So. You Have Seven Messages is a book that I have seen multiple times walking past the young adult/teen section at Barnes and Noble. I kept picking it up and putting it back. There’s something about looking at the text in YA novels that is a make-it-or-break-it deal for me. If the text is triple-spaced and in a giant font point, I automatically roll my eyes and skip it. I feel like this book did that for me — it was not something that was aesthetically pleasing. But when saw that I could check out the ebook from my local library, I decided to give it a go.
The gist: nearly-turned 15-year-old Luna (or Moon, as she is more frequently called, or Malia if you’re calling her by her given name) is dealing with the death of her famous model-mother. A year later, she discovers her mom’s cell phone and is startled to find that it has seven new messages. One by one, Luna listens to those messages as she pieces together the events leading up to her mother’s death.
I really, really wanted to like this novel. I was — and still am — in love with the concept. Conceptually, it is a great idea, and one that could work very well in the hands of a skilled writer. Unfortunately, Stewart Lewis is not that author and while I did enjoy, for the most part, reading this book, there were a lot of things that just. didn’t. work.
For starters, Luna is incredibly annoying and incredibly unreal. It’s one thing for a character set in an unreal novel to appear unreal. For instance, if this were a dystopian novel — okay, I could suspend my disbelief because clearly we’re not living in a dystopian novel. But this is set in current time (as evidenced by constant references to iPods, music, tv shows, clothing, designers, etc., which is a giant pet peeve of mine to begin with — I hate when novels are full of [even unintentional] product placement), and so I want to punch Luna. She is spoiled by her parents and is given everything she ever wants throughout the course of the 304 pages. This didn’t work with me because Luna never had to work for anything, which made the plot move forward too easily. She listens to each message, and immediately understands who left it and where to go and how to find those people. No one ever tells her no, and everyone is nice to her, minus her former friends, the anorexic Rachels. She gets the boy she likes with no struggle, and her messes up but comes back to her again.
Ugh. Gag me with a spoon. Give me a novel with a protagonist who has to work for what she wants. A lot of the reason I think that Luna is as annoying as she is has to do with the fact that this book was written by a man. There are a few good books I’ve read where the main character is a female, even a young female, and the author is a man, but this is not one of those books. Instead of reading the thoughts of a suave, city-smart teenage girl, I read the words of a dude who’s trying way too hard. There are things in here that no self-respecting, NYC teenager would say, such as telling the audience that she isn’t a tween. Well duh. You’re 15. Of course you’re not a tween. You quit being a tween once you’re a TEEN.
The other thing that just didn’t work for me were the bits of writing that tried too hard to be poetic and memorable. They were memorable all right but not for the right reasons. One example is this:
Julian produces a pot that looks like it was made for a horse.
“Okay, we have to boil all these and then scrape out the hearts.”
He smiles. While the water boils I tell him about Oliver, and how he sort of scraped out my heart.
OH NO YOU DID NOT JUST DO THAT.
So overall, this was a quick, fluffy read that in all reality I’ll forget soon except to remember I’d recommend against reading it.
Overall rating: 5/10