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Thursday, September 6, 2012

ARC Review: Anything But Ordinary by Lara Avery

TITLE: Anything But Ordinary       AUTHOR: Lara Avery
PUB: Disney-Hyperion                      PUB DATE: 9/11/12
SOURCE: from Netgalley for review

Bryce remembers it like it was yesterday. The scent of chlorine. The blinding crack and flash of pain. Blood in the water.
When she wakes up in the hospital, all Bryce can think of is her disastrous Olympic diving trial. But everything is different now. Bryce still feels seventeen, so how can her little sister be seventeen, too? Life went on without her while Bryce lay in a coma for five years. Her best friend and boyfriend have just graduated from college. Her parents barely speak. And everything she once dreamed of doing—winning a gold medal, traveling the world, falling in love—seems beyond her reach.
But Bryce has changed too, in seemingly impossible ways. She knows things she shouldn’t. Things that happened while she was asleep. Things that haven’t even happened yet. During one luminous summer, as she comes to understand that her dreams have changed forever, Bryce learns to see life for what it truly is: extraordinary.
THREE WORDS: Intriguing, Yet Disappointing

MY REVIEW: The intriguing premise of Lara Avery's Anything But Ordinary is what initially drew me to this book- I mean girl-in-coma-wakes-up-years-later with visions sounds pretty captivating- unfortunately, the book's story execution and character development fell very flat.

Seventeen year old Bryce has a terrible accident on the day of her Olympic diving trials and ends up in a coma. Five years later, she miraculously wakes up and seems to recover swiftly. But everything is different- Bryce is now 22, her parents' marriage is breaking, her baby sister is now a rebellious, wayward 17 year old and her BFF and high school boyfriend have moved on. Then Bryce starts to have weird visions, visions of things that happened while she was asleep and visions of things to come. And through it all, Bryce must rediscover who she is and the life she wants to live.

Anything But Ordinary starts with a potentially complex and fascinating premise, but the story never lives up to that potential. This book seems to have an identity crisis of sorts; it can't decide if it's a contemporary or a paranormal or a love story. It has elements of all three, and individually these elements can, at times, be compelling and intriguing, but they don't really mesh well together or cohesively. The story just never finds its balance or flow.

The narration is anything but smooth and has a disjointed, clunky feel to it. At times I found myself fully engrossed in the story, but then the choppy flow would yank me out of the story. The writing itself is not bad, in fact there are quite a few really beautiful and thought-provoking lines, and the actual story being told is worth telling. However, the total story execution and development falls very short.

There are quite a few different arcs focused on in the story (Bryce's new romance, her parents fragile marriage, her sister's rebellion, her BFF and former boyfriend's relationship), yet not a whole lot actually happens from beginning to end. Avery crafts a poignant and insightful look into how Bryce's accident has affected everyone around her, but again the story as a whole lacks cohesiveness. However, I did appreciate the realism and believability found within this exploration. The fragile, distant and almost cold nature of Bryce's parents' marriage in the wake of their daughter's accident and coma feels startling real. And the reckless, desperate nature of Bryce's little sister's rebellion (drinking, smoking, relationships with many guys, etc) is easy to understand and believe. 

For the most part, the characters in this book aren't particularly memorable or masterfully developed. I had a hard time connecting with Bryce. I certainly sympathized with her, but found her unrelatable; boring and, at times, unbearably selfish. I neither like or dislike the other important characters (Bryce's parents, her BFF Gabby, old boyfriend Greg and new boyfriend Carter) and never felt genuinely invested in them. But I did really love Sydney, Bryce's little sister. Now Sydney isn't always easy to like or take, she can be relentlessy bratty and makes stupid choices, but she's unabashedly honest and amusingly witty. But more than that, Sydney's pain, fear and desperation is so palpable and real. She's really the one shining gem in this otherwise dull lot of characters.

The ending of this book is annoyingly abrupt and unexpected and had me "WTFing" and scoffing in frustration. Honestly, after everything the author put her characters and me, the reader, through I felt kind of gypped by the ending *stomps foot*

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: I walked away from this book seriously conflicted and disappointed. Anything But Ordinary has a few bright spots (Sydney, a certain level of poignancy, and an arresting idea), but the disjointed flow, dull characters and less than great execution, makes it an overall lackluster read.


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Lara Avery is a recent graduate of Macalester College, and a contracted writer for Alloy Entertainment. Her first novel, Anything But Ordinary, is set for release in 2012. Lara’s writing has also been featured in The Onion AV Club, Bennington College’s plain china: Best Undergraduate Writing of 2009, and on various stages in New York City as a participant in The Moth StorySLAMS.

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