Wednesday, October 2, 2013
ARC Review: The Vow
Simon Pulse, 2013
Scheduled to release October 15
Source: Received an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review through Edelweiss.
I have read Martinez's Virtuosity so was excited to see this new book by her especially with its very different premise. Annie and Mo have long been best friends, both having felt ostracized from their normal peers. Annie in the shadow of the kidnapping and death of her popular older sister and Mo as a Muslim-Jordanian boy in a post-9/11 Kentucky. Neither quite fits in but they get each other. Until the devastating news that Mo must return to Jordan with his family as his father's work visa ends. Together they hatch the crazy plan to get married so that Mo can get a visa and stay here. Should be easy-peasy, right? Not so of course as both face difficulties with their families and eventually the toll of putting up the front of this fake happy marriage starts to get to them.
There were a lot of things I liked about this book such as the alternating narration between Annie and Mo and how the last sentence of one's section would be echoed in the first of the next. This really tied the story together and kept me turning the pages. Though there are a lot of subplots, I didn't feel like the book was overstuffed; however I don't think everything was handled as well as it could have been as will be discussed below. I would also like to applaud Martinez for diversity and the guts to take on a really different kind of story. I've honestly never read anything in YA about teenage marriage for a green card (and I've read a lot of YA in the past four years.) I've also not read many books about Muslims in America, definitely an underrepresented group (we need more books with this diversity, please!)
Less successful was the depictions of the families, both of which are shattered even before the marriage plot is hatched and only further splinters as the pressures mount. I'm a reader who likes resolution and this book does not provide a sufficient amount for me. Especially of interest to me was the case of Annie's parents who, eight years later, overwhelmingly suffocate Annie with their desire to know where she is at all times without displaying any interest in really knowing her as a person. They are pissed when she gets married with their racist side especially coming out. And that's basically it. Does Annie manage to reconcile with them? I don't know-Martinez does not share. Similarly Mo's family makes a few brief appearances through video chat once they return to Jordan but the full consequences of their separation are not really explored. It left me wanting a lot more. Also leaving me wanting more was the relationship between Annie and Mo, which has always been platonic. By the end though there are hints of it becoming something more. Hints only, mind you and I interpret the ending in one way but they never really talk those feelings out.
I was also a bit skeptical about their knowledge regarding fraudulent immigrant marriages, as in they didn't know much. I mean, have they not seen "The Proposal"??? I understand they're young and not thinking entirely rationally but the idea that the federal government closely examines marriages between citizens and foreigners hoping for a visa/green card to ascertain validity is a pretty basic one and I was mad at them for not being prepared for that contingency. I was also disgusted with the racism on display while recognizing that it's probably pretty accurate and even muted for this time. As mentioned above, Mo is a Muslim from Jordan and while not devout, he does match the appearance many people might have of Muslims and he receives a great deal of racist remarks and looks because of that. Luckily the text in no way condones that and represents Mo as just an ordinary person because that's what he is.
Overall: I feel like my negatives ended up being longer than my positives but I still really liked the writing and the concept for this a lot. The entire execution was maybe not strong enough to make a deep and lasting impression on me but I think this is a book worth checking out especially if you're a contemporary fan who doesn't need a lot of romance and also if you want to support diversity in books.