Friday, October 12, 2012

Review: Ivy - Julie Hearn

Ivy by Julie Hearn
Genre: YA, historical fiction, comedy
Published on June 17, 2008
Published by Atheneum Books
Pages: 368
Read From: 9.26.12 - 9.28.12
Final Rating: 3/5 strawberries

Ivy is used to being overlooked. The youngest in a family of thieves, scoundrels, and roustabouts, the girl with the flame-colored hair and odd-colored eyes is declared useless by her father from the day she is born. But that's only if you look at her but don't see. For Ivy has a quality that makes people take notice. It's more than beauty - and it draws people toward her. 
Which makes her the perfect subject for an aspiring painter named Oscar Aretino Frosdick. Oscar is determined to make her mark on the art world, with Ivy as his model and muse. But behind Ivy's angelic looks lurk dark secrets and a troubled past - a past that had given her an unfortunate addiction to a dangerous drug. And when treachery and jealousy surface in the Eden that is the artist's garden, Ivy must learn to be more than a pretty face if she is to survive.


Cover Blurb: Not a fan of it; it leers, and it is really quite misleading about what sort of book it is. I was expecting something sappy, and horribly mushy, and probably even edgy, with more than one bedroom scene. Yeah, my expectations were not high, and now that I've read the book, I really think they ought to have chosen a different approach with the cover.

What I Liked: I love, absolutely love, Mrs. Frosdick! She is wonderfully horrid; I am seriously jealous of the Author for coming up with her. I loved how she kept trying to kill Ivy, and how very proper she was in her behavior; she was worthy of Dickens. Carroty's gang was very amusing - a very good nod to Fagan's boys in Oliver Twist without being too obvious. And Ivy's relatives were completely awesome, conniving little crooks.

What I Disliked: I did like Ivy, but I got to know so little about her personality that it really did begin to feel like the story had no protagonist. I was able to see her potential, which is what kept me from getting annoyed with her, but the Author really should have given the Reader more opportunity to know her. I got to know all of the other characters very well - and I loved them! But a story will always feel hollow if there isn't a protagonist.

Believability: While all of the characters felt legitimate, and the Author did a superb job with accents, there were a few unconvincing things. One: Ivy being a vegetarian. I'm sorry, but if a child were starving on the streets, like Ivy, that child would get over her qualms about eating meat very quickly. Two: Ivy recovers from her laudanum addiction with remarkable ease, especially considering how addicted she's supposed to be. She has one severe relapse - which isn't even that severe in itself - and that's it. Sorry; not buying it.

Writing Style: I actually really liked it. While not nearly as bitingly sarcastic as Dickens (it's hard to be that cynical; he was a master at it), her writing follows along the same lines, and it is hilarious. Unlike some people, I did like how the Author kept referring to Rossetti as simply "the Italian." But because it was so obvious who "the Italian" was, the Author shouldn't have ever said his name in the book, because then it gave an impression that the Reader was supposed to be shocked at the revelation of his identity. I found the whole scene with Carrotey Kate revealing who she is was confusing - and I personally didn't even understand the point behind it.

Content: Ivy's relatives constantly hint to Ivy that if Mr. Frosdick wants Ivy to become his mistress, she should let him - for a price, naturally. This does lead to her relatives constantly making rather lewd jokes, but Mr. Frosdick never once makes any sort of advance on Ivy, and the relatives' jokes are never graphic.

Conclusion: To be honest, the ending was extremely anticlimactic. And I thought the Author passed up a lot of opportunities to bring her story in so many different directions. Like with Carrotey Kate's gang - she could have done so much more with them, or Ivy's time at the school, and her relatives' constant scheming. While the Author had rather Dickensian characters, she missed opportunities to deepen her plotline and connect characters together that Dickens never would have. And I think that if the Author hadn't passed them up, this book would have had a far more interesting, far more satisfying ending. I did like the book - Mrs. Frosdick totally makes it worth reading, - but I mostly saw missed possibilities in it, and for that I am sad.

Recommended Audience: Historical fiction fans, especially Readers who are looking for a story that has a hint of Dickensian humor to it. Don't be fooled by the cover, people - it's really a very funny story. Girl-and-guy read, fourteen and up.

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