Monday, September 24, 2012

Review - My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century by Rachel Harris

Rachel Harris's debut novel "My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century" - or MSSSC as it's been dubbed in the social media stratosphere - was a huge departure for me in terms of what I normally read: dark, twisty, who's going to die before the curtain call kind of books. And I have to say, not only did I get caught up on some serious teen verbage, but I definitely enjoyed the carefree ride.

Description: (provided by Amazon.com) On the precipice of her sixteenth birthday, the last thing lone wolf Cat Crawford wants is an extravagant gala thrown by her bubbly soon-to-be stepmother and well-meaning father. So even though Cat knows the family's trip to Florence, Italy, is a peace offering, she embraces the magical city and all it offers. But when her curiosity leads her to an unusual gypsy tent, she exits . . . right into Renaissance Firenze. Thrust into the sixteenth century armed with only a backpack full of contraband future items, Cat joins up with her ancestors, the sweet Alessandra and protective Cipriano, and soon falls for the gorgeous aspiring artist Lorenzo. But when the much-older Niccolo starts sniffing around, Cat realizes that an unwanted birthday party is nothing compared to an unwanted suitor full of creeptastic amore. Can she find her way back to modern times before her Italian adventure turns into an Italian forever?

Characters: Cat Crawford is our time-traveling protagonist, and honestly was the character I had the hardest time getting to know. It took me a minute to make her take off her big, hollywood-style sunglasses and see what all was underneath. But as the secondary characters come to life around her, Cat truly begins to shine. I really enjoyed her interactions with her servant and with Alessandra. I think Alessandra's voice was definitely my favorite - and I heard that the anticipated sequel is going to be from Alessandra's point of view. Yay! Love-interest Lorenzo was a bit of a mystery to me. I like how he always watched Cat's back, but I'd like to see more from him in the sequel (at least i hope he'll make an encore performance.)

Plot: What surprised me about the plot was how easily Cat accepts that she's somehow been sent via gypsy voodoo back in time. There's very little panic. She assesses the situation, considers a couple of possibilities, and then rolls with it. I didn't expect the uptight Cat Crawford to suddenly become laid back about something pretty "frickin" major. But it's kind of nice that the author didn't spend a lot of time on the reaction and instead moved straight into the journey. The ending is a little more neat and tidy than I'm used to, with one great surprise at the end. However, there were so many characters at play that I'm grateful Rachel Harris decided to tie up most of the loose ends. There is one I'm very curious to see where she goes with it... and if you ever read this, Rachel Harris, I love and loathe that you left one very critical piece wide open.... I'm sure you know what I'm talking about :)

Voice: Rachel Harris does a fantastic job staying in the voice of Cat Crawford throughout the book. Not only does she create a very authentic feeling 16th century Italy, but it's very clear that we're experiencing it through Car Crawford's eyes. From her thoughts to the language in dialog to her goofs to the things she pays attention to, Rachel Harris stayed very true to character to the last page.

Setting: Just wanted to note how much research Rachel Harris must have done for this book. I loved all of the bits of history - like working in excellent references to how people at that time thought the Black Plague was spreading - and experiencing some of the cultural rights of passage, both pleasant and unpleasant.

In Conclusion: a strong 4 1/2 stars. There are a couple of angles that I wish were a touch more developed, but I'm totally hooked on the story and the characters, and am very interested to see where she takes the sequel "A Tale of Two Centuries," which is still in the works.

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