Spoilers. Because this is more of a rant than a review. I did not like this book. If it was the end all, be all of books for you, look away.
I honestly don’t know where to start with this. This is the fourth time I tried to write this review/rant. I don’t know what to talk about first or what order to put my complaints in. This might be all over the place, but AT LEAST I FINALLY WROTE IT.
I did not like this book. The one star rating I gave it on goodreads was far more than it deserved. Quite frankly, I think it could pull stars away from other books by sitting too close to them on the shelf.
Let’s start with the characters.
None of the characters act like teenagers. Enda is fifteen, but she acts like she’s twelve or younger. She doesn’t think like a teenager or use the logic that a teenager would. Here’s an example, she thinks that if she goes to the police or the king (that escalated quickly, because everyone just gets in to see the king the way they do) they’ll help her with all of her problems and everything will be okay. At fifteen, and living in a corrupt and class-divided society, I wouldn’t have thought that. I wouldn’t even have thought that at thirteen. Does the author just not know any teenagers? Or does she just develop characters really poorly? I don’t know. This is just one of many examples. It seems that every time Edna expresses an opinion or devises a plan her thinking is incomplete and immature.
It bothers me that most of the reason Edna wants to get her brother back is because he keeps “the evil” away. She mentions saving him to keep “the evil” away many times but never says she misses him or loves him for his own sake. She doesn’t want to save him because it’s the right thing to do, or because she’s his sister, and she loves him. She wants to save him for a reason that’s kind of selfish, in my opinion.
I’m really bothered by the way the romance is written in this book. Ike is very aggressive with the way he kisses Edna, and it’s kind of disturbing to read about. Literally, the first time he kissed her, he stuck his tongue in her mouth and kissed her in a really weird aggressive way. There was too much detail put into each description of a kiss. I don’t want to hear about how Edna’s knees got weak or about Ike’s tongue. It’s disturbing and gross. It adds nothing to the plot. I’ve read American Gods, which is very explicit in some scenes, so it’s not as if I’ve never seen this sort of thing before. But there are big differences. In American Gods, the characters were consenting adults and their actions fit with the plot. In Cogling, one character is a seemingly experienced street-boy-prince and the other character is a sheltered, naive, young housemaid. Given the immaturity of Edna, and the simplicity of the plot, the kissing bits seem to serve no purpose other than to boost the book from middle grade to young adult.
Also, can we talk for a second about the similarities between the way the doctor kisses Rachel and the way that Ike kisses Edna? The same words are used, the boy and the man do the same things. But when the doctor kisses Rachel, it’s creepy and weird, yet when Ike kisses Edna it’s supposed to be romantic. The doctor’s kisses are creepy because he sticks his tongue in her mouth, but when Ike does it it’s fine? What? You can’t say something is romantic, and even desirable, in one sentence, and then say that it’s creepy and wrong in the next. I know their intentions are different, but Edna could have been as upset by Ike’s kisses as Rachel was by the doctor’s. Just because you don’t mean to be creepy doesn’t mean something isn’t creepy. Also, I don’t know many girls who like to feel that they are being kissed in a forced and aggressive way. This doesn’t make for romance. It justifies rape culture.
Also, whenever it talks about Ike thinking of Edna, the book says that he thought about her lips or her mouth. One time it actually said something about how he thought about how her lips were swollen after nearly drowning. She nearly died, and he’s thinking about how her mouth is attractive? I sat here for five minutes trying to think of how to describe what I feel, and the only thing I could come up with were many disgusted facial expressions. Oh my god. Then, whenever he talks to her he looks at her lips. That’s not love. He’s objectifying her. But this seems to go along with the author’s conception of love. Ike loves Edna for her physical characteristics, and Edna loves her brother because he can make her good. No one loves anyone because of their personality or their intelligence or their wit. I guess even the author knew this would be too big of a suspension of disbelief since none of the characters had personalities developed far enough to identify with let alone fall in love with. (Burn.)
The grammar in this book is horrifying. In one sentence she uses “its” instead of “it’s” twice (even my grammar checker is highlighting my retelling of her grammar errors). Not just one stupid grammar mistake that should have been caught during the editing process but two. In the same sentence. There were also times when there were literally just misspelled words. It seems like in some parts of the book the author started to use a simple word but decided to step-up her writing with the ever helpful thesaurus. Instead of picking a better word, though, she got one that was vaguely close-ish to the original word and used it even though it was semantically incorrect. For example, Edna’s finger is irritated from rubbing something, but it says that her finger was “exfoliated.” Exfoliated doesn’t mean that your skin has been rubbed off to the point of pain (if it did, body wash would be so hardcore), it means scrubbing dead skin off. I don’t know why she chose to use this word instead of saying that her finger was rubbed raw or something. It took something away from the scene because the author was trying to be serious, then she wrote exfoliate, and I couldn’t take it seriously.
I kept forgetting that this is a young adult book. At least I think it’s a young adult book. I’m honestly not sure because in one sentence Edna will be acting like a ten year old, and in the next she’ll be calling some woman an “alley whore.” I’m not kidding. This is an actual quote. I would assume that that kind of thing wouldn’t be in a middle grade novel, but I would also assume that the writing would be a little more complex, and the characters would be a little more mature in a young adult book.
Everything in the plot of this book was so easy. Edna needed someone to take her to the swamp and then IMMEDIATELY she found Ike. But she didn’t just find him, he tried to rob her, then he heard her story and decided he would take her to the swamp. And, of course, he knew exactly how to get to the swamp and how to defeat the hags. Whenever they needed something it was right there and easy to find. It’s so unrealistic. That’s not how life works, and that’s not how a book should work either. Not a well-written book anyway.
There was a part towards the end where for half of a page there was a bit that got really into social justice, and then she just dropped it. I had been told by a friend who had read this that there was a bit of social justice stuff at the end, but it was random and very quickly dropped, so I was looking for that part. I honestly didn’t realize that that was the part until I had finished the book and there was nothing else about social justice. I kept thinking that that part wasn’t actually the bit my friend was talking about because, if I hadn’t been told that it was coming, and if I hadn’t been looking out for it, I probably wouldn’t even have noticed it. I’m not exaggerating when I say there was half a page on this stuff. Wait, no, I am exaggerating. There was less. And it was weird as it didn’t really fit with the rest of the story. If there had been bits of social justice stuff scattered throughout the story, then a lot at the end, where maybe it would become the point of the book, it would have been more reasonable. As it was handled, it doesn’t add anything to the plot, and I can’t imagine why the author put this in. In fact, it makes everyone seem even more shallow when it gets dropped at the point when Edna and company can be rich and live in the castle. Social justice doesn’t matter anymore, I guess.
I’m going to end my criticisms of the book here, even though there are plenty more things that are wrong with it that I haven’t mentioned yet. I could honestly go on for hours about everything that’s wrong with it, but it would be weird to have a review longer than the book.
But before we leave this train wreck, I want to say a few more things about this sort of book and publishing.
Whoever bought this book was looking for a well-written, enjoyable book, and instead they got this waste of paper. (Those poor sad trees. I’m sure they dreamed of being more than this. Toilet paper, maybe?) It’s not okay to publish something this bad because it’s not fair to the readers. Your goal as an author, or as a publisher, should be to make books that are well-written and that people would actually get something out of. This publisher is obviously not doing that. There were spelling and grammar mistakes that should have been picked up by the word processor the author used, or, if not that, an editor should have noticed. If you’re going to publish something, it should at least be grammatically correct.
Another reason it’s not fair is that it’s not fair to the author. The publisher (for the little they are worth) never pushes the author to be better. They take a book that’s worse than a first draft written by a thirteen year old and they publish it. I’m sure it feels great for the author to be able to hold their published book, but wouldn’t they feel more proud to have a book they know is amazing? Maybe some of these authors have some kind of talent that could actually become something if they really worked on it. However, instead of pushing themselves to be better, and instead of editors pushing them to be better, they get their poorly written novel published and think they have well-developed talent. There are plenty of positive reviews on this book on goodreads. If the author checked the reviews, I’m sure she’d see all the positive ones and ignore the negative ones, because that’s what people do. But without an editor to push her, or the bad reviews to goad her, is she going to improve?
A few words on the so called publisher. The information on the website about submitting a manuscript sounds like the rules for a writing contest for children. When I was younger, I would enter a lot of writing contests for children, so I know what these things look like. If I didn’t already know that this was a serious website for publishing a book, I would have thought it was something for children. If your professional website looks like a contest for children to enter, you may want to rethink your would-be publishing empire. Really the bulk of this book’s problems lay at the feet of the publisher and their editors. This book has the potential to be a really interesting book if it was edited well, and the author was encouraged to fix the issues. She would gain experience, becoming a better author. The public would get a book worth reading. The publisher should be ashamed of themselves. These days everyone wants to be famous and fast. Great authors work for years and years to hone their craft under the guidance of good editors. Publishing houses that just churn out work without challenging the authors to do better serve no one but themselves.
Like I said before, I gave this book one star on goodreads. I would have given it no rating, but I’m pretty sure the only book I haven’t given a rating was Lord of the Flies, and that was because it messed with my emotions so much that I didn’t know how to rate it. (The boy with the glasses. Need I say more?) I know exactly how I want to rate this book, my problem is just that one star isn’t low enough. But, until goodreads starts to offer ratings of negative numbers, I guess I’ll just have to stick with one star.
If you were thinking of reading this, please don’t. Spend your hard-earned money on something better. Perhaps Twilight. I hate Twilight.