Monday, July 21, 2008

Invisible Touch by Kelly Parra

Summary
Do you believe in fate?

Kara Martinez has been trying to be "normal" ever since the accident that took her father’s life when she was eleven years old. She’s buried the caliente side of her Mexican heritage with her father and tried to be the girl her rigid mother wants her to be—compliant and dressed in pink, and certainly not acting out like her older brother Jason. Not even Danielle, her best friend at Valdez High, has seen the real Kara; only those who read her anonymous blog know the deepest secrets of the sign seer.

Because Kara has a gift—one that often feels like a curse. She sees signs, visions that are clues to a person's fate, if she can put together the pieces of the puzzle in time. So far, she's been able to solve the clues and avert disaster for those she's been warned about—until she sees the flash of a gun on a fellow classmate, and the stakes are raised higher than ever before. Kara does her best to follow the signs, but it's her heart that wanders into new territory when she falls for a mysterious guy from the wrong side of town who has secrets of his own, taking her closer to answers she may not be able to handle. Will her forbidden romance help her solve the deadly puzzle before it's too late...or lead her even further into danger?

Grade: B- ...

ARC -- Available on September 16th, 2008.

Memorable/Note-Worthy ARC Tidbit:*
This has absolutely nothing to do with the ARC itself, but dude, I just love how small the MTV Books/Pocket novels are. Anectode: I went to the movie last week with some friends and had Invisible Touch stored inside my purse. The film ended up boring me, so I excused myself to go to the bathroom, locked myself in a stall, and read. (Yes. Really. No. They didn't notice. Thank god.) ;)

Anyway, the memorable tidbit of this ARC is the legal disclaimer. Usually they just say "you must check all quotations against the final copy", but this one had a whole paragraph explaining how this ARC was a loan for promotional reasons. Ha, I liked it -- it was different.

* Since I can't quote ARCs, I might as well do something else, no?

Reviewwwwww!
If you’ll take a second look at the summary, you’ll see I bolded the mysterious guy part. Let’s talk about how these two lovebirds meet:

His name is Anthony, and up until the moment he rescues her from inside a town hotspot where a gang fight broke out, they’d never met. They have a little exchange after his heroic act, she thanks him, and that’s it. Well, no. He shows up at the pizzeria where she works the very next day, having known nothing about her. It should’ve struck her as stalkerish, but she’d sensed they’d cross paths again, so she was merely surprised at how quick it’d happened. Not wary whatsoever of his sudden appearance, she also accepts a ride home with him. By this point, I wondered if Kara had some sort of a death wish. Luckily for her, Anthony didn’t turn out to be an ax murderer.

The events that unfolded afterwards in their courtship were hard for me to swallow, as I don’t take too kindly to blatant coincidences. Kelly Parra must’ve known the reader would be wondering because there was a logical explanation at the end. In retrospect, I can pick out the subtle hints within the narrative building up to it. The setup was actually quite clever on Ms. Parra’s behalf, and I really liked it, but the characterization was iffy. I’m still confused as to why Kara—a self-professed disbeliever of coincidences—didn’t ever question Anthony’s involvement in her life.

Moving on.

Kara keeps a blog basically to let it all out, the loneliness she feels, her psychic experiences, and the emotions she keeps bottled up. I liked the idea of this, and as a blogger myself, I could relate to some of her blogging routines—namely, drafting posts in class. ;) But certain things, like how so many people seemed to comment even though she never advertised her blog, rang untrue. Moreover, I was expecting the blog to play a bigger part in the novel—for most of the part, it was sort of extraneous, like a simple diary would’ve sufficed. (Notice how I said "for the most part"—there is actually one part in the end where it comes into play, but for anything else, I didn’t understand its purpose.)

Now for the final component in my trinity of criticism for this novel: Danielle, the best friend. She keeps a secret, a very big one, from Kara because their friendship doesn’t go beyond the surface. We do learn what her secret is, and I gotta hand it to Kelly Parra, that was one bold move. I loved the buildup to it—realistic and subtle—but I didn’t like how, after the bomb’s dropped, poof....everything deflates and there is only ten pages left in the story, which aren’t used to cover the aftermath of Danielle’s Big Revelation.

For all its flaws, though, Invisible Touch did have a number of strong points. Except for a few instances like:

"Why are you making Kara go to that shrink again?" His voice was edged with criticism. (ARC page 77.)

...and:

"No. Just because he’s from the West Side doesn’t mean he’s in a gang." Even I knew my voice sounded defensive. (ARC page 134.)

—where I thought certain parts were overwritten and repetitive (because, in the first example, of course it’s an accusation, and in the second example, of course the voice is defensive if you’re defending someone), Kelly Parra’s writing is atmospheric. Something I thought she did particularly well was the dialogue; it flowed and it was natural.

This novel’s selling quality, I think, is the emotional level it achieves. Kara is still hung up about her father’s death, having never fully recuperated from it. On the same note, it’s still straining the family. In what I hope is her signature technique, Kelly Parra shows, not tells, all of this, and the reader is left without a doubt about the desperation Kara feels and how hopelessness the situation gets to be. Further, there’s a lot of heartbreak the family goes through, together and apart, I thought was depicted in a poignant—not too light, not too dark—manner which allowed for high levels of realism to shine through.

Ultimately, I don’t know how to grade this novel. I was hard on it because I believe in its potential, and even with its shortcomings, I still do. However, given the number of things that bothered me, I can’t give it an exceptional grade, like a high B or A. I’m settling in it being a solid B-, because the emotional content—which goes hand in hand with character development, the number one way to make me swoon—was good.

8 comments:

Book Chic said...

I loved this book, and am glad you mostly enjoyed it.

I'm in a bit of a hurry, so maybe later when I've got more time, we can discuss the book and what the shortcomings were, according to you.

Very interesting review, and I loved your balancing of the book's pros and cons.

Kelly Parra said...

Wow, RX, I have never received such a thorough review! I have to thank you for your honesty and I'm certainly glad that you appreciated the emotional level.

Thanks for taking the time for the read and to blog about it!

Best,
Kelly :)

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Nice review, Steph. You are great at exploring a lot of points about a book...which is nice to read!
I'm glad you liked it for the most part. I really loved the book. :)

-lauren

ambeen said...

Great review. I can understand your confusion about grading. There seems to be several things to tug you in both directions!

alison ashlee said...

You know I have nothing but high praise always for your reviews. :) I'm like a parrot, really; always repeating the same comments again and again. But, seriously, one of the very strengths I always see, is how you do vocalise the good and not-so-good points. That, to me, is an essential part of a true reviewer's role. I know I've already said that to you, but that's one of my absolute favourite things about your blog - your honesty with your reviews. :)

Hope to see more soon!

Eli said...

It sounds like an interesting concept for a book... I'd heard it mentioned, I think, a few times around the interwebz, but your review made me want to read it.
I'm really curious... what movie was it? (That you read this book during, I mean.)

Reviewer X said...

Hello people! Lemme answer some questions:

BC: I did mostly enjoy it, and I'm definitely going to buy Kelly's other book. The shortcomings I was talking about were basically the characterization issues I had with the Kara/Anthony relationship, the anticlimatic resolution for Danielle, and some aspects of the blog thing. But I still think it deserves a commended performance otherwise, especially with the emotional content.

Kelly: Hey! I'm just doing the best I can here =) So glad it was well-received. Thanks for dropping by :)

Ambeen, Ashlee and Lauren:! Thank you! It was extremely hard to grade this one (and to review it, actually) so I'm glad I came across semi-coherent.

Eli: You should check it out. I think Kelly's giving two copies away at http://secretfates.blogspot.com, so you might wanna look into that. (I got my copy through Book Divas.) To answer your question, I was watching Kung Fu Panda. It was cute and funny at times, but dude, I had a book in my purse. Unless something's absolutely, fully captivating, it cannot come between me and a book. Which is why I shouldn't take books with me when I go out :)

Steph

*Heather* said...

Now I'm really interested, because you kept hinting towards plot twists and surprise endings and mystery and....ugh. You should write the backs of books. You really should because now I am totally coveting this book.

I understand the toss up in grading books because right now I'm writing a review for The Elite right now (which I do like, but it has some faults) and I'm not sure where I lie on the scale.

It's happened before, too. And sometimes I feel I'm being harsh and others I feel I'm being too kind.

I commend you on such a great and honest review. I'm still dying to get this book. And it's your fault.

=)
Heather

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Hey! For some reason, this embedded comment form makes most people click twice before the comment is processed and published. It's not you - it's just that it's a new Blogger feature with kinks and all that. (But I adore it and don't wanna get rid of it!) I removed Captcha to make the process easier. You don't have to rewrite the comments twice; just click on SUBMIT twice and it should work. If not, email me. Thanks! -Steph