Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum

door cover

Setting: Some town in California (?). I think.

Stereotypes:  Sexy Italians are sexy. Why? See beginning of sentence.

Major like:  The connection with Leonardo da Vinci was awesome and took me completely by surprise.

Major dislike:  Too long.

Musical notes:  "You'll Be Coming Down" and "Living In the Future" by Bruce Springsteen


Abby is starting her senior year with a pleasant but righteously boring boyfriend, one bestie and one frenemy, and the perfectly understandable desire to get away from all of them.  Then what should happen but her school's production of Much Ado About Nothing is interrupted by a handsome foreign exchange student from Italy named Dante.  Did I mention Abby's middle name is Beatrice?  By the laws of all literary allusions, these two have got to get together!  But what is up with Dante and his other Italian friends, Zo, V, Tony, and Leo?  And why does Dante keep insisting he's dangerous to Abby?

The main problem I had with this book was that it was just way too long.  Someone needed to heartlessly edit this down to about half its length, especially in the beginning.  Many of the scenes felt repetitive (especially the painful boyfriend scenes), and the majority of them didn't have anything to do with the central plot.  What does Much Ado About Nothing have to do with the plot of this book?  Not much.  Do I need to know, in detail, the questions on Emery College's application?  Yes, it's the awesomest college application in the history of the world; but no, I don't need to know about it.  And because the "love triangle" is so needlessly drawn-out, by the time I got a third of the way through the book I felt no chemistry between the characters and didn't care one way or the other if they got together.

There are a lot of interesting ideas to do with music, time, art, and literature floating through this novel, which is great.  Only problem:  the book isn't about music or art or theater or any of that stuff.  Instead of making the novel more interesting, all these ideas detract from the narrative tension of the story.  There are too many distracting things going on for really no good purpose.

I will say the book improved in the second half, when we finally learned what the plot was all about.  I loved the connection to Leonardo's inventions and was happy the author didn't go with a super-obvious Dante Alighieri connection.  But I still wasn't sure exactly what was going on, even to the end, and this was very frustrating.  At very least the author could make me think I knew what was going on, but no.  The "explanation" at the end was ridiculous and didn't explain anything.

The reason for this lack of concrete elucidation obviously has a reason, for hark! I see there's another book in this series.  Well, sorry, but all my patience was wasted with this one.  If enough time passes that I forget how frustrating reading this one was, I might pick it up, but right now... not so much.


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