Monday, January 5, 2009

In Too Deep by Jennifer Banash

In my review of The Elite, I said I thought it took way too long for the action to begin. The first hundred pages, give or take a few, were pure setup. When the characters had all been introduced and we moved beyond the initial encounter, it became infinitely more worthwhile to read.

So, in many ways, In Too Deep is a definite step-up from The Elite. The writing has improved. For those worried with label-saturation and product placement in these types of high-end novels, this one is better than the first in keeping with the “less- is more” mentality. And the action…well, it gets going a lot sooner, and lasts a lot longer, than in The Elite.

But. It didn’t work for me.

As ironic as it sounds in light with my problems with The Elite, if anything I thought In Too Deep tried to pack too much into its mere 240-something pages. The story is told in 3rd person limited and follows all five of the main characters—Casey, Madison, Phoebe, Sophie and Drew—in a rotating fashion. While following a linear timeline, each character’s narrative rarely overlaps, and so in addition to being disjointed, there is a very limited amount of room for their worries, fears, and drama to take root, grow, and become substantial.

And then there are some of these plot developments that I wouldn’t even contemplate putting in the realm of vague possibility. Sophie, in the first book, finds out she’s adopted. Here, she finds out her mom is a world famous actress. How those sorts of documents would be available to her and her parents is beyond me because as far as I know, Hollywood types tend to sweep those skeletons well under the rug. When she tells Casey—the only one she feels like talking to—about this, Casey barely blinks and tells her she must email her mom, stat. With everyone Sophie tells this to, the news sinks in like quicksand and doesn’t take any convincing at all. What’s worse, World Famous Actress actually replies—and accepts Sophie’s invitation to come to her Sweet Sixteen party!

Yeah…I don’t know.

Meanwhile, Madison is on the verge of signing a modeling contract. She was scouted while walking around Fifth Avenue or something, and she’s seeing stars. This guy, Antonio, has her going to this one test shoot where she had to wear the world’s skimpiest bathing suit, where she felt über-uncomfortable and basically decided she didn’t want to pursue modeling anymore. But when she’s called back by Antonio to examine the shots, she sees—and he reaffirms her—that she’s a natural and the modeling world needs her. He asks her to please consider signing their contract, as if the industry had worlds to lose if they didn’t acquire her talent, and asks if there’s anything he can do to help convince her.

I really had no idea the fashion industry was this accommodating, and from reading Melissa Walker’s Violet books, I’m over 99.9% sure it’s not.

Now, moving along to the subplots:

Jared, Sophie’s older (not adopted) brother, and Phoebe have a thing going on the side. I was excited when I got to that part because where, when and how would a clandestine courtship not spice things up? However, their scenes, suffering from the hectic nature of this book, weren’t very great in numbers, and they weren’t very developed. In one of the scenes, Phoebe’s trying to resist him; in the next, they’re hot for each other; and in the following one, she wants to end things. It’s too quick for me to feel any of the supposed steam.

Drew’s character started making no sense to me. Half of the time he feels like a puppet aiming to please the readership with his philanthropic thoughts of Darfur and how rich girls are so, so shallow; the next, he’s being a typical guy with conflicted feelings for both Madison, the rich bitch, and Casey, the unusual girl from Normal, IL, and acting like an asshole while he’s at it. You can see where one might get confused, can’t you?

Overall, I thought a large portion of the plot was dramatic for the sake of drama and became directionless in doing so. I’m a type of person who likes extreme situations for plots, but I like them to be rooted in reality and above all else be, in spite of everything, believable and convincing. Some people might not find fault with a novel like this, and might even get a thrill from it; me, I was unsatisfied. So, if you like gratuitous drama, liberal use of italics, and a lot of ellipses, this one is for you. C-

Further: You can find out more about The Elite books at


Unknown said...

That was a really cool, balanced review. I especially like the way you explained *why* you disliked certain parts rather than making fun of them or just saying you hated it with no explanation. Very respectful

Amee said...

Ouch, I actually have a copy but I'm thinking I may not read it. And I really thought the second would be better.

Alea said...

I still need to read the first one, I have it but.... talk about WAY behind on my part! I have a feeling I'll enjoy these!

BookChic said...

I'm still excited to read this, though I'll keep your complaints in mind while I go through it.

Good review- I enjoyed reading it because you gave some great reasons as to why you didn't like it.

Laina said...

Sounds like a "gah" book. You know, the kind where you end up with a dent in your wall because you threw the book at it so often.

Em said...

I had problems with the first book, too. Mostly the over use of brands and labels so I'm glad to hear that got toned down. Maybe I'll check this one out.

Anonymous said...

I think your review is actually too kind. I think the books are a complete waste of the paper they're printed on. I mean they're a rip-off of a series (Gossip Girl) that best expresses what's wrong with the world. Some rip-offs at least try to be different or have their own thing. The author even took the name of the apartment building from Rosemary's Baby! If I were you, I'd take the money I would have spent on this book and instead spend it on a good knife and fork because I'd rather eat my own face than read any more of this series.

Unknown said...

Ouch! I've always said you were a tough one. There's definitely some good, constructive criticism in here, and the points are very well presented.

That said (!), I've read the book and I was actually kind of impressed at how Banash was able to move from one character to the next and give the reader as much of each one's story as she does--particularly given how many characters there are to track. Would I have liked to see more action between Jared and Phoebe, especially? DEFINITELY! (That was one of my favorite sub-plots, too.) But to me, that just means that Banash succeeded in giving me just enough...and I'm interested to see what unfolds in the NEXT book (it is a series, after all).

And while I understand how hard it can be to suspend one's disbelief in these kinds of "high-end" novels (nice way to describe them!), this one IS called THE ELITE--so to me, it does make sense that the characters are rubbing elbows with (and even related to) celebrities, that friends wouldn't bat an eye at such a revelation, that they're getting discovered and offered opportunities to model (okay, being BEGGED to model might be a stretch, but for me it made for an entertaining one).

And finally, of course hormonal guys living in that world are going to be slaves to their libidos and act like confused/confusing jerks who want to save the world, or cheat on their girlfriends, or both--at least sometimes (Chuck Bass, anyone?).

I'm just sayin'. ;-) As always, I just hope everyone will take a deep breath, read the book, and decide for themselves whether or not they like it (here, and ESPECIALLY if/when Steph reviews FAKETASTIC. Yikes. :-O)

PS: Any chance anonymous would be willing to show his/her face? Interesting how the cruelest comments always come from the people shielding their identity. Such a cop out.


Anonymous said...

Never read the Elite and now your review's making me not want too =/

Great review, per usual. You definetely had good reasons for why you felt the way you did while reading.

Lenore Appelhans said...

I don't know - I really don't expect this kind of book to be REALISTIC. This sounds like teen fantasy, which really isn't my preferred genre, but it seems like it does the job it sets out to do well.

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