Saturday, July 9, 2011

Book Review: The Tear Collector by Patrick Jones

Title: The Tear Collector
Author: Patrick Jones
Genre:
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: September 1, 2009
Hardcover: 263 pages

Stand Alone or series: I know there will at least be a sequel called Cassandra’s Turn.

Where did I get this book: I was able to pick this book up for $1 at the library book sale.

Summary:
Beautiful and popular Cassandra is always available for anyone in need of a peer counselor at school, a volunteer in the hospital, or a sympathetic ear at church. She is ready to console and comfort those with a multitude of problems, from broken hearts to the death of a family member. But she doesn't do these things to be nice; she does them because her life depends on it. Cassandra has descended from a long line of grief vampires who need tears instead of blood to survive. She is expected to collect tears and produce the next generation for her family's survival, but recently Cassandra has become disillusioned with her life. She has made meaningful friendships, has allowed herself to feel, and, most importantly, has fallen in love.

Fans of urban fantasy should prepare for a new kind of vampire–one that feeds off of tears instead of blood. Descended from an ancient line of creatures that gain their energy from human tears, Cassandra Gray depends on human sorrow to live. Only Cass has grown tired of living this life and wants to live like a human, especially now that she's met someone worth fighting for.
Review:

Cassandra Gray comes from a vary special family. See, Cassandra is a vampire. A special kind of vampire that feeds on tears instead of blood. Forced to feed of other people's pain, Cassandra can never allow herself to get too close to any one person. To make matters worse, as her grandmother gets older and weaker Cassandra must almost help provide the energy they collect from tears to her grandmother. This added strain has Cassandra working overtime to try and reach her family's high expectation. But as Cassandra tries to be everything her family wants her to be, she realizes she's tired of having to keep everyone an arms length away. Even though Cassandra is popular and volunteers in a hospital bursting with people, she's actually very alone. But as Cassandra starts to reach out to the people around her, she learns sometimes there's a high price to pay for getting what you want.

One issue I really had with this book was the use of several different stereotypes. One, not all goths genuinely believe in vampires. This really bothered me because I felt like the entire goth subculture was being distorted and generalized for the sake of easy characterization. That's not to say there isn't a vampyre subculture, but I still think the oversimplification of goths was problematic. (I found a really great post here if you'd like more info.) While Samantha does happen to be a vampire-believing-goth, saying she's like this because all goths are like this was lazy writing. This also leads into my second problem, the way Jones characterized atheism. I'll admit there's the possibility I'm being overly sensitive since I'm an atheist myself, but I really felt like Jones botched the whole thing. I honestly felt like atheism was misrepresented in a pseudo-debate in an attempt to discredit the genuine and complicated reasons people question belief in a god. Instead I felt like Jones used these conversations to speak to me as a reader. And it pissed me off. The characters Catholicism also seemed too heavy handed for me. Considering how heavy handed all the characters were though, this isn't very surprising. The cheerleaders are stuck up and shallow. The jocks are all brawn and no brain. The villain is very very evil. Scott is the "surprising" love interest that's sweet yet shy. Samantha is the wounded goth girl who writes poetry and hurts herself. It's was all too...expected. There was nothing distinctive about any of the characters.

This story was also woefully short on details. We're told Cassandra's family is some kind of succubus or vampire that feeds on human emotions like fear and sadness, but that's about it. We don't know what extent these emotions can be. Cassandra mentions she wants to feed on love not tears, but I wasn't sure what she meant. Was she being serious? If so, did Jones not think of the horror such a thing would cause? Is Cassandra immortal? How does doing something inhumane make a person human? There simply wasn't enough details for me. The reader is left with zero understanding of the supernatural elements of the story and instead is bombarded with random high school gossip and drama. I know more about one of the cheerleaders facebook page then I do about Cassandra's powers. Honestly, compared to the Dresden Files, where the White Court vampires (similar to Cassandra in this story) are fleshed out and considered from several angles, the supernatural part of this story was seriously lacking.

Since this story is light on the details and heavy on the stereotypes, it would take a really strong protagonist to make the story still work. And that's where this book falls short. While the begging of the story was interesting, it automatically distanced me emotionally from Cassandra. Her apathy caused my indifference and yet the story relies on the readers connection with her. Instead of wanting Cassandra to get a chance at a normal life, all her introspection just bored me. Her whining about the unfairness of it all was just that, whining. I genuinely didn't care what happened to her. And because of that, I wasn't able to feel her sacrifices were genuine sacrifices or her fears were worth being worried about. I just felt really meh about it all. Even more boring was the love story. Jeez, when will two dimensional instant attraction just die already? There's a part in the book when Cassandra thinks "we have so many connection" because Scott has read A Tale of Two Cities. Yeah, cause that's a totally obscure book that no one has ever heard about. That's be like me getting all emotional over the fact Ryan also read Huckleberry Finn. It's called eleventh grade English. Soul mates it does not make. Also, the fact Cassandra had to tell us they had connections means they didn't actually have any connections. Except for their simplistic views of theology of course. I also love the totally ridiculous relationship drama that was thrown in just to move things along.

At the end of the day this book is more coming-of-age-story than urban fantasy and it just didn't work for me since I couldn't feel Cassandra's journey. The dangling plot thread with Alexei, Cassandra's evil cousin, also really bothered me. the best thing about this story are the first and last lines.

Verdict:

I know I ranted about this book, but I did really enjoy Jones' writing. It had a nice feel to it in a way I can't easily describe. I also thought the idea was interesting, even if the execution fell short. This is the type of book I can see young readers using to test urban-fantasy waters. At the same time, I wonder why young readers need such tepid stories. Most teens have already experienced their own horror in the world.

Rating: Between a 4 and a 5

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