Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
|Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr|
|Reviewer: Magda Healey|
|Summary: A day-dream of a teenage girl with aspirations to cool made into an exciting if unchallenging urban fairy tale that makes a tasty summer read for teens and those grownups that prefer this type of entertainment.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: August 2007|
|Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books|
Melissa Marr has written up what could be a day-dream or a wish-fulfilment fantasy of a teenage girl with aspirations to cool and sophistication, and made it into exciting if unchallenging urban fairy tale that makes a tasty summer read for teens and those grownups that prefer this type of entertainment.
Aislinn can see the invisible faeries, but she cannot let them know that: they would punish her terribly if they knew she has got the Sight. So far, Aislinn avoided detection and somehow survived, especially as her best friend Seth lives in a converted railway carriage and faeries can't abide steel. But now they seem to be stalking her, and a beautiful and terrifying Keenan, the King of the Summer Court wants Aislinn to become his Queen. Curious and terrified, repulsed and attracted Aislinn has to decide on the best course of action and the decision becomes more difficult as she learns that not only her fate, but that of the whole human world lies in the balance.
The 17 year old Aislinn is a strong character, with courage and determination, but also unafraid to show her vulnerability and need for support from her friend-turned-boyfriend. In fact, the romance is crucial to the story and Wicked Lovely is as much an Aislinn and Seth love story as a faerie tale. And it's in this story that the teenage fantasy element is at its strongest.
Aislinn's vaguely Gothish (cue piercings and tattoos) Seth is an epitome of cool, living in a converted railway carriage (his parents conveniently removed out of the way to some far away travelling location), reading everything from Nietzsche to Kamasutra, but he's also a dream boyfriend, one that has given up his one night stands to wait for months for the girl he truly loves, supportive, strong and totally trusting, his love unyieldingly without jealousy or suspicion even when a dazzling Elven King turns up to claim his girl. What really, really disarmed me was the revelation of his bedroom though - I think I have personally invented just such a bedroom for one of my teenage fantasies!
The sexual is, of course, at the core of the story: Aislinn is a virgin and the tale can be read as a story of her erotic awakening, attracted by two dream suitors. She has rejected a hedonistic approach to sex that her school friends have and is making a rather big deal about losing her virginity (in fact, I don't think she does in the course of the whole novel, but as the erotic scenes are behind close doors the reader is left to speculation). However overdone the whole palaver might seem to an adult reader, many girls fetishise "the first time" - see plenty of Internet forum discussions about what counts and what doesn't , and how far can one go and still stay a virgin. This concern is probably more relevant for the US market, where the mainstream culture still seems to esteem the virginity to a great extent (the chastity rings are only the extreme manifestation of this trend), and sexual prudery seems to be commonplace, at least in the mainstream media. British authors tend to have more down-to-earth approach to the matter, but to give Marr her due, there isn't anything particularly artificial about the presentation of sex in Wicked Lovely and it doesn't feel censored: just modestly restrained.
Despite using a few external trappings of counterculture, Wicked Lovely is actually astonishingly non-transgressive: Aislinn's goals are grown up, responsible and embody nothing but the most mainstream contemporary values. From the boyfriend presenting Aislinn with STD test results (even though they don't seemingly intend - or end up - having full sex) to the life goals of going to college and getting a job, to the final solution fulfilling a combination of sentimental ideals of romantic love and modern-day female empowerment, there isn't a hint of rebellion or subversivness in the story: it's safe and unchallenging all the way (the worst that happens to the heroine is a hint of danger of rape).
I think Wicked Lovely would have been a better book if it concentrated the narration on Aislinn's point of view. The other ones (Keenan's and the previous candidate's for the Summer Queen) add to the explanation of the intrigue, but overall weaken the impact: it's hard to make teen-like musings or family dysfunctionality of Keenan the Summer King plausible for a 900 year old faerie king.
None of the above are major criticisms, though. Intertwining the everyday human world with the hidden, invisible to all but very few world of Faerie, Wicked Lovely is a pacy, suspenseful and verging on unputdownable romantic tale which presses all the right buttons for its target demographic. I think I would have absolutely loved it at 14 or even 16 and I enjoyed it very much at more than twice the age.
Recommended for a summer read, and particularly for intelligent teenage girls for whom sex still has mystical allure.
Thanks to the publisher for sending this title to the Bookbag!
Despite its strong love related theme Wicked Lovely reminded me, somehow, rather strongly, of Harry Potter (especially in his older ages as in the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), although its focus on the erotic awakening would mean that pre-pubescent children are likely to be rather bored with it.
A much grittier sexual coming of age tale set in a nightmarish Faerie is The Iron Dragon's Daughter.
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