Thursday, December 8, 2011

Break Away by Tatiana Vila

Title: Break Away
Series: Away
Author: Tatiana Vila
Length: 4310 Kindle units
Rating: 3 stars

The Plot

Dafne thinks it’s strange when all the kids in her high school suddenly become obsessed with books. She’s certain that it’s related to a local virus that has people falling into comas, and when her sister Buffy succumbs, she knows that she must do something to stop the epidemic. With the help of Buffy’s boyfriend Ian and a schizophrenic genius named Comus, Dafne must travel into the world of dreams and find the cause of the mysterious illness before it’s too late.

The Good

I was sitting down to review this book, and I thought I would have a lot to say in this category, because the book was pretty well-written.

But then I realized that the only good thing I had to say about it was that it was well-written. Fortunately, good writing can cover up a number of flaws and make a reader come away with a positive impression. My brain is pretty much saying, “The main character was extremely irritating. We were 60% of the way through the book before we even got to the main plot, and then that main plot was excessively lame. Still, I feel like it was a pretty good book.”

The Bad

As I was describing the concept of my blog to a friend, I shared with him some of synopses of books I was considering. He quickly noted that all the heroines seemed to have unusual or creatively-spelled names. He lamented that Ashlyn was the worst offense, but I had to put Dafne at the top of the list of ridiculous names. As I was reading the book, I discovered that, in addition to being the emo version of Daphne, the name Dafne looks an awful lot like Dante. So I kept wondering what the author of the Inferno was doing in the book and getting royally confused.  And Dafne’s poor twin was named Buffy. I can only assume that their parents wanted them to be mocked for all eternity.

Another irritating thing about Break Away was that Dafne reminded me too much of Kat from the television series 10 Things I Hate about You. Now, if you are fortunate, you have only seen the movie and do not understand what I mean, so I will explain. In the show, Kat tries to be a forward-thinking feminist who cares about the world’s issues, but the root of her activism is always an unwillingness to face her own insecurities. Dafne similarly uses a poorly-feigned indifference to hide her sorrow over the death of her parents. At one point in the novel, she has been crying but refuses to admit it, even when the other characters can see her red-rimmed eyes. I realize that many teens cover their emotions in this manner – I think I may even have been the kind of teen who covered her emotions in this manner - but it doesn’t make for a very sympathetic narrator.

And finally, I must comment on the sheer absurdity of the plot. The idea that art transports us to another world in the back of our minds, where we also go where we dream, is somewhat preposterous. Moreover, there is no clear reason for Dafne to associate the sudden popularity of books with a coma epidemic. It would have been like someone noticing that ice cream sales were high during the swine flu outbreak and then assuming that they must be connected. And even if we pretend that a high school student magically noticed this connection that all the epidemiologists at the CDC missed, do we really think that this student would take it upon herself to cure the disease? I’m pretty sure that the answer is no.

The Romance

The romance was actually what drew me to Break Away. I figured that a sister’s boyfriend being a love interest would lead to a romantic progression that I hadn’t already read a hundred times.  Unfortunately, the way the love triangle is set up, I can only feel that Dafne would be a horrible bitch if she dated Ian.  It does not matter if you think that he is your soulmate; you just do not steal your sister’s boyfriend. Ever. Unless maybe she is really your step-sister, and the most heinous bitch ever to walk the planet. But even then probably not. And in this case, I can’t imagine Dafne doing something that would hurt Buffy that much.

About four chapters from the end, we are introduced to another character who might potentially be a love interest. Dafne certainly describes him in that way. But, then, he is only around for two chapters, and he lives on a separate plane of reality, so it’s hard to imagine the relationship progressing in any way. Nonetheless, I fully expect him to show up in future books and add some drama.

Will I Read More?

Surprisingly enough, I’m leaning toward yes. Many of the problems I have with the book are related to how Dafne becomes involved with the dream world. But now that she has made the connection, the continuance will make sense. Plus, I’m interested to see how things play out in the boyfriend-stealing department. I anticipate tears and recriminations. If Dafne doesn’t tone down the attitude, though, I suspect I won’t hang around for a third installment.


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