Publisher: Fisher Amelie; First edition (December 24, 2012)
Reviewed by: Judith
Am I the only one out there who wonders why the author’s name is Fisher Amelie and not Amelie Fisher? Lone wolf Judith needs to know! It’s a burning question that could probably be solved if I just went to her author page: www.fisheramelie.com but knowing me I’ll put it off and still be wondering five years from now…
Plot: Sophie Price is the over-indulged, self-entitled Queen Bee of her graduating class. She’s beautiful, rich, and
has no empathy to speak of. After a second police raid at a local party lands her back in court and with the possibility of serious jail time, her absentee parents and their lawyer decide to do something to turn Sophie’s life around. Secretly they make a plea bargain with the judge – if he doesn’t throw the book at her, Sophie will spend six months of her life working at an African orphanage. The judge agrees and Sophie’s life is forever changed. The orphanage is so far outside the realm of her world-view that she can’t help but realize how shallow her own existence was. With the help of a surly South African volunteer named Ian, dozens of broken yet hopeful orphans, and the rest of the orphanage’s staff, Sophie slowly begins to transform from vain socialite to caring human being. But when tragedy strikes her new home, Sophie must dig down deep to see if this transformation is superficial or not.
Review: Sophie Price is nasty, self-centered, and oh-so-superior. She’s the deliciously evil wicked witch we all hate but secretly wish we could be. She uses people, especially men, only does things for her own gain, and cares about no one and nothing. Vain isn’t the story of that Sophie Price however. It’s the story of who she becomes after screwing up royally and being shipped off to a Ugandan orphanage. I have to tell you that while I enjoyed this story of transformation and redemption, I would have loved to learn more about the smug, entitled Sophie Price. Personally I found the person she becomes in Uganda a bit bland. Once she leaves the privileged world she’s grown up in, Sophie is quick to see the error of her ways and seems to transform practically overnight. Yes, seeing self-less people helping others and small children orphaned by war is a sobering sight, but her transformation seemed to come on far too quickly to be real. Maybe I’m jaded and don’t see how people can be redeemed in a span of days, but I would have enjoyed seeing more than just a subdued Sophie being overwhelmed with the harsh living conditions of Uganda and the orphanage.
Now that said, the book is very good. It deals with subject matter we don’t usually see in YA/New Adult – war, orphans, harsh conditions, over-privileged kids who need a swift kick in the butt. The running sub-plot of Sophie’s developing relationship with Ian, the hottie volunteer at the orphanage is extremely well done though it does devolve into melo-drama on occasion and Sophie seems very petulant and young when trying to get him to say, “I love you”. The overarching story of the orphans, orphanage, and Africa itself is fantastic though quite a few of the characters read as caricatures of themselves. Example: at the airport in Uganda, Sophie is surprised to meet a young boy who is sublimely happy. She can’t understand how he could be, you know, since he lives in Africa, so she asks him what he is happy about. He gives an answer like, “Because the sun is shining, I have shoes, and God is so great.” Come on! It’s the answer that a rich American would expect from someone in a third world country and the fact that Sophie hears his answer and proceeds to throw money at him? It’s a bit overdone. Other instances of this are: the only good people are the people who run the orphanage; the only bad people are the mercenaries running around the African countryside and Sophie’s socialite friends back home; and the only victims are the orphans even though they’re all freakishly happy all the time even though they’ve lost parents, homes, and many of them are mutilated. It works for the story being told however and you’ll still enjoy it even though you’ll probably be able to guess what happens because of all the over-characterizations.
One thing I do have to point out (because it effects the reading experience greatly) is that the author often uses words incorrectly. These instances are peppered throughout the book and I was pulled out of the story time and again from poor word choice. It was consistent to the point that I began anticipating it and found I couldn’t connect with the story as much as I’d have liked as a result. Some examples, the misuse of “revelry” when the author meant “reverie”. The use of the word “culled” to mean “pulled” or “put together”. There are others but these are the most memorable. The rest of the writing is very good. Fisher Amelie writes fluidly and beautifully, giving us a glimpse of Africa and the devastation of a war torn country.
Judith’s Final score: 7/10.
How much did I like the heroine: 10 and 3. This is tricky! I loved reading about Sophie Price, socialite, but Sophie Price, philanthropist, not so much. She was an interesting creature in her own setting. Vindictive, nasty, sexy, entitled. It’s the kind of character usually relegated to a secondary role and if we had been able to learn more about her like that, it would have been awesome. The Sophie Price we see in Africa is a little too underwhelming IMO. She changes almost instantaneously as soon as she’s at the orphanage and I just didn’t buy her transformation from 18 year mean girl to saint within a few days.
How much did I like the love interest: 10. Ian was great. Sexy, accented, and a reformed bad boy. He’s the perfect foil for Sophie!
How believable is the plot: 8. I don’t know much about the legal system or a rich person’s influence on it, but I’m not so sure a judge would allow a person charged with a felony to leave the country to serve her sentence. It seems a bit far fetched but hey! It’s the main plot point and served to change Sophie for the better.
How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 8. Poor word choice aside, Fisher Amelie writes very well. She has a unique style that flows well and can create lush scenes out of desolate locations.
How much did I want to keep reading: 8. The story comes to a very definite conclusion so there’s not much else to want to keep reading about except maybe the children at the orphanage and how they change over time.
Final Score: 7/10