Eight/The Jewel (REVIEW)

The Jewel by Amy Ewing

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Dystopia

Synopsis: The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.
Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.
Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence… and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for
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Review:

Amy’s Ewing’s ‘The Jewel’ just misses the mark for me. The dystopian world (in this case, dystopian city) is divided into five circles– the Marsh, the Farm, the Smoke, the Bank and the Jewel. The royalty, who live in the Jewel, are unable to have children for some reason and instead have a yearly auction to buy surrogates. The surrogates are ‘special’ and for some reason, all come from the poorer sections of the city, the Marsh and the Farm. There are special buildings in each circle to house these surrogates till they are sold. The story follows Violet Lasting, a teenage surrogate from the marsh as she is bought and sold to the Duchess of the Lake and must learn how to survive in the cut-throat world of royalty.

We are repeatedly told how special Violet is, named after the unusual colour of her eyes. She plays the cello, is drop dead gorgeous and has almost mastered the three magical Auguries. However, with the book being in first person, the reader is in Violet’s head and except for the parts where she is told she is special, she doesn’t seem that great.

Another thing that brought the book down was Violet’s love interest, Ash. It just moved a bit too fast to seem believable. Ash, a ‘companion’ to the Duchess’s niece meets Violet by mistake and they instantly click. The key word here is instantly. Violet talks to him for about five minutes and can’t stop thinking about him. Soon, they’re confessing their love for each other.

One thing that bothered me was how every single person in the book was either portrayed negatively or victimized. There were exactly four men in this book who spoke and every single woman was either evil or had to be protected according to Violet.

The two characters I didn’t mind were Violet’s best friend, Raven, and the Duchess’s son, Garnett. Raven was a well thought out spunky character and I only wish I got to know her better. Garnett was the typical black sheep of the family, yet had surprising moments which really made his character three- dimensional.

The world so created by Ewing, while a bit shaky, would have been acceptable if only there had been a better plot to inhabit it. Magical teenage surrogates were something that I was skeptical about from the word-go, but halfway through, the book just went from bad to worse. I simply could not understand the need for a YA dystopian novel about surrogates and this book failed to convince me otherwise.

The book has been compared by many to The Selection series and I cannot emphasize how wrong this is. The Selection has a great world and each character is unique. Where in The Jewel, the love story is instant and completely illogical; The Selection follows a girl who does not want to fall in love with the prince. For fans of Selection, this book is nothing like it. The Jewel and the Selection can only be compared because there are pretty dresses and a competition of sorts. And that’s about it.

I didn’t particularly enjoy reading the book till almost the last page, where there was a twist in the tale. It genuinely surprised me. Ewing manipulated the entire story so that the twist would not be guessed and I would have to say she wrote well, even though the plot did not do justice to her writing.

The writing style is definitely commendable, and I read the book relatively fast. I just wish she had written a different story. If she ever writes a new series, I would pick it up.

Six//One Indian Girl- a rant.

Book: One Indian Girl by Chetan Bhagat

I went into this book with immensely low expectations, and somehow still ended up disappointed.

For those of you who don’t know, Chetan Bhagat’s newest book is about a Indian woman with a brilliant career who’s just about to get married, until some complications from her past land up at the destination wedding that she is paying for.

Bhagat tried to write this as some sort of landmark book on Indian feminism for the Indian masses, and I commend him, honestly. I’m sure he had good intentions, etc etc.

But at the end of the day, leaving aside the pseudo feminism that is paraded throughout, the book still falls short on, well, pretty much everything.

Bhagat sticks to his money winning formula of 1) a wedding

2) a Punjabi family

3) an outspoken mother contrasted with a silent (in other books, even absent) father,

and yet touts this as a radical change (because of the female protagonist) which is slightly questionable (because a female protagonist doesnt mean his writing style has suddenly evolved and his plot formulae has been ignored?!)

Every single character is not only a living stereotype, but lacks any depth whatsoever, especially the protagonist, Radhika.

Radhika, from the start, is just painful. I mean, I get it, Chetan Bhagat just needed a woman who would be able to realistically have a whole bunch of issues because she’s a woman, but did that really mean that he had to confine her to just that?

Literally running to a different continent in order to escape her past, Radhika, an apparent genius, made me want to slap her. Multiple times. Bhagat also goes on about how she’s a nerd who’s become hot, etc,etc, but what I don’t understand is if she’s really that hot, how in the world does she meet only two men in the span of like, eight years? The author repeatedly talks about how she’s  so intelligent and so feminist and so independent that he fails to actually show it, and instead contradicts these characteristics through her actions.

Oh, just in case you were hoping for someone better, the rest of the characters arent much better. They all are living (kind of), breathing (doubtfully) stereotypes(definitely) and reading about them navigating their, well, stereotypes is just mind numbing.

But you know what, I get it. Bhagat has tried to introduce feminism to the masses in a way that’s easy to swallow, and he’s done in the style that he loves, with the intention of hopefully turning it into a picture perfect movie. And for any of the above objectives, the book works, technically.

But at the end of the day, the book can’t be judged by the intentions of its author, but only by its pages. And by its pages, One Indian Girl is a half baked plot with barely two dimensional characters. No matter why Chetan Bhagat wrote it, this is what matters, atleast for me.

(For the record- I don’t think his message was completely correct. I don’t think the book conveys what feminism is. I don’t think that’s how he should have tried to convey it. And I guess that makes it harder for me to like the story.)

That’s about it, if I continue I may never stop! I reaally hope you read some good books this week. Step out of your comfort zone, maybe it’ll work better for you than it did for me.