I've been a reviewer since February 2001, when I began writing for my local newspaper. In 2010 the paper did away with their arts section and I went completely online. I review science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy and dystopian in young adult and mainstream adult. I'm also interested in travel writing, history, and general non-fiction, but my main focus is sci-fi/fantasy.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“Jamie is invincible when he is high. His anger, his isolation, his mom’s manic mood swings—nothing can shatter his glass castle. But one brutal night upends everything, leaving his mom broken and Jamie betrayed.
Sent to live with a father he’s never met, Jamie is determined to hate the man he blames for his mother’s ruin. And he blocks out the pain with drugs, fierce music, and sweet, sweet Dominique. Except the more time Jamie spends at his dad’s, the more his mother’s scathing stories start to unravel. Who is he supposed to believe? And how much will he have to sacrifice to uncover the truth?”
Okay, I have no trouble at all with books, young adult or otherwise, that want to ride the rough edge between storytelling and gratuitous controversy. I really don’t. Some of the best books that I’ve read have been the kind that make me slap a hand over my mouth to muffle the instinctive “Oh ****!” that wants to leap out. The thing about Blazed, though, is that it topples right off of that edge and plummets straight into the pit of gratuitousness.
Now don’t get me wrong, there were things about the book that I found intriguing: setting the story in San Francisco; a teen boy attempting to figure out the truth behind his mother’s stories about his father; and possibly the consequences of drug use. But much of what was good about this book was simply buried under a pile of repetitive scenes and conversations. Jaime does drugs constantly, and we see the details of every single instance. The author fanatically describes what everyone is wearing, sometimes going on for half a page. Characters frequently converse about the nature of art and life, but they don’t say anything that the previous several conversations didn’t cover.
I felt really ambivalent about the characters too. I can’t admire them because of their constant drug use and their destructively rebellious behavior, but then again, I can’t really hate them either, because they rarely do anything truly bad to anyone else. It’s like their redeeming qualities and their many flaws kind of cancel each other out and make it difficult to get invested in any of them.
The worst part of this book for me was the strong suspicion that the author is using this book to push an agenda, or at best, push a message. For one thing, there’s the incessant harping on making art, and how if you’re not getting your art (of any kind) out there and using the internet to build a huge following, then you’re a “phony” and not worth anyone’s time. Since I personally believe in art for art’s sake, I found that message kind of offensive. There’s also the message that if you’re not living life on the absolute edge, it’s meaningless. It feels like Myers is trying to justify his characters’ actions.
And then there’s the fact that I’m fairly sure that the author is using this book—and one of the characters—to insult his detractors. After finishing the book, there were a couple of scenes that felt weird to me, so I went and read up a bit on the author. What I found is that many of the negative reviews of his books mention how he takes hundreds of pages to cover just a few days, going into details that are not relevant to the story. I also found that one of his earlier books is mentioned by name in one of his later books, and that some reviewers caught that and criticized it. In Blazed, the character of James Morgan, an author himself, talks about how going into the smallest details of the day is just keeping it real, and also delivers a pointed explanation of why he mentioned one of his book titles in another of his books (just like Myers). As far as I can tell, James Morgan is a self-insert—the initials are even the same—created to be Myers’ mouthpiece, and those parts come across as very deliberately aimed. I could be wrong, but it sure seems like this is the case. Not very classy, in my opinion.
I finished Blazed, but by the end it was a real slog to get through. As far as I can tell, the author has been writing the same book over and over, so maybe he just needs to move on to fresh material. Regardless, this is just not a book I can recommend. There were some little hints of interesting stuff going on, but it’s all smothered in drugged out repetitive actions that drag on for far too long. If you want something edgy, look elsewhere.
This review originally appeared on Owlcat Mountain on April 28, 2014.
Title provided by the publisher.