I feel like some authors are better suited for writing one literary hit, one good single or even individual book that will become their mark in the publishing world. Everything they write beyond that comes no where near that, either because they’ve had the taste of fame and want to prolong it, or they were pressured into it. These are the kinds of authors whose books you keep reading but now find yourself whispering for them to please stop writing into the pages, because the magic is gone and what’s left is a hot mess.
I sadly find myself feeling this way about Aprilynne Pike, whose “Wings” series was wonderful and memorable, touching and sweet in a way I didn’t see before in YA. In a way, it was one of my coming-of-age series. When reading the summary for “Glitter” I was certain I’d enjoy it. It felt like a mix between a dystopia and historical fiction according to the summary, and if there’s one thing that I can’t say no to then it’s an apocalyptic take on Marie Antoinette set in the future.
What I ended up finding, however, was an incredible mess of plot and character that can only be interpreted as ‘the author said so, so it shall be’. It can only go so far to create a world or a scenario if it then doesn’t fit in with the rest of the world being created, or if it’s a tiny bubble within a vast sea of neglected things, as is the case in “Glitter”. The book begins with a prologue that jumps right into the main issue of the book, though the reader doesn’t quite know it yet. It takes a few chapters to learn about Danica’s predicament, how she is to be wed to the King all because her mother is blackmailing him. She is desperate enough to get out of the palace that she gets in contact with a dealer of the drug “glitter” in Paris, deciding to establish a brand of cosmetics that includes this drug within it and addicting the court to it, while using the money she gathers from it to buy a new identity and escape, all for the price of 5 million.
There were so many things wrong with this book that the only reason why I felt it was 2 stars was because the writing style was at least easy to follow, and it was easy to skip over chunks at times when events got too dull yet still be able to keep up with what’s going on. The main problem lay with Danica herself, an all-around unlikable character from the beginning. The reader is being convinced that Danica is trying to fight the system, that she hates what’s going on, but there is never a clear backbone to her that would actually show this. She easily slips into societal prattle and, at times, even sinks to the same petty level when she begins insulting ladies of the court. Her decision to sell addicting and dangerous cosmetics to raise money for her escape works as a plot point, but is ridiculously immoral if one thinks about what that says about a person. Literature has had characters who’ve risked their lives to run away and save loved ones, who’ve come up with elaborate and clever plans, yet our dear Danica is perfectly content with putting at risk the lives of hundreds of people just to get out and save her skin. For some this might not be a problem, and I’m sure some readers will say it’s just a book and brush it off. But if one actually stops to consider the moral aspect of Danica’s character then it’s difficult to swallow and go along with.
Another similarly perturbing plot point, though a much smaller one, is the actual reason why Danica’s mother blackmails the king into becoming engaged with her, and this is the fact that he strangled his lover in the middle of sex. It’s worrisome that this method of creating a “plot twist”/conflict in the story seems to be appearing more frequently lately (a recent episode of “Westworld” also featured it), and again, I wonder where one draws the line at ridiculous plot points that, yes, move the story along and make sense as gears in the general mechanism, but raise eyebrows at the social and moral implications of said actions.
The actual futuristic/sci-fi/dystopia/historical fiction element of this book is another category all of its own, as the book doesn’t really fit into any of these categories. The M.A.R.I.E system is very weak in the book and could’ve been much more developed, hence failing to make it sci-fi. Though the events happen in the future the whole tiny universe of Versailles seems to function in a rather backwards fashion, trying to mesh the other three categories into one. The general explanation is this: a rich company had enough money and wanted to buy Versailles and resurrect the monarchy, and so it did. The book decides to focus on this premise and act as if the rest of the world doesn’t exist, although the tiny bubble of the plot, again, feels a bit ridiculous if one considers that it’s very much just a bunch of people who decide to create an alternate universe and stick with it.
I’m not entirely sure who this book was written for, or what one was meant to feel after finishing it. Yes, there are some wonderful descriptions of clothing and setting, but these only go so far until the gossip of courtly politics and Danica’s complaining get in the way. It’s a book that checks off many of the boxes in the YA genre: a young girl who thinks she’s rebelling against the system and is different but really isn’t, a cruel mother who forces said girl to do things that she says will benefit her but don’t actually, an alpha male who the girl is forced to be with, and a world that’s so enamored with its own existence that it doesn’t do much to make the reader feel welcome in it. Throw in some questionable moral decisions and you’ve got “Glitter”. The only redeeming part is, as mentioned earlier, the writing style, which at least makes this a relatively fast and simple read that can be a good palette cleanser between more engaging and less problematic books.