Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Touch of Scarlet by Eve Marie Mont

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: April 3, 2013

Emma Townsend is back at prestigious Lockwood Prep, but her world has altered immeasurably since her tumultuous sophomore year. The best change of all: her boyfriend, Gray. And though Gray is leaving for Coast Guard training, Emma feels newly optimistic, even if the pain of her mother’s long-ago death still casts a shadow. Yet Emma isn’t the only one who’s changed. Her friend and roommate, Michelle, is strangely remote, and old alliances are shifting in disconcerting ways. Soon Emma’s long-distance relationship with Gray is straining under the pressure, and Emma wonders if she’s cracking too. How else to explain the vivid dreams of Hester Prynne she’s been having since she started reading The Scarlet Letter? Or the way she’s found herself waking in the woods? As her life begins to echo events in the novel, Emma will be forced to choose between virtue and love. But can she forge a new future without breaking her heart?

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Hester and Peal atop the scaffold
It is safe to say I wasn't particularly fond of Eve Marie Mont's A Breath of Eyre, but I honestly think my experience with book one helped me to better enjoy the time I spent with book two, A Touch of Scarlet.

For one thing, I came to this book knowing it wouldn't be a traditional retelling. That Mont would utilize elements from the classic fiction, rather than the entire plot, as platform to explore concepts and ideas that pose difficulties to modern teens. In this case, Mont dissects Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter to examine both sexuality and social acceptance. The result? Well, it isn't Easy A, but it isn't all that bad either. In point of fact the creativity Mont exhibits here, as well as the subject matter as applied to her target audience, were probably my favorite parts of the book.

The Scarlet Letter
Another thing I learned was not to reread the original. Let's flashback to A Breath of Eyre. Knowing exactly how much of the original was left out, the extent to which Mont butchered one of my favorite classics for her own gains, really upset me. I means really upset me. Not wanting to repeat the experience, I decided to forgo revisiting Puritan Boston and relied solely on my memories of Hester's story. Ultimately I was still disappointed, but here again I was much less annoyed as I wasn't constantly holding to an unrealistic expectation.

Without a doubt, keeping an open mind and relaxing my attitude towards Mont's premise helped me better appreciate her work but taking the story for what it is rather than what I'd hoped it to be didn't work entirely in her favor. New aggravation took form in Lockwood's study abroad program. I get that the final installment will be set in France and I'm trying not to shudder thinking what revisions are being done to Leroux's masterpiece, but I am not particularly pleased that book two of the Unbound series placed such emphasis on what is essentially the groundwork for book three. This needed to be a story in and of itself but it came off as more of a stepping stone between points A and B.

My conclusion? I think these books have a specific target audience and present that audience with a lot of interesting material. As for me though, I found this series while looking for creative retellings and in that sense I am still only partially satisfied.

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The Scarlet letter was going to kill me. Over the past week, I'd been trying to get through its 375 pages of densely packed text, and all I had gained for my efforts was a newfound hatred for nineteenth- century prose. Hawthorne never used seven words where twenty-seven were available. And so far, Hester and Dimmesdale's forbidden romance wasn't setting off any fireworks.
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