Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review: The Magnolia League by Katie Crouch

The Magnolia League
by Katie Crouch
May 3, 2011
Borrowed from Library
Grade: D

Synopsis (from publisher): After the death of her free-spirited mother, sixteen-year-old Alex Lee must leave her home in northern California to live with her wealthy grandmother in Savannah, Georgia. By birth, Alex is a rightful, if unwilling, member of the Magnolia League, Savannah's long-standing debutante society. She quickly discovers that the Magnolias have made a pact with a legendary hoodoo family, the Buzzards. The Magnolias enjoy youth, beauty and power. But at what price?

As in her popular adult novels, Crouch's poignant and humorous voice shines in this seductively atmospheric story about girls growing up in a magical Southern city.

Review: I should have loved this book. There’s a Southern Gothic mood, a secret society, magical history, high school hijinx - so many books I’ve loved have fallen under one or more of those categories, but I was especially excited about a new ‘Southern Gothic’ type book. Beautiful Creatures, Splendor Falls, and even (the first few) Sookie Stackhouse books have caught my attention, and as someone who grew up visiting family in the bayous in Mississippi, I have a soft spot for run down plantation houses, voodoo magic, and Spanish moss hanging heavily from the trees.

So The Magnolia League had potential, and I was excited enough to almost buy a copy several times before finding it at the library. I’m really glad I didn’t. Nothing in the book lived up to my expectations. The plot is nearly nonsensical with the characters acting wildly out of their sketchily drawn characters to somehow force the plot along. I understand that a good part of the first book in a series is setting up the world and background for the action to come, but setting up the world doesn’t forgive plot holes and cardboard characters.

The main character, Alex Lee, - who has a far too stereotypical teenage voice - could have been so very interesting. Forced back into the gilded society her mother had run away from as a teenager, expected to fulfill her family’s expectations and make her debut, oh, and learn about the hoodoo her grandmother and their friends have been using for years to stay young - how could this possibly not be rich grounds for fun and challenging character development and richly drawn scenes?

Apparently for this book, it is not. I’m nearly impossible to keep away from sequels, but I very much doubt I’ll be picking up White Glove War when it appears. Disappointing. Very, very disappointing.

** I've sat on this review for a few days because I worry that it's unnecessarily harsh, but I don't think it is. I do think that my disappointment has made me more upset about the fact the book wasn't great than I normally would be so I post the review with that bit of information attached.

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