Velveteen by Daniel Marks

Velveteen - Daniel MarksVelveteen – Daniel Marks
Delacorte Books for Young Readers, October 2012

Review copy from Netgalley
Buy: Amazon | Bookdepository *

Velveteen Monroe was murdered by Bonesaw, a sadistic murderer who delights in killing teenage girls. Now that she’s dead, Velveteen is part of a team of salvagers in Purgatory who have to make sure that no creatures of the afterlife possess anyone in the world of the living. For if that happens, cracks start to show in Purgatory in the form of shadowquakes. While Velveteen is on one of her missions to save Purgatory, she rescues Nick, a boy she feels an instant attraction to. But Velvet hardly has time to fall in love, for she’s on a mission. That is, she’s actually on two missions; an official one that makes her the spill in an effort to save Purgatory from revolution, and an unofficial one in which she (illegally) haunts Bonesaw and hopes to eventually take revenge on him.

The thing with Velveteen is, it received a lot of anticipatory hype before its release, which is what made me request it for review on Netgalley. I cannot say that anticipation truly paid off, although there are quite a few more positive reviews out there.

One of the major complaints out there is that the original plot summary by the publisher focused heavily on Velveteen’s plot for revenge on Bonesaw, while the focus of the plot is actually on something else for large parts of the book. I was quite okay with that change in focus, because I didn’t think Bonesaw and Velvet’s plot for revenge were the most interesting thing about this book. However, I do agree that the switch between the other plot points and Velvet’s revenge plan were somewhat sudden sometimes and did not make the most sense in the overall story the book tells.

But my major complaints were with other parts of the novel. For one, Velvet and her group of friends in purgatory are portrayed with a lot of strong language, and they seem to love talking about sex most of all. Now, I am okay with teenagers having sex in YA novels. It’s not that.. It was the kind of language used that made me feel less disposed to liking this part of the story. The boys often engage in talk about “sluts” and the need to get laid or they might “explode”. It is not that the girls do not engage in a similar kind of objectifying of boys (Nick, for example, never quite moves beyond a description of him as being very hot). In a way, I felt that Velveteen was intended to subvert expectations about girls and love in her attitude towards Nick and her potential interest in him. And yet.. It did not work for me. For now most of what I got were a bunch of teenagers objectivying each other and using strong language, which left very little room for actual character, and relationship, development.

It’s not that there is no character development whatsoever in Velveteen, or that we do not receive glimpses of the persons behind the personas, but I did feel that it might have been too little to truly make me care about any of them. Velveteen, on the one hand, is admirable in the way that she is a truly strong girl. And yet I couldn’t help but feel somewhat removed from her, as if there was a glass wall between me and her that wasn’t supposed to be there.

I think actually that might be the biggest drawback of Velveteen; I just did not really care enough about the plot or the characters for the first two-thirds of the novel. The build-up was pretty slow which did not help. I think this was in part due to the care taken to build up a proper view of Purgatory. I think the author succeeded in that, most of the time, and some of the details provided were very telling and interesting. But they did not always work, and sometimes it truly felt as if these details were holding the plot back.

I should note that my response to Velveteen was not all-round negative. The plot took a while to really get moving, but in the end I became interested in how it would end. Actually, the world-building of Purgatory was of most interest to me, there were some really well-thoughtout details in there. The rebellion played a big part in that. That part of the plot might be read as a critique of the power discourse inherent to this idea of the afterlife, while never truly going for an idea of religion or the afterlive as “evil”. Instead, the book makes the reader ask questions: why are all of these teenagers in Purgatory? why do so many of them accept that they have to work towards a common good when they’re dead and are, perhaps, supposed to be beyond caring? is there a way of leaving Purgatory? is there a God? (It’s funny how none of the characters know, and are quite frustrated with the fact that they won’t find out for some time). We’re shown that Purgatory has leaders and workers, and there is an interesting dynamic between them, in which no one is sure who they can trust a 100%, and at the same time they’re officially all working towards a common goal. Velvet’s suspicions of her superiors were very interesting in that regard.

Unfortunately, not all my questions were answered. I am pretty sure there is going to be a next book for the manner in which the end seems to raise more questions than provide answers. I am curious what that next book will do with this idea of Purgatory, and how the power struggles might play out. If that is to be the true focus of any next book, I might be interested in reading it. However, to truly engage me it would need to have more compelling character development.

I read Velveteen by Daniel Marks for R.I.P. VII as hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Click over to the RIP Review Site for more reads with a autumnal feel.

Other Opinions: Presenting Lenore, Popcorn Reads, bewitched bookworms, Jen Ryland, Wicked Little Pixie, Books with Bite, Bookworm1858, Radiant Shadows.
Did I miss your post about this book? Let me know and I will add it to the list.

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9 responses to “Velveteen by Daniel Marks

  1. I suspect this wouldn’t entirely work for me either. And I get what you were trying to say about sexuality. I love YA novels that are open about it, but I do need some character development to go along with it.

    • Yes, I wondered at why I didn’t like this kind of talk. I know I’m a bit prudish and I don’t like these talks in real life as any statement that is only about the looks and the presumed “fun in bed” with a person makes me cringe a little. Especially as it is then tied to an idea of boys needing to get laid regularly or they’ll get uptight. I don’t know. Btw, I think the same was suggested about Velvet at least once so perhaps it’s not so much the gender angle as the objectivying one. *sigh* I don’t know.

  2. I quite liked the premise of this book. Like you I have no problem with there being sex and talk of sex in YA books but I’m quite fussy about the language used. I would still consider this book but not sure I’d rush out to get it right now.

    • Perhaps there’s a chapter you could browse or lend it from the library? I think that might be the best way to judge if it is for you. To me, the concept of the story was interesting, but the execution left me feeling “meh”.

  3. I have been so on the fence about this one, and your review makes a lot of sense to me. I think had I bought the book and gotten to the gratuitous sex talk, I might have been a little irritated. I get that it’s realistic, I mean, I have teenagers, but to encounter it in this book might have made me a little annoyed. Very perceptive review today!

    • I can’t really tell you to read it or not. For me it was a severe case of liking the concept but not the execution so much. It kind of shows in how meh I felt about the book that the horror scenes (for there are remembrances of Velvet’s murder that are downright horrible) left me a little uncaring. Perhaps lend it from the library and then discuss it with me. I’d love to discuss it with someone who has read it.

  4. I was one of the ones who was disappointed with the change in focus. I thought Purgatory was cool but it was not the plot that was sold to us through the publisher summary.

    • You’re right, it is kind of “unfair” to anticipate a different story than you get. I wonder why the publisher chose to go with that plot summary? And I hope it’s altered on the back cover.

  5. Pingback: R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII Wrap-Up | Iris on Books

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