Is another iffy novel which was spawned on Wattpad, that salted-earth electronic backwater of unspeakable teenage masturbation fantasies involving boybands, albeit indirectly, as the author of this effort is a young Welsh lass named Beth Reeks. This may seem familiar; she did The Kissing Booth previous and which has found its way onto these writeups.
You may wonder why I willingly read another novel by an author whose first effort I described as a "Category 5 cliché tornado." Well, the answer is... ahh, soddit, I was going to write something highbrow and intellectual there but I can't be arsed. Bile fascination, that's the reason. Also, because I had yet another Victor Meldrew moment recently about how stuff that is honest and meaningful never sees the light of day yet tripe such as this garners mountains of squeeing and suchlike. If I ever have children, I'm going to ban them from the Young Adult shelves at the bookstore, quite frankly. I never got into it; one moment I was reading thud and blunder involving woodland animals and the next I was nose-deep in Michael Moorcock and Bernard Cornwell and Margaret Weis and Neil Gaiman and A Clockwork Orange.
(Yes, I did have a go at Harry Potter, for the record, and the first five are okay but after that the author stopped caring, but I digress.)
Right. Rolling Dice. Shall we dive in?
Sicky-sweet high school drivel written by a Welshwoman who's probably never been west of Abertillery, let alone been anywhere near a posh high school in Florida.
A bit more detail, if you wouldn't mind?
Well, we've got a protagonist called Madison here who's from Maine originally and all a bit dumpy really and boring. Her family inherits a metric fuckton of cash, so they all troll down to Florida and Madison gets enrolled in an upper middle class high school and gets a free makeover as well, a sparkly nose piercing, a haircut, a fresh wardrobe, and a look that's described as "rock chick." Really. A sparkly nose stud and large heels. Deary me. Can you imagine Angela Gossow in such attire. No, I think not, you research-shy fool. But this is just a minor quibble. Madison turns out, within minutes of the novel's opening, to be Beautiful All Along and all of a sudden, upon starting this new school, everyone's paying stupid amounts of attention to her. All the fit boys (who seem to have that surname-as-firstname thing that our colonial cousins seem to like - Bryce, Carter, etc.) want her, much to the chagrin of the obvious cheerleader stereotypes (who all have names like Tiffany and Melissa, natch). There's also the obligatory school nerd who sits with her in physics lessons, but he's not that much of a nerd really, and is called Dwight.
Oh gods, this is another cliché tornado isn't it. One made of icing sugar, rainbows, and aspartame, and whose epicenter is an incorrigible Mary Sue. I think I'm going to have to pause here while I have a little weep.
See, I don't give a shiny shite if I come over as sour and bitter here, or repetitious, but this bears repeating. Teenagers cannot write. Granted, there's exceptions (Mary Shelley comes to mind, but then again her parents were both writers and everyone her family knew growing up were all eminent men and women of letters) but for the most part, teenage authorship is not recommended. And there is a very simple reason for this - in your teenage years you do not have the life experiences to write believable characters. In fact, I attempted to write in my teenage years, re-read it a while back, and screamed in agony at how hopeless it was. It was made of Mary Sues, flat characters, an idiot plot, and sophomoric sub-Rage Against The Machine attempts at being political.
This is no exception.
See, Madison, who used to be "Fatty Maddie" the forgettable sad act, is all of a sudden the centre of attention. She has incorrigible dress sense and stunning looks that other characters constantly compliment her on at every conceivable opportunity, even though she reckons she's not that attractive really. She also supposedly has a perfect elder sister that she's constantly pushed to live up to and suchlike and is prone to extended pouts about how she thinks she's letting the side down somehow. But other than these flaws-that-aren't, she's perfect in every way, and everyone wants to be her or be with her according to sex. Yes, it's a ten-alarm Mary Sue and it's heading this way.
Let's now examine the obligatory class nerd, Dwight, who despite being the also-ran in the competition for her affections, it is blindingly obvious she'll find true and perfect love with at the end of this mass of ill-fated paper and ink. He seems to like his physics and suchlike and indeed, given that Ms Reeks is reading physics at university, she can throw in a spot of what she knows about this. But that doesn't make him a nerd any more than my membership of E2 does. Nerditude is defined by not only being smart, but by being a bit of a misfit as well. Which then leads to the nerds of the local area clubbing together to indulge their passions and for mutual moral support. Taking physics doesn't make you a nerd. I didn't do any science subject beyond GCSE because I was better at languages and literature and stuff like that. Yet I was still a nerd. As were all my pals. Endless lunchtimes passed in room G2 with us slinging dice or cards at each other or suchlike, or discussing literature (we were book nerds) and trying to write stuff (usually purple-prosed and anvillicious, because we were disaffected teenagers). Dwight, in this novel... he's not a nerd. He's just the vaguely smart kid who keeps to himself and not part of any real crowd. Mediocre, if you will. A socially acceptable nerd at best, acceptable, that is, to the vapid in-crowd of Tiffany and Melissa and Bryce and suchlike.
Speaking of whom, there's some sub-Mean Girls bitchery going on there, which is sort of just thrown in. Someone's locker gets glued or suchlike.
Then she gets with Dwight, and the novel ends. Quite abruptly. But thankfully it isn't too long. I don't think I could have taken more of the stupid Mary Sue of a protagonist who everyone inexplicably loves or the fact that she constantly goes on about what people are wearing (an annoying trait that Beth Reeks continues to have; if you want to give people a character, show don't tell) or the fact that there's constant maundering by the protagonist about how she's trying to reinvent herself. But most offensive of all about this is that there is absolutely no meat to it. I don't object to high school novels and settings per se, but this is high school with the crusts cut off. The Breakfast Club, that's a good high school tale. As is The Inbetweeners (which is shockingly, shockingly accurate as to what teenagers think and get up to). But all those have some sort of crunch to them. Take Carrie, for instance. That's realistic (apart from the telekinesis stuff, of course), probably because Stephen King was a teacher in a high school in the 1970s when he wrote it and observed a lot of these goings on. However Beth Reeks doesn't have that life experience to make her characters anything more than pale one-dimensional imitations of what she reckons an American high school is like, or would be like, outside of having watched High School Musical too much. If she'd set it in a Bog Standard Comprehensive somewhere it would have been slightly more believable, but not much. Her attempt at a plot also is more full of derivatives than a calculus primer.
She's also cut out any of the real crunch from her work. There's nothing meaningful in this book whatsoever. Nothing that might step on anyone's toes or which is honest. In fact, it's basically Twilight without teeth, is this, and just as clunkily written, with short chapters to appeal to today's smartphone-wielding 140-character-crabbed generation and stumpy paragraphs that are mostly (tin-eared) dialogue. I defy Ms Reeks to write a good action sequence or soliloquy, because I bet you any money she can't. Good novels are willing to tread on toes.
Yet, for reasons that completely escape me, this sort of thing gets published, probably because it can be sold to parents of teenagers who want to shield their little darlings from the fact that growing up isn't about having a hawt boy friend, giving yourself a makeover, and, as Adrian Mole put it, "staying up late and having your own door key." So they buy this sort of stuff for their offspring in place of something that might introduce them to reality.
As for Rolling Dice? It is nothing, absolutely nothing. And it is so saccharine it probably would cause anyone diabetic within the vicinity to keel over and die horribly. Far from being a natural 20, it's a critical miss.