Mystic City by Theo Lawrence
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
More like a 3.5.
This was a terrifically light read with great world-building (which accounts for it being a page-turner for me) & stock characters.
I space out my YA reads because I need distance to avoid the sameness I start to see if I read them in close succession. So, I had been waiting a while to get to this one & it's lovely cover. It wasn't a bad story but the character development was fairly soft. Usually, I find characters to be the more interesting thing in stories & find world-building to be lacking, especially in YA dystopian tales. Mystic City was the opposite. The world-building & politics was my favorite aspect of the story & the characters (especially the mains, Aria & Hunter) were basically stock & left a lot to be desired in the depth department. Odder still, the main characters that I should care most about, Aria & Hunter, I care least about. Basically, they're just my means to an end of getting to hear about everything else. Of course that means that their love story, is mostly irrelevant to me (though I do think tween & even teen girls will adore it).
I wanted to know more about virtually everyone else in the story. Thomas (more interesting than I think the writer intended), Kyle, Davida, Kiki, Bennie, both sets of parents, Violet, Elissa, Benedict. You get the point. Aria can only be excused for part of her blandness as she has selective amnesia. Ostensibly she never had a deep thought, question or clue of anything in her world before her amnesia set in but now that it has, she's just a lightning rod for finding everything & everyone so unsatisfying & stifling. It's laughable & annoying altogether. I didn't so much root for her as tolerate her to get information on what's happening in the story. Apparently, all Aria's girlfriends are first class twits too (the writing of them is so heavy handed to make them unlikable) but she was close to them before her "accident" so I can only assume that Aria too was a socially scathing twit until she met the awesome that is Hunter & he changed her whole outlook to the point that she needed her mind wiped. Aria seems to be another YA heroine in a long line of them that has friends she regards almost contemptibly yet they seem never to tire of her & think she's irrefutably wonderful. They always invite her out, throw her parties, simper when they don't receive her adoration in kind, their calls & texts go unanswered by her & yet they never really call her out for ignoring them & she never has to display any sort of interest in their lives because she's so self-involved. I ask myself for the millionth time, where does one find friends like these? I only hear of them in books & they never resemble any of the friendships I've had with my girlfriends as a teen or an adult woman. A conundrum, to be sure.
In other character oddities, Aria also takes that a guy hasn't shaved for the day & has a hint of stubble as meaning he has an air of danger & trouble about him. This would be less stupid if she didn't also know that her father is a criminal overlord, clean shaven & impeccably coiffed & she's lived with gun toting, hulking bodyguards her entire life. Sadly, Aria racks up more inconsistencies & I don't have the inclination to list the rest here. Hunter has a lot to go to get real cred as the story's "bad boy" because currently, it's basically his zip code that clinches it for him & not his actual personality, such as it is or his actions. If the author couldn't be bothered to give him layers, then neither can I care too deeply.
Two bores together do not a blistering (or interesting) love story make & that's just what we are given in Aria & Hunter. Mary & Gary Stu in bland bliss with all the Deux Ex Machina luck that comes with the assignation. They fit in the slots well enough but there's nothing even remotely new here. There's no real triangle angst even with Thomas in the mix & I really didn't feel any tension or moral outrage about Gretchen on Aria's behalf. She had Stu, I mean Hunter, so no big deal. I don't care if they refer to themselves as Romeo & Juliet, this is no soul stirring retelling of The Bard. And, they're still alive at the end of the story so... again, no.
I'll read the next because I want to know more about the aftermath of the showdown in the Depths & I think the author's way with world-building (the description of the mystic's power is very well done) is worth reading another. Maybe there'll be some decent people to be found in the Aeries other than the sainted Aria. You know, other wealthy people working to support the cause of freedom & equality. Surely the inhabitants above are no more a monolith than the people in the Depths. There needs to be a lot more grey and less White Hat/Black Hat happening for me to really buy into this having a tight plot. I'm going to hope Aria & Hunter turn it up on the interesting metre also.
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