entire review breaking it down.  As it is, I'll just let it speak for itself.

  • Slut-shaming. 

“I’ll warn you before I tell Robert I’m sleeping with the Jessup man-slut.” 
“You’re what? Eva, that’s not—” 
“Hush.” Offering him my most innocent look, I say, “I’m going to sleep. You’re here. Ergo, sleeping with the man-slut."
 “Jesus, Eva. You can’t say things like that.” 
I put my hand over his mouth. “Shh. Sleeping now. I’ll let you know if you live up to your reputation, although so far, I’m not seeing what all the fuss was about.” I close my eyes. There’s a lot wrong right now, far more than ever in my life, but I feel safer and happier because Nate’s with me.

  • Contrivance

Here's the thing about contrivance.  Every fictional story ever told is contrived.  It is the writer's goal to make the story seem true despite this.  Personally, I when I start mentally arguing with the novel I'm reading — That doesn't make sense. But she just said the opposite of what she said before. Did the author write that on purpose? — I know the book has a contrivance issue.  I was arguing with this book's narration from the very beginning, but what sent it over the top for me, was the commercial for another YA writer.

“Good book?” He nods toward the book I’m holding with both hands now. 
“I like it,” I say cautiously. It’s an older book called Story of a Girl that I found on one of the shelves here. I’ve never read anything else by Sara Zarr, but I’ll be looking to see if they have anything else of hers... 
“So it’s chick books now?” 
“This isn’t a ‘chick book.’” 
He leans forward and pushes the book flat so he can look at the cover. On it, a girl is staring out of a window, and the title is written in what could be lipstick or crayon maybe. 
“Story of a girl,” he reads. “So it’s . . . a story about a girl with a girl on the cover. Looks like a chick book to me.”

Talk about yanking your reader out of the novel by her hair! So many things popped up into my head when I read this.  Was Sara Zarr complicit in this advertisement?  Is Melissa Marr friends with Sara Zarr? Are they enemies?  Friday Night Lights did its Vaseline product placement more gracefully than this. 

  • The southern tropes
Almost everyone keeps to the rules about Unspoken Things. It’s a longstanding tradition in the South. Unpleasantness is best not discussed; delicate matters are hinted at, but not spoken.
She is a well-bred Southern woman. That means that she’s been trained in making the world bend to her will since before she was born. 
Like any properly raised Southern boy, Nate knows not to refuse again. The first refusal is how one says “no need to go bothering over me,” but a complete refusal would be an insult. He smiles at her and says, “A glass of water would be great if you don’t mind.” 
I'll just stop there.  There's something about the frequent usage of southern tropes in YA lit that frustrates me.  For one, it's over-wraught, contrived, and sort of stinks of appropriation.  Sure, there is some truth to these stereotypes, but when a culture is distilled down to cliches like these, it becomes insulting.  I wish I could write more eloquently on this topic.  Maybe I'll devote an entire review of Magnolia to the issue.

That's all I have, folks.  Made For You was a disappointment, and while it's always a little nerve-wracking to be harsh in a review, I wouldn't be writing my true feelings if I held back. I give the book one and a half stars.


  1. Oh, man. I only skimmed your review because I haven't read this yet and I know a copy is on its way to me, but how disappointing to see slut-shaming and overuse of southern tropes jumping off this page! I'm sorry to hear this was a disappointment--hope your next read is better.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog, Wendy! I think I disliked this book largely due to personal nitpicks, so I'm looking forward to reading other opinions.

  2. So sorry to hear you didn't enjoy this book. When I heard this was a thriller, it peaked my interest but maybe not so much anymore. The main character Eva doesn't sound very nice and when you said there's commercial for another YA writer in the book, I'm pretty sure I won't be picking this up. I've never heard of that before. It seems a bit ridiculous. Thanks for the honest review :)

    1. Oh man, can't say that I'm ever pleased to chase someone off from a book, but that's what reviews are for, right? Thanks so much for stopping by!