Thursday, 6 July 2017

REVIEW: This Careless Life by Rachel McIntyre

This Careless LifeLiv, Hetty, Jez and Duffy are auditioning for a new reality TV show. Producer Cassandra has warned them the process might be tough, but they are excited and keen to get on with things, confident that they can handle anything. But when Cass produces a photo of a body, everyone realises that they may have something to hide after all…

Editing Note: Thanks to Egmont for sending me This Careless Life for review. 

I have decided, in the planning of this review, that the easiest way of getting through this is through Alan Rickman (RIP) GIFs, because frankly they just seem to summarise my opinions on this book.

I first read Rachel McIntyre's debut, Me and Mr J, two years ago prior to publication. It wasn't exactly my cup of tea, but it was a fascinating read and I praised it generously in my review for pushing the boundaries in YA. I had high hopes, however, these did not transcend into her second novel, The #1 Rule for Girls, which felt like conformation to the same poorly written YA that seems to be consistently published nowadays. With one hit and one miss, I had partially given up on McIntyre, but then This Careless Life arrived through the letterbox... I was in the midst of exams and didn't care to read something that I knew I wouldn't like, but then a friend informed me that this was a retelling of J.B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls, and suddenly I had to read this. Two weeks into the summer holidays, and this was the third book of my break I picked up.

Sadly, I was right about it being a disappointment. 

Image result for alan rickman sigh gif

Maybe this would be a perfectly average, or okay book if it wasn't for the fact that it is intended as a retelling of An Inspector Calls, but all my main issues with this book stem from the poor parallels to the wonderful play. If you look over statistics, An Inspector Calls is one of the most well-loved texts studied for GCSE English Literature - a subject in which texts studied are usually loathed by students. Of course I am biased and will take the antithesis opinion to this as an enthused English Literature student, but the point here is that where so many students who don't like reading despise this subject, they love Priestley's play. That is why to me, it shouldn't be touched unless you're going to do it well, and that is where This Careless Life failed.

An Inspector Calls is a masterpiece of shocks, twists, and psychological thrill, if you're going to retell it, this is exactly how it shouldn't be done. This Careless Life feels like an attempt to "dumb down" a classic so that young audiences "get it," when the reality is that this does not need simplification. An attempt to dilute the reality of the play into something that conforms to what is assumed to be the stereotypical teenage ideology and mentality within this book is highly problematic, and is far from a credit to the play that presumably the premise and idea for this novel branched from. In this case, the apple fell far, far from the tree of literature.

One hugely disappointing element is the potential that this could have had to be great. Every ingredient needed to make an excellent story lay on the blurb, but the contents didn't reflect that summary in the slightest. All the magic that could've been brought into this was completely gone. Cass simulatenously was and wasn't the Inspector. The secrets the four characters actually had were nothing to fuss over and a waste of time, where actually, if you're going to contribute to one person's suicide they would have been far more significant than driving past them and breaking down (this is an example of just one of the four catalysts presumably leading up to the mystery within the novel). And on top of this, the Inspector of sorts actively went and told the characters of the girl using different names, and planted stories into their mouths - the beauty of the Inspector in Priestley's play is that each character works out their connection to the woman in the photo by themselves, and never reveals to them that it's the same woman. They just work it out on their own. Everything that could've made this genuinely compelling was stripped and instead we got a poorly written rebelling that didn't really need to exist.

Image result for alan rickman sigh gif

I hate to be sharp, shrew, and bitter, but as someone who adores the printed word and literature to the point where I am about to start a degree in it, I cannot emphasise how - for lack of a better phrase - distasteful This Careless Life is in relation to the play it is hideously attempting to immitate. If you want a story that has you gripped and enthralled from start to finish, and reeling for days after, then do yourself a favour, and buy a copy of An Inspector Calls, not this.


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