(that pesky formatting!)
You’re reading this now and I have some number of stars up there that represents how I felt about this book, but at this moment, as I’m typing, I have no idea in heck how many stars or going to be up there, or even how I felt about this book as a whole. I’ve been left so confused as to how I feel and how to interpret this book and what happened in the last hundred pages and everything that I honestly have no idea what I’m about to say in this review. But I’ve also sat thinking about it long enough that I know the only thing that will actually help me sort out those feelings is just writing the review and worrying about that pesky little rating later.
The problem with this book is that it’s based on “Annabel Lee”, my favorite poem of all time by my favorite poet of all time, and the poem was based on the real life story that kind of breaks my heart into little pieces when I think about it, and I had huge expectations–and this didn’t deliver on any of those. It took almost three hundred pages for the poem itself to actually fit in with the story, and there was a whole paranormal level that was completely unnecessary. However, by the time we got to that point, I actually started to care about what was happening–though I’m not sure if it was the story itself or just wishful thinking on my end. I can’t forget about all the things I hated in the beginning just because I was getting into it by the end, but I also can’t forget about how I felt at the end, because the whole point of writing reviews is to talk about how I felt. And sometimes you have to screw the voice in your head saying it’s illogical to like something, because you just do. And none of this makes sense yet, but I’m really hoping it does by the time we get to the end of this.
For non-spoiler readers…I’m sorry about that terrible description of how I felt. This book had huge pros and cons, and I guess my only recommendation is to read it if you really want to, but if you’re not interested, then that’s okay because you’re probably not missing much.
What I Liked: Spoilers!
- The relationship between our main character, Liam, and the Annabel incarnate, Anna, actually grew on me by the end of the book. I was squealing and “aww”ing and fangirling during the whole bonding ceremony thing, even though I was keenly aware of the fact that a hundred pages before, I couldn’t stand either of them. I eventually fell into the romance of their relationship, even if there really wasn’t a logical reason to want them to be together, and I felt…comfortable, I suppose, with them. I do think the bonding ceremony, however, dramatic, was actually really cute and made me like both of them a whole lot more–at least the book didn’t kill the romantic in me!
- The biggest thing here is that I really admire Lindsey’s dedication. It’s so obvious that she spent so much time researching for this book, trying to take Annabel Lee and stick it in the modern day in a way that made sense, and finding quotes that fit each chapter, all from Poe, and tying in little things from Poe’s life that made it even more obvious how much this book must have meant to her. However harsh it sounds, I don’t usually care about the author’s intentions when I’m reading a book, because that should come across in the writing. And the passion of the writer does come across here, incredibly well. As a reader who adores Edgar Allan Poe, I really appreciated that, even if the story wasn’t executed in a way I thought would have been ideal. I have to admire that determination and dedication and passion, even if I wasn’t a fan of the whole story. I was really impressed by the author, even mimicking Poe’s style in Liam’s words, and that part was just…honestly, magnificent. I enjoyed that more than perhaps anything else in the story.
What I Didn’t Like:
- For most of the book, I didn’t like Anna or Liam. Liam came across as an obsessed/stalker-ish character, who followed Anna’s every move because he spent a week with her once when they were twelve. He gets news and magazines and tabloids and pictures and everything in from people on the mainland, and he knows everything he can possibly know about her from what’s written in magazines. The way he talks about her in the beginning, when they barely know each other, borders on kind of disturbing. I mentioned to a friend that only Poe himself can get away with creepy being kind of romantic, and it didn’t translate well, even in a character that was supposed to represent him. Meanwhile, Anna…she didn’t fit my interpretation of Annabel at all. I mentioned in a reading update on BookLikes that I have a very acute idea of how Edgar and Virginia’s relationship was, and even if I’m totally wrong in reality, I love what I do think and the cute little romantic version of them in my head is what drives my passion for this poem in the first place. Annabel always seemed like a sweet, thoughtful sort of girl to me, and while I admittedly don’t know much about Virginia Poe herself, I do imagine that’s what she was like. Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine someone who could feel something so incredibly romantic and…sweet would feel it for a girl who is driven by reaction, doesn’t seem to care about anything in life, and is more of a lust-driven maniac than anything else. The image in my head didn’t match to what I was seeing on the page, and that was a huge disappointment for me, even though I can’t exactly blame Lindsey for not getting my interpretation right in her book. But oh well. I didn’t find anything likable about either of them until well over halfway through the book, and that was sorely disappointing to me. (Not to mention the fact that their relationship seemed to be entirely physical, except on Liam’s end [sometimes], for the entire book.)
- The poem itself, “Annabel Lee”, didn’t seem to make an appearance in the plot until about three hundred pages in, when Anna gets sick. I understood the references to the demons and angels in the poem were manifested in the Na Fir Ghorm and Bean Sidhes. Everything else seemed…well, unrelated. And the part that was about the poem came and went so quickly that you could blink and totally miss it entirely. I was just…frustrated, I suppose, since I read this book because it was based on a poem I loved, and the poem itself seemed to make very little impression on the story, basic plot aside. (And by that, I mean two lovers in a “kingdom by the sea”.)
- I’m not sure where else to put this–I thought about including it in my earlier dedication paragraph, but since I’m not sure whether I liked it or disliked it, it fit more in this section, I guess. But really, when I say Lindsey was dedicated to representing Poe, I really mean it. There’s this whole subplot that focuses on Liam’s mother, and Anna’s lost uncle (or great uncle? There were some relationship inconsistencies in here) and Brigid Ronan (the housekeeper) and stuff. Somewhere along the way, I got this weird feeling in the pit of my stomach that since Liam didn’t know his biological mother or father, and Anna’s uncle had gone missing, and Brigid Ronan didn’t like Liam and also seemed to be in love with Anna’s uncle, and everything, that Liam’s father must have been Anna’s uncle. And I kind of spent the whole last half of this book with that little ball of worry in my stomach, because while it might be hypocritical of me to celebrate Edgar and Virginia’s love when they were cousins themselves and find it weird here, in this retelling…that’s exactly what happened for me. Such a plot would have added a whole new level to the story, more complication to their relationship (because nobody will find that cute in the modern day–marrying your cousin is definitely out of the question). I was actually kind of excited, even though it grossed me out quite a bit. (I’m a glutton for punishment in that regard.) I waited for it the whole rest of the book, and read far into the night just to find out if I was right. Anna gets sick sometime later in the book, and Liam goes to the library. I don’t remember how it happened, but he had an epiphany, like me, that his father was Anna’s uncle–but he didn’t quite remember that the guy was Anna’s uncle. He was just, “Oh, so-and-so must have been my father–maybe I should tell Anna what I found out,” but the plot just moves forward and…nobody ever talks about it again. (?!?!) I’d want to know if the guy I’d bound my soul to for eternity was my cousin! But…I guess nobody cared? Liam didn’t seem to think it was a big deal, but I’m not sure if Lindsey was actually nodding to Edgar and Virginia in real life, or just forgot that the guy was Anna’s uncle or what…because I would have thought someone would have pointed out how messed up that was. But they didn’t. And Anna died not knowing that she was in love with her cousin. And this is exactly why I’m really confused about how I feel about this book. I’m disturbed by this, and kind of impressed by it at the same time, but mostly disturbed because it wasn’t actually part of the plot. Just a casual, “Oh yes, Anna and Liam are cousins, END OF BOOK” sort of deal. Which was…weird. And explaining it all made me even more confused about how I felt at the end. So…I guess take all that as you will, and if it makes you want to read it, great, and if it turns you off of reading it, well, that’s understandable, too. Incest isn’t generally smiled upon in the real world… (And honestly, wouldn’t you want to know if you maybe-had-sex with your cousin!? Why didn’t anyone think this was important?!)
- This is my last point, I swear. I just felt like the whole thing with the Nar Fir Ghorm and Selkies and the Bean Sidhes and everything was just…overpowering. I didn’t feel like the paranormal aspect of this book fit in with anything at all. To me, it would have made more sense just to tell a story about two lovers, and she fell into sickness and died, or something, and while that was all part of the book, it just got…really confusing. The paranormal creatures just added a layer that the story didn’t need, and complicated it. There were so many subplots running around that it was hard to keep track of which one was the real plot, in a way. The same goes for Liam (and everyone else) thinking there was a demon inside of him because of his dead arm. He got over his own discrimination towards himself pretty quickly when Anna said it didn’t matter and she didn’t believe it. And it wasn’t a plot point after that. Just…the whole thing was overpowering, and I think the story would have been better had it been simpler. I didn’t like the paranormal sprinkles.
Overall: Well, we’re at the end of the review, and I’m still not sure how I feel–not entirely. I really did get caught up in the emotion by the end of the book, but it also had so many technical problems that I really can’t overlook. I guess all I can say to that is that this was an okay book–not really anything one way or the other (or, I guess you could also say it that was everything in both ways, because liking it and hating it just don’t coexist very well). It had pros and cons, and this is really a case where the reader just needs to judge for themselves if they want to read it. I can’t even give a recommendation. Read the synopsis, read some reviews, decide for yourself. I’d probably say this is okay for ages fourteen and up–there were some make out scenes, but they all faded out (somewhat strangely) before anything happens.
Maybe someday I’ll know how I actually felt about this book. But I don’t think that day is anywhere in the near-ish future. Maybe when I’m thirty-five, it’ll hit me, and I’ll come back and added a little “PS” to this review to let you all know.