Thursday, August 2, 2012
Book Review: Save the Pearls: Revealing Eden by Victoria Foyt
Title: Revealing Eden (Save the Pearls #1)
Author: Victoria Foyt
Publisher: Sand Dollar Press
Release Date: 01/10/2012
I think I know what you're wondering. Is this book as racist as people are making it out to be? In a word, yes. Yes it is. But do I think that Foyt set out to make her book this offensive? No. No, after having finished the book I think I can say that this is more an example of why authors should do their research and listen to their audience when covering real life problems (such as racism) that you yourself have never experienced. Despite Foyt's claims that she's been called a bad word during childhood, she has no true first hand experience of the type of racism she describes in this book. This doesn't mean that she couldn't potentially have written an apt description of racism, but it does mean that she should've done better research and spoken to people who have experienced it. Unfortunately that's not the only type of research she apparently didn't do, but more on that later.
Eden Newman must mate before her 18th birthday in six months or she'll be left outside to die in a burning world. But who will pick up her mate-option when she's cursed with white skin and a tragically low mate-rate of 15%? In a post-apocalyptic, totalitarian, underground world where class and beauty are defined by resistance to an overheated environment, Eden's coloring brands her as a member of the lowest class, a weak and ugly Pearl. If only she can mate with a dark-skinned Coal from the ruling class, she'll be safe. Just maybe one Coal sees the Real Eden and will be her salvation her co-worker Jamal has begun secretly dating her. But when Eden unwittingly compromises her father's secret biological experiment, she finds herself in the eye of a storm and thrown into the last area of rainforest, a strange and dangerous land. Eden must fight to save her father, who may be humanity's last hope, while standing up to a powerful beast-man she believes is her enemy, despite her overwhelming attraction. Eden must change to survive but only if she can redefine her ideas of beauty and of love, along with a little help from her "adopted aunt" Emily Dickinson.
First off, I have to say that this did have some entertainment value, although it definitely wasn't in the way that Foyt intended it. I kept reading this because it had this train wreck sense of fun to it, like how so many of us continuously look to see what Octomom or Snooki is doing now. Not because we particularly like them, but because we're so horrified by their actions that we can't help but keep watching. That's the biggest appeal of this book and if you're the type of person who likes that sort of book (this audience does exist- I'm one of them) then this is exactly up your alley.
But as far as the book itself goes? It's awful. There's so much unintended racism in this book that it fails to tell much of a message at all. It does have some educational value as a way of showing authors the value of research and what not to do, as well as warning people that stating that you don't see races (aka "colorblind") might just mean that you're only steps away from penning something like this and alienating a whole score of readers. (Seriously, did Foyt even put any thought into any of the things she has said so far?) One of the biggest signs that Foyt did no research into racism is that she really only focuses on the idea that someone has to be openly hostile and violent against someone to show racism. Yes, that's part of racism but that's barely the tip of the iceberg. Racism is also where people refuse to acknowledge you, move to the other side of the street because they think you're going to do something, avoiding talking to you, talking down to you... there's so many different forms of racism that aren't readily hostile. Sometimes you get racism in situations where people think they're being nice. Foyt never seems to grasp that concept here. I'm not going to list all of the various things in here that came across as racist since there's so many of them and they've been listed fairly well on various websites. All I will say is that Foyt does some serious stereotyping here without ever really thinking about it.
The lack of scientific research is fairly obvious in this book, as the amount of melanin in someone's skin won't matter much if you've got a solar ray blast that kills off almost all of the world's vegetation and leaves enough radiation/sunray gunk to where it'd practically melt an albino. Science doesn't work that way.
Where the book gets even more ludicrous is where Foyt begins to break and then outright ignore her own universe rules. We have the area around the cave system where everyone lives be a barren and scorched earth, yet there's abundant rainforest life elsewhere. At least I think it's supposed to be a rainforest. Since the Huaorani tribe is supposed to be in Ecuador for the most part, the rainforest in the book is most likely along the equator, which would be one of the places most hard hit by the solar blast. Rainforests are so insanely fragile that even the slightest change in sun, heat, or any number of factors would demolish it. Yet we have butterflies floating around. Again, science doesn't work that way just because you want to have your characters run through the rainforest. Another rule in the book that is broken quickly is the idea that Eden would quickly die in the sunlight. She doesn't and shows little to no signs of the Heat (aka really bad sunburn) for most of the book. Even an albino revealed later in the book gets exposed to the sun with no terrible repercussions. Now this might be a plot point but even if it is, this should've been mentioned at some point.
Another thing that sort of irked me with the book is that Foyt never seemed to know exactly which audience she was writing to. The interactions between Foyt and Bramford are devoid of chemistry, so we have lots of mentioning of lust and "tingly feelings" to make up for that. (I am still confused as to why Bramford was attracted to Eden at all, as she was completely unlikable and a jerk for most/all of the book.) The descriptions in the book aren't graphic, but at one point we have Eden grinding against Bramford's neck while she's riding on his shoulders. Granted, part of this was to urge him to run faster, but when you make mentions of the line "like sweet, dripping honey" from a Dickinson poem, you're going to get sexual connotations out of it. This might be tame in comparison to some of the other stuff out there in the romance section, but this is a teen book and you have to be careful about how you phrase things. Not all parents want stuff like this in their teens' novels, not because they want to teach kids that their bodies are dirty, but because they just feel like they should have books that don't include this. I've read more graphic stuff and I've read YA books where there's been sexual themes, but this just felt like it was stuff that was written more for adult readers than teens, if that makes any sense.
Overall I feel that one of the worst things about this book was that it had the potential to be more. Foyt isn't a great writer, but she's not a newbie making spelling and grammar errors left and right. She's clearly written before, which is what makes the research errors and plot holes all that much more glaring. It's also what makes so much of this book seem so racist: she's not really writing things she's fully aware of and it shows. If an 80 year old cloistered nun were to try to write a sex manual, I think it'd come across just as clueless as Foyt's writing does, which is the best comparison I can really make to this.
But should you read it? Well, there's some value to reading this for the reasons stated above. I just think that if the author was smart, she'd forego any further books in the series for right now and work on re-writing this one. (Although I admit that I'd probably check out the next book for the lulz.) All talk of racism aside, this book has some serious plot and character problems that need to be addressed. I've read worse, but that's no excuse for the universe inconsistencies and unlikable characters. I'm giving this a 1.5 for entertainment value, but it's just a mess.
1.5 out of 5 stars
(ARC provided by Netgalley)