Published by: Straw Hat Books
Format: Kindle edition
Reviewed by: Judith
Evidently it’s redemption week here on the blog though I never got the memo. Without fail, every book I’ve read with the express purpose of reviewing has featured redemption and salvation pretty heavily and you know what? I like it! I was getting a bit bored of overused and cliched love stories and am so happy to have something more weighty on the agenda. The cool thing about the latest one on my list, Marina in a Green Dress, is that you go into it with some deeply rooted pre-conceived notions about who will be saved and how. But But BUT!!! What you get is a completely different story. However, before I start to delve too deep, let’s get one of the most important bits out of the way.
17 year old Jessica has moved to London at the urging of her parents and while she’d love to go to University, monetary reasons hold her back forcing her to live a rather dull existence. She has an uninspired office job, a tv addicted boyfriend named Steve, and rents a room in a house owned by a landlady straight out of the pages of Dickens (think snooping, meddling, and lots of accusations). The only bright spot in Jessica’s world is the hit West End musical, Marina. After one performance, Jessica finds herself obsessed with the story and with the musical’s lead actor, Kennedy Orr. She spends what little pocket money she has on catching performances weekly and finds herself passing by the theater any chance she can. On a lark, she pens a letter to Kennedy Orr full of all the turmoil and emotional upheaval she’s currently living. When
Steve gets wind of it, he wheedles her into inviting Kennedy to meet her for lunch at a pub nearby and then posts the letter before she can refuse. Against all odds, Kennedy Orr actually follows through with her invitation and this encounter begins a strange relationship that slowly starts to mirror the story of the musical’s title character, Marina. When Steve learns that the musical ends with Marina’s death, he sets out to discover what exactly Kennedy Orr wants with Jessica and hopes that it’s not the inevitable demise foretold in the musical.
So you’ve read the plot and you think you know what’s going to happen, right? Kennedy Orr is acting out some twisted fantasy and using Jessica as the starring character. Right? RIGHT?! (at the risk of giving too much away here) Wrong! This book is so deceptively simple that you’ll go into it assuming you know what’s going to happen and it goes a little something like this: girl is disenfranchised, girl asks celebrity to help her, surprisingly celebrity does and then takes her under his wing, girl slowly discovers that celebrity very well might be insane, and reality and fiction begin to blend as real life starts to seem very much like celebrity’s greatest role which ultimately ends in death. It would be so easy to say, “oh my god, Jessica! Are you daft? He just wants to kill you!” My awesome british accent aside, you wouldn’t be far off. The entire plot is set up to confuse you, to make you doubt the legitimacy of any act of kindness, and it does this so effectively that you’ll find yourself hashing and rehashing it days, even weeks later. Kennedy Orr’s character is and remains a total enigma throughout. You never feel close to him as a character and at times you’ll wonder if he hasn’t gone bat crazy, finally taking on the personna he plays in this musical and forcing life to become a stage. Jessica also reads as nothing more than a naive 17 year old in search of a champion. But like the musical itself, what is fact and what is fiction is extremely hard to decipher and you’ll be left guessing until the very end what happens to Jessica and why Kennedy Orr decided to befriend in the first place.
It reads like a love story, but in the end, Marina in the Green Dress is decidely not. It’s a story of salvation and redemption and surprisingly, the only one who is not in need of either is Jessica. At the beginning, she comes across as meek and spineless but in reality she’s one of the strongest teenage heroines I’ve ever read. She is the only character in this book who knows what she wants and only needs the right backdrop to be able to shine. I highly applaud Alan Davidson for writing a female lead who does not need saving. (Spoiler alert) I also applaud the fact that he gifts her with the ability to save Kennedy Orr from himself and then, does not have her use that ability for nefarious reasons.
The story is told in the 3rd person which I found disconcerting at first since everybody is writing first person narrative these days. But it fit very well and kept up the suspense and allowed for a certain distance between the reader and the two main characters. Their motivations and thoughts were withheld because of it and in my opinion, the end was so much more suprising because of it. Like I said, this is not a love story so if you’re expecting some sexy times or for Kennedy Orr to profess undying love for Jessica, move along. You won’t get it.
In the end, I’m giving this 9/10.
Based on the following criteria:
How much did I like the heroine: 10. Jessica wasn’t one of these weak girls who needed a man to pull her out of poverty and save her. Her relationship with Kennedy Orr does give her the impetus to make changes in her life that are positive but she never needs him to be the one who makes the changes. I love how strong she is and how she never whines or complains about her life even though it borders on crap. She’s strong, thoughtful, and opinionated. She knows what she needs to do in order to help Kennedy change for the better as well. And she doesn’t shy away from it no matter how difficult it is.
How much did I like the love interest: 9. Kennedy Orr very well may be insane. Or he may just be the victim of celebrity. He’s loud, larger than life, and charismatic in a way
that no one else could be. He doesn’t care about convention or others’ feelings but it’s hard to say if this is due to the fact that he’s well known and wealthy or if he honestly has moved beyond caring what people think. He’s not really Jessica’s love interest per se, more of a benefactor a la Great Expectations (again, another Dickens’ reference) but he does play a huge part in her life and in the end, wants to love her if only to replace another girl who loved him before he was famous.
How believable is the plot: 10. Am I the only one here who thinks that if it’s British that means it must be real? Come on! Something about the way brits talk and phrase a story, how they posit certain situations, how they compel you with their smart speak makes everything they write believable! We look like cavemen in comparison scratching on rock walls with sticks. So anywho, celebrity taking an impressionable girl under his wing in London? I believe it!
How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 10. Please see above re: my love of all things british. Writing = brilliant, editing = brilliant, plot/storyline/characterization = bloody brilliant!
How much did I want to keep reading: 9. Surprisingly, the story is written so you don’t want to read more. It’s wholly contained within this one book and the only nagging leftover bit asked a very important question about Jessica. But you don’t have to know the answer, I mean, you can just guess and you won’t be disappointed.
Final Score: 9/10. Rarely have I read a YA novel that makes me feel so smart and international. The story is simple but the context and underlying drama is not.
****Disclaimer: I got this book for free from the author. I swear I didn’t bribe her in any way, or get paid for my review. And we might not be legit enough to need this disclaimer but after working at a law firm for many years it’s better safe than sorry!****