Friday, December 13, 2013

Mini Review: The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine

Release Date: December 31, 2013
Source: Edelweiss
Published by: Balzer + Bray

The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine

Wren Caswell is average. Ranked in the middle of her class at Sacred Heart, she’s not popular, but not a social misfit. Wren is the quiet, “good” girl who's always done what she's supposed to—only now in her junior year, this passive strategy is backfiring. She wants to change, but doesn’t know how.

Grayson Barrett was the king of St. Gabe’s. Star of the lacrosse team, top of his class, on a fast track to a brilliant future—until he was expelled for being a “term paper pimp.” Now Gray is in a downward spiral and needs to change, but doesn’t know how.

One fateful night their paths cross when Wren, working at her family’s Arthurian-themed catering hall, performs the Heimlich on Gray as he chokes on a cocktail weenie, saving his life literally and figuratively. What follows is the complicated, awkward, hilarious, and tender tale of two teens shedding their pasts, figuring out who they are—and falling in love.


This is one of those times when I could sense the story's potential, but the actual story didn't quite manage to make me *feel* it. I really wanted to love this novel, to be one of the few bloggers who's staunchly defending it (most I've seen have been DNFing or writing negative reviews). Instead I'm left with a muddled feeling. Here's my quick list:

Things I liked:

**the idea of an empowering story for an average quiet girl
**said girl actually having some kind of experience with boys
**the idea of second chances, because boy does Grayson need them
**a Medieval Times like business that's kept in the family
**the idea of complicated family dynamics for both main characters
**the attempt to make something feel new/fresh in contemporary by giving some pretty unpredictable backstories to various characters
**the way the city was developed - the various school factions and the history each character had in regard to the sports and schools. The history and background for the Camelot.

Things that were meh:

**Wren. I wanted to like Wren more than I did -- it's hard when you don't know what to do with your future, and when everyone is telling you that you fit into this perfect mold - the child who's easy to handle, the student who doesn't talk enough in class, etc. etc. Except Wren didn't do much to change her situation (e.g. if you don't feel like you can talk in class to your teachers, approach them afterwards and facilitate one-on-one meetings) and when she started getting more into Grayson, a lot of her concerns about the future seemed to vanish. Wren needed more agency. The synopsis says she has a passive strategy, and the only times she gets fierce relate to Grayson, not herself.

**Grayson. I could empathize with the idea of him not realizing how terrible he'd acted and now needing a second chance... but I didn't find him charming, like Wren did. I didn't like how he treated her, how he continued to lie. His list of redemptive qualities (e.g. good brother) seemed less substantive than the past he was trying to escape (e.g. getting kicked out of school but not really visiting his half sister and brother).

**The Romance. My first disconnect with the romance happened after Wren saved Grayson's life. At their first meeting, she didn't trust him enough to give him her phone number... but later says he was charming and starts to obsess over him (?). Then I understood the obsession: saving his life was something that was all hers, and she felt good when she helped him. So she's not passive anymore. Okay. And for Grayson? He's made her into this idealized savior girl, and only she can help him - he can't help himself. Yet, for me, that's all the romance was -- both of them still stuck in the ideal stage. I'm not convinced they actually fell in love with each other, and it's definitely playing into that quiet-girl-can-change-bad-boy stereotype.

**Character Development: Both characters want to change -- Wren wants to stop being the average, quiet girl and Grayson wants to be a better person, but it's not really shown how the other two change each other. Wren hangs out more with Grayson instead of working at the Camelot, which her family owns -- okay, but that's not really her changing, growing; she sort of speaks out and dies her hair, but that comes off more as being "rebellious" than actual self-realization (for me, at least). Grayson stops feeling comfortable doing the bad stuff from his past -- okay, but a) he's at this point even in the beginning of the story; and b) he still doesn't do anything good to cancel out the bad which makes his self-realization/growth feel flat to me. We're told he realizes he's been bad; is his redemption only shown by him seeking out Wren? They both need someone to believe in them, but to me it felt like they were still believing in ideals of the other person and it wasn't actually shown how that person was helping the other along.

**The Characters. Sex-positive/experienced best friend. Idealistic, straight-laced friend. Jock, frat boy brother. Perfect but in love/pregnant sister. Stern man-boy (reliving glory days) father. Take-charge mother. Dissatisfied and filled with longing mother. Sad old man father. Trophy wife stepmother. "Homewrecker" (Grayson's words) and connected stepfather.  Arrogant, frat boy / douchey boys. A lot of the characters failed to go beyond these descriptions for me.

Things I disliked:

**Grayson's self-pity despite his privilege. He has a stepfather who's willing to pull strings so that he can get into Columbia and he doesn't acknowledge how fortunate that is, especially for someone who was expelled in his senior year. How many people even get that chance? I found it hard to empathize with his attitude.

**The way the adults acted. How can a guidance counselor not realize that telling students that you're not going to get into a school is demotivational and that some students would take offense or get discouraged? Why would a guidance counselor care if students hooked up so long as they didn't cause trouble at the time? Why does said guidance counselor nearly lose her temper over a spat of drama? Grayson's parents. His family. They seemed like enablers. The only adults I thought were okay were Wren's parents.

**The drama. This is more than angst and different from sometimes enjoyable soap opera-y drama. I found it hard to believe in the situation at hand. I also personally enjoy contemporary stories that emphasize character over plot, and I think this one was the other way around.

**The ending. I'm not going to add a lot here because what I say might be considered a spoiler, but the ending seemed kind of rushed and unsatisfying. I was left wondering about the character growth and wondering whether anything had really changed.

And so...

My advice for you is to try out the book. Read an excerpt from the beginning. If you like that a lot, you might go on to really like the book. If you're not sure about it, then maybe don't read more.

Here's the blog tour.

(Am I seriously incapable of writing a mini review?)

Other Reviews:
-[2 stars] Giselle at Xpresso Reads: "Even without the insta-love, I didn’t get the romance. Why were either of these people even interested in the other?"
-[3 stars] Jen at the Starry-eyed Revue: "The Promise of Amazing was a quick, mildly entertaining read, and I'm sure many others will find it more enjoyable than I did."
-[4 stars] Glass at Ja čitam, a ti?: "Honest and captivating young adult story."

20 comments:

  1. I know you said to try out the book, but after your review, I don't think I could handle the characters. To have them be stuck in the ideal stage and the unrealistic mindset AND to have the love interest NOT be charming and the girl kind of brainwashed...I wouldn't be able to stand it. Maybe someday from the library. "the idea of second chances, because boy does Grayson need them" <- HA!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw, that's too bad, but that happens sometimes and I didn't exactly make them sound so appealing. Damn, even when I try to lessen the sting, I suppose that doesn't entirely happen, huh? Ideal state, love interest not always charming -- lol, well, Grayson could be charming, it's just my personal preference that I didn't like him as much as I could have. Wren isn't brainwashed though :P. Maybe from the library indeed!

      Delete
  2. I've definitely seen a lot of negative reviews for this book, but I'll probably still read it anyway. Grayson sounds little like Sawyer from How to Love, and a lot of people did not like him, but I actually did. He was a realistically drawn character and perhaps Grayson is too. We read so many books where the MCs are so unrealistic (wise beyond their years, etc) that it may be a refreshing change to read about a couple who are so flawed. I appreciate the thoughtful review! ~Pam

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm curious now to see what you ended up thinking of this one! When I visit your blog tomorrow, that's one review, if written, I'll definitely have to check out. I didn't read How to Love, but I hope he was like Sawyer for you :).

      "We read so many books where the MCs are so unrealistic (wise beyond their years, etc) that it may be a refreshing change to read about a couple who are so flawed." --- So very true!

      Delete
  3. I like the new way you review Christina! :) I've heard some complaints about Grayson and I don't have the idea I would really like him. I like the sound of the complicated family, because that is often an overlooked aspect. But, if I look at everything you said, I think it's better for me to stay away.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahahahahahha the new way I review. It's my lazy way, when I don't feel like writing everything out. And then I still do. Complicated families are definitely overlooked in YA! I'm still looking for some good novels with familial dynamics I like 100%. Maybe they don't exist...

      Delete
  4. I wanted to like it but I couldn't. It was too soap opera-y for my taste. I honestly didn't like Grayson as well and the whole subplot that revolved around him that had to deal with his friends and the girls, I just found it to be disgusting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. Completely agree with what you've written. It was kind of disgusting, though I'm glad even he recognized that and could no longer identify with what they were doing.

      Delete
  5. I have to say, I'm curious about the ending now, simply for the reason that I want to know what happened that wasn't very satisfying. I couldn't get through this one myself. I was really hoping it would be an enjoyable read (that cover is just way too cute!), but the romance put me off far too much for that to be possible. And it's funny, but that's all I can really remember about the book now, and I read about half of it. Neither Grayson nor Wren managed to leave any sort of impression on me. I can't picture their personalities at all now. I'm glad that there were things that you liked about this though, even if you ultimately have mixed feelings. Nice 'mini' review. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The ending... Well if I'm remembering correctly, I think Grayson comes to Medieval Times to dance with Wren? And I don't think any of the guys get punished and I think even Grayson might still have that Columbia thing. It's been a bit, so I can't quite remember all the details. Just bleh. The cover is really cute.

      "the romance put me off far too much for that to be possible. And it's funny, but that's all I can really remember about the book now, and I read about half of it." That's like a summary of what I said above ;).

      Delete
  6. I actually hadn't heard of this one before your review, but now I'm not so sure I'll pick it up. It sounds like it could be interesting, especially having a main character who's so average, but it also sounds like it's nothing special. None of the elements, other than the main character, really interest me. Thanks for the (not so mini) review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Woah! I'm surprised you hadn't heard of Promise of Amazing. It seemed to pop up everywhere. Hahah none of my reviews are really as mini as I might claim them to be. Sounds like I didn't help much in clarifying where you'd stand on the book, but I'm glad to have introduced it to you then!

      Delete
  7. The non-genuine love/romance would have killed it for me no matter what other positive aspects the story had. The cover had me thinking this would be a cutesy type read (which is not even my normal type of read) but I was tempted... I think I'll be skipping this one though. Lovely, informative review! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cutesy type reads can be so great if done well. They're not my normal type of read either but every once in a while.... :)

      Delete
  8. I haven't seen many positive reviews for this one either. I just feel so duped by that adorable cover and the "promise of amazing". Gah. The romance was terrible, but the characters themselves were worse. Your in-depth "mini" (heh) review couldn't have said it any better. This story was just lacking in so many areas.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm a bit miffed by the title. Not what it promised, but the idea of Grayson being a promise of amazing to Wren when they meet. If only because I've never had that thought about anyone? Dunno. Hhahaha NO ONE WILL LET ME GET AWAY WITH MY USE OF "MINI." I clearly don't understand the meaning of the word :(.

      Delete
  9. Mini... riiiiight... hehe! You're adorable. :) I'm so disappointed with this one. I was so excited to read it, with that great cover and even better description. But with all of these not-so-great reviews from people who I have similar taste to, I'm torn on whether to give it a try or not. So many other books, so little time. Ya know? Not sure I should even bother. :( Thanks for the honest great review!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lol :P. Okay, okay. So I've only written one "mini" review in all my time here. Oh wells. Yeah, the description and the cover === great marketing from the publisher. I'm curious now as to whether you tried it out... if you did, I hope you liked it!!!

      Delete
  10. Oh man, it's sad when your list of things you liked is mostly qualified. "The idea of" this and "the attempt to" blah, implying they mostly didn't work. This poor book tried, but the reactions are basically unanimous.

    Also, lol at mini review. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wellllll I also get really picky with family dynamics. I feel like there are very few YA novels that satisfy me there and re: Medieval times idea - I felt like I needed to add that qualifier because it wasn't the focus? If that makes sense. So it's not entirely a failure to execute the premise so much as a... not always there? Hmmm, I think I'm just digging myself into a bigger hole, aren't I? Just like with the "mini" descriptor for the review :P.

      Delete

Thanks for visiting my blog! Please make sure to indicate your blog name so that I can return the favor later :).

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...