Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Literary Critic; Disney After Dark by Ridley Pearson

Hello, I'm the Literary Critic. I read it so you don't have to. Can we talk about Young Adult fiction for a moment? I mean, the genre is basically a brand these days from John Green to The Hunger Games. And while lots of YA is very good, there is also a butt load more that suck. Now don't get me wrong, every genre includes sucky titles. But YA seems particularly prone to the suckiest of them all. Why is this you might ask? Well, I think there are an array of reasons beyond all of our comprehension but the main reason that I've noticed is an author's ability to write down to readers. They don't try to write a genuinely good novel but write a silly story because it is assumed that kids and teens will drink that crap up. And that is just not true. Sure there are kids who enjoy the bad books but if they take an interest, how can we fault them? But there are many kids who seek good literature and lean toward adult novels to do so because the books in their age group have no appeal and just aren't good. And that isn't how it should be. A book should be good on it's own and not have to stoop down the story.
Oh, you think I'm wrong? You think these books don't exist? Well, they do dammit! Have you ever read Bridge to Terabithia or The Secret Garden or Sarah, Plain and Tall or Holes or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or Harry Potter or Skellig or Matilda or...I think you see my point. So what do all of these books have in common? Well, they are good pieces of literature. They appeal to children's imaginations yet the writing holds up. The characters are developed and complex and the author is taking a simple story and painting it as a beautiful artwork. Yes, that is literature, and YA literature at that and it is so damn good! But lots of YA doesn't fall into this category. Why? Because lots of books seem to think that because they are in the children's or YA category, they don't need to write credible scenarios or unique characters. As long as there is an adventure, kids will eat it up. And that is a big issue in my opinion. I take issue when adults say, "well at least they're reading." Kids shouldn't be subjected to lazy writing. They should get a book that took the time to really write a good book and not just because it is for kids.
Now I know what you may be thinking. I'm a 24 year old woman. Why would I be reading books below my age group? Well here is the problem: books can be written toward an age group but should not be limited. This goes for all art. Sure there are shows like Barney that aren't necessarily good but that show is aimed to teach kids things like colors and rhymes and numbers and has no real merit beyond that...and even the characters on Barney are more unique than those in some YA books. But look at another series called American Girl. Those books could easily be looked at as marketing strategies to sell more dolls and make more money but if you actually sit down and read the books, they are actually very well done. Sure the writing isn't perfect but there are never any inconsistencies, the characters are well developed and you learn a lot about culture and history along the way. I read them last year and really enjoyed them. Sure they had their problems but all books have those. My point is, there is a difference between a children's book and a childish book. The first being a genre and you can expect fantasy and lots of hypothetical situations but altogether fun, the second being poorly written and the author being outright lazy because of the genre.
So with that in mind, let's talk about the first book of seven (there are seven books of this garbage??) in the Kingdom Keepers series titled Disney After Dark. Okay so what is this book about? Well we begin with a boy named Finn. He is the typical handsome white male who lives in Florida and is pretty famous because of his role at the Disney Parks. Finn along with four other kids, whose names I can't recall because they are all so boring and generic, are DHI's which stands for Disney Host Interactive. The kids are essentially actors and they have filmed scenes where they talk about rides and the park. These holographic images are then digitally projected in the parks for guests who need help. One night, something acts up in the Disney servers and Finn's dream becomes a reality when he finds himself at the park in his DHI form after he goes to bed and the park is closed. There he meets Wayne, the obligatory wise old man, who cryptically talks to Finn even though he has no reason to. We learn that the parks are in trouble and that the DHI's are the only ones who can save the parks, and apparently the world. That's right. The DHI's must defeat Disney villains come to life because they want...what else? World domination...because that isn't cliche. Anyway, Finn seeks help from a girl in his school named Amanda who is keeping a secret of her own. Oooooh, mysterious! With Amanda's help, the DHI's try to solve a mystery that will bring peace back to the parks and let them sleep without entering their DHI forms ever again.
The premise sounds a little rough but not too bad. I was interested when I read the back cover of the book. The book had some good parts...or, well a couple. Okay two or three. The concept of the DHI's is cool and questioning technology and our relationship with it is awesome. At one point Amanda sees a theme park goer walk through a DHI hologram and comments that it is rude and I thought it was awesome that this book may be asking the reader to question her logic. Like, is it actually rude when the DHI's aren't actual beings but just projected images? But the book never really got to that place again. And okay, parts of the ending I didn't see coming. But this book still sucks. Boy does it deserve to rot in a garbage dump. This book was so bad that I actually wanted to kill myself. And let me mention that I hate suicide notions and never make them...except this one time because it is necessary. I mean, I really wonder if the author had a hat full of plots and just reached in for an easy explanation or a random piece of generic dialogue or some kind of crap to end the chapter. The entire book was so ridiculous and contrived that this wouldn't surprise me.
Let's talk about the characters first because they were by far the worst part of this book. First off, what utter vanilla characters we were given. I like to think of all of them like balls of grape jelly...or, whatever jelly you want to imagine. It doesn't matter to me. There is no authenticity or character integrity to them. They just shape into the form the author desires. If the author wants a suave character, he's got it. If the author wants a fighter, he's got a fighter. But when you remove the jelly from it's fighter or suave jar, it will never stand on it's own. It will always fall flat. And that is essentially what these characters are, flat. Between the rotten dialogue and horribly forced interactions, one wonders how this book was even published in the first place. I mean, what sort of person would allow this junk to print?...Let's look at some direct quotes, shall we?
At the end of one of the chapter's, a woman isn't taking Finn seriously because of his age. She notes he is 13 and Finn corrects her, "14. I will be 14 next month." So wait, you are 13 then? Well isn't he a smart character. When someone states his age he feels a need to correct that person that they are right yet it is supposed to come across as smart. Yeah...cause that isn't stupid. I mean, why would this piece of dialogue be allowed in any text? I feel disgusted just featuring it in my review. Here is another example of the stiff dialogue. Finn is looking for clues with another DHI and says, "Hey guess what? We haven't got a clue." The other DHI then responds in annoyance, "That's a sick joke." Wait so, that was...a joke? Am I too old to get it? Or are these kids smoking something?
But my favorite quotes by far were from conversations between Finn and Amanda. I mean, these don't get any dumber. And it isn't just their dialogue, it is the narration and the ridiculous story that they are placed into. The story sets it up as if Finn and Amanda only know each other from passing in the school halls or having a class or two together. When Finn asks her for help...*POOF*...they are suddenly destined to be a romantic item. Finn will be confused by Amanda's girlish wit and Amanda will be jealous when Finn talks to any other girl. How adorable. I love teenage romance. My favorite TV station is ABC Family and the Lifetime Network. There is a part where the two are riding bikes and the narration goes, "Amanda stayed in the lead on her bike. Thankfully, she hadn't asked any questions, and he took this as a sign they were becoming really good friends." A silent woman! Men love these! Don't speak your mind girl, Finn likes it. It makes him feel much more comfortable than having to explain himself to you. A passage like this could be viewed as subtle and quite good but it just doesn't work with these characters. They are the most vanilla of the bunch yet we spend the most time with them! They also constantly contradict themselves. In this passage Amanda isn't upset with Finn for not telling her anything yet just a few chapters ago she was fuming at him for the same thing. And Finn contradicts himself within a page and a half when he states he respects the one DHI for being smart and then says how annoying his smarts are. WHY DO THESE CHARACTERS HAVE NO CONSISTENCY???!!!! WHERE IS THE DEPTH?? WE DON'T NEED MORE STEREOTYPES!!!
Even the adults are black and white cliches. Take Finn's mother for example. She is the mother that cries when her son goes anywhere with a girl. Oh Finn got paired with a girl in science. I bet they will get married! My boy is growing up! His mother also asks questions and grounds her son yet doesn't follow up when necessary. Like the entire book is her grounding Finn but when Finn starts breaking the most rules, she is out of the picture. She is only included when it is convenient for the plot. How nice. But Finn's mother isn't the only suspicious adult. All the adults are suspicious and not in a credible way but again just for the sake of the plot. Even when Finn asks an innocent question they are on to him like dogs sniffing for drugs. Finn could have asked for a strawberry ice-cream cone and they would reply, hey punk why don't you order vanilla to match your personality?
Oh, and I forgot to mention that Finn's lady friend is not only vanilla but angelic. Yep, she is literally an angel. The book goes out of it's way to establish that Amanda lives in an old church and tries to set up beautiful imagery but I think it is safe to say the author just flew too high without a parachute. I mean, what Ridley Pearson did to Amanda is identical to what Stephenie Meyer did to Bella in Twilight. It just isn't good writing and completely missed the mark. Speaking of missing the mark, let's talk about the author setting up situations and not tying them up at the end. I already talked about Finn's mom and her lack of parental control when it is beneficial to Finn's plot. Let's talk about a scene in one of the early chapters of the book. Finn and Amanda visit the parks one day without permission (Finn needs to carry a special pass with him when he visits the parks because he is a DHI) and are chased by a bunch of security guards. Amanda angelically saves them by finding a secret passage way and they narrowly escape the guards. Once the guards that were chasing them walk away, Finn and Amanda walk out into the open and suddenly everything is normal. I'm almost positive they go and get ice-cream or something along those lines (I can't check the source material because I threw that book away the moment I finished the last sentence so I apologize for that). So...wait, isn't Finn wanted still?...won't other security guards see him?...how can he magically be wanted one minute but off free the next?....oh screw continuity. Let's just let the kids have fun at Disney World even though it contradicts the entire chapter we just read. No big deal.
This is one of the many plot holes in this book. Other plot holes include the fact that Maleficent magically comes to life yet Finn and the other DHI's actually see people dressed up in Mickey and Cinderella garb. How does that work? Well...it doesn't quite frankly. The ending was atrocious. The story essentially breaks the law of physics when Finn can suddenly become a DHI anytime he wants and at the end of the book he simple spins around and *POOF* the spell is broken. The story never was set up to be a fantasy. It is set up as science fiction where a person can enter another realm. How easy of the author to switch genres for plot convenience. It is the sign of poor writing and poor plotting. And I bet you thought this book couldn't get any worse, right? Well you are dead wrong because it can! This author has no basic knowledge of Disney history and Disney World. At one point he refers to the Hollywood Studios nighttime spectacular as "Fantasmics" instead of "Fantasmic". Good job buddy. You have absolutely no concept of your source material. Always the sign of a good author.
This book is awful! And I know awful! I read Twilight. And this was worse! I feel like the author is trying to get us to purposefully dumb ourselves down. This Night at the Museum recreation is full of contradictions, bland characters, over dramatized situations, and stab you in the eye dialogue. The book should have a warning on the back that the side effects of reading it include self harm, please keep all readers away from sharp objects and prescription drugs. Between the forced relationship between Finn and Amanda and the awful one liners, I was lucky to not bring a gun to my head. This has to be one of the worst books I've read in a long while and to think it is a series is mind boggling. I wouldn't return to this series if my life depended on it!
The only part of this book I enjoyed was the first paragraph of a later chapter on page 244 and it says, "The transportation and ticket center hummed with conversations as a tangle of park visitors shuttled between buses and monorails. Some families were ending their days just as others were starting theirs. On a Monday afternoon, thick with humidity, the tired and impatient mingled with the exhilarated and anxious. For some, a day spent; for others, an evening full of promise. The humidity hung in the air so heavily you could practically wear it like a coat." Okay, why couldn't the entire book be like that one paragraph? It was a diamond in a whole lot of rough.
What do I think of this book? Well, it pretty much blows. It is the worst bunch of words splattered on paper. I've never wanted to barf so much in my life. This could be the book that would turn kids off to books...like when you visit a fast food chain and vomit and vow to never go there again. Well this is the vomit that scares a kid from reading and makes them think it is stupid. There are some good moments...well two to be exact, which is not enough to redeem this awful awful excuse for a book. A stupid movie I could see. But a book? This is just despicable. 1 out of 5 stars from me.

To whom it may concern: This review was a parody of two things, 75% Nostalgia Critic and 25% Literary Disco podcast. This review most definitely reflects my views though I expressed them in the form I was parodying.

No comments:

Post a Comment