Friday, February 24, 2017

Book review: The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

Book Summary
When her diplomat father is kidnapped and the U.S. Government is unable to help, 17 year-old Gwendolyn Bloom sets off across the sordid underbelly of Europe to rescue him. Following the only lead she has—the name of a Palestinian informer living in France—she plunges into a brutal world of arms smuggling and human trafficking. As she journeys from the slums of Paris, to the nightclubs of Berlin, to the heart of the most feared crime family in Prague, Gwendolyn discovers that to survive in this new world she must become every bit as cruel as the men she’s hunting.

Flo's Review
I love audiobooks, so when I was given the chance to review this one, I jumped at it. Then I re-discovered that it was written by this guy. But I decided not to let that affect my reaction to the story itself, and I don't think that I did.

The Cruelty will be a good movie. It has been optioned by Jerry Bruckheimer, so it's on the way. The story is action-packed, and the physical details are very well done. Bergstrom does a great job of really showing us a scene -- Gwendolyn really takes in all the details around her, even before she starts her spy training. The plot moves forward at a good pace and I would bet it continues on a steady beat straight through the end. It's perfect for watching. The people making the movie will have a lot of detail they can re-create. The viewer won't feel that there are any lapses or drags.

But I DNF this book around page 140. The reason, I think, that a lot of people believe the book is better than the movie in most cases is because reading the book allows the author to go into more detail. The reader feels more connected to the characters because she can be inside their heads and know intimate and defining details of their lives. For me, that was missing in this story. I never found a way to connect to Gwendolyn. Yes, she is doing this because she wants her Dad back. Because she feels some sort of fire within her to take risks...but I, the reader, never felt that with her. A story like this succeeds when you want to root for the main character to pull off this crazy thing she's doing, but I honestly felt indifferent toward Gwendolyn. She read like a random person going through motions and not like Gwendolyn Bloom: daughter, brave fighter, driven by determination and fire, etc. The same goes for the secondary characters: Terence and Yael, for example, just feel like plot assists and movers to me; not really like complete individuals.

Also, I got a slight vibe from the story of: "The way to be badass is to completely transform into a fighting machine." I don't necessarily agree with that. Yes, that's definitely part of it. But all the badass female characters I admire in books and movies are not just wicked fighters. They are also passionate. They want to make the world better. They are strongly connected with who they are, and their talents accentuate them and not change them. This might evolve with the story, so it's possible I am not seeing the full picture because I did not finish the book. 

Then there were little things. The first few chapters just felt to me like that one friend who is always name dropping. It was just cities and cities and cities. "Oh this in Paris" and "when I was in Algiers" and "that one restaurant in Nairobi" and etc. And would your high school crush really be convinced to give you his life savings after one date?

As I said above, I think this will make for a good movie. It has the makings of a good screenplay. I just didn't feel it as a novel.

Thank you to Macmillan for providing me with an audiobook copy for my honest review.

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