Review of ILLUSIONS by Aprilynne Pike
HarperTeen, May 2011
Laurel tries to live a normal life, but it's not easy--especially because she's not actually human--she's a plant-based fairy living in a human world. Her life gets complicated when elf-bodyguard Tamani walks into her school, a supposed exchange student. Having a sexy bodyguard isn't all bad, but it does complicate things with her human boyfriend, David. Tamani believes Laurel is in danger--to the extent that he has dozens of scouts on the watch--but he isn't sure where that danger is coming from. He's not even sure if the other supposed foreign exchange student is part of the danger. One thing is clear--that other student is something that really shouldn't exist--a fairy who doesn't come from Avalon, the home of the fae.
Laurel tries to make sense of her conflicted feelings. David is a perfect boyfriend and they have a lot of fun together. Increasingly, though, David and Tamani come into conflict--mostly because Tamani is intent on having Laurel for his own no matter who gets in the way. Still, Laurel can't help being madder at David for his jealousy than she is at Tamani--possibly because she knows that David has every right to be jealous. After all, she is attracted to Tamani--so much that she goes into blossom and he pollinates.
For me, ILLUSIONS was frustrating. Plant-based fairies is a cool idea. The fish-out-of-water of a fairy living as a human teen, with human parents, human rules, human girlfriends should work. And for the target audience of teenage girls, having the two hottest guys in the school incredibly attracted to her should definitely up the story's appeal. Some major weaknesses, however, dragged the story down. First, it was hard to take the external threat too seriously as both Laurel and Tamani spent more time worrying about Laurel's love life than they did about the trolls and other magical creatures at work. Second, I found the love triangle very uncomfortable. Laurel isn't honest with David about her feelings and gets mad at him when he's understandably jealous. To make things worse, Tamani deliberately toys with the feelings of fellow exchange student Yuki--supposedly to learn her secrets (although he never actually tries too hard to do this, but mostly to make Laurel jealous. I guess I don't find the whole jealousy subplot particularly appealing.
The first time Tamani finds trolls, he slaughters them without warning, without them even being aware that he's there. Perhaps this would be acceptable for readers who have kept up in the series (ILLUSIONS is the third volume in this series). Perhaps I'm weird, but I would have liked to see some reason to believe that these particular trolls needed killing first. The slaughter of humanoid creatures who, as far as we know, are doing nothing wrong, just feels wrong. Given Tamani's lack of moral qualms about trying to steal another guy's girlfriend and manipulating the emotions of an apparently innocent bystander, it's increasingly difficult for me to be sympathetic with Laurel's major crush.
Author Aprilynne Pike adds some awkward writing to the character issues. In particular, she seems to love adverbs when describing dialogue ("Chelsea added matter-of-factly," "Chelsea said noncommittally," "Mr. Robinson nodded approvingly.") Perhaps it's just me, but I found myself looking for "swifties."
ILLUSIONS isn't a bad book and it does give an interesting fantasy view of high school. Overall, though, I simply can't recommend this one.
Too generous? Too stingy. Or did I miss the whole point? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll publish the best letters I get so let me know if I can use your name.
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