The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant - Joanna  Wiebe

(I received an ebook copy from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

Such a weird, weird book. I have no idea if I found it just average, or if I didn't like it. Probably both.

It's one of those "good ideas, but..." novels for me. Intriguing blurb, a theme (revealed later) that normally fascinates me... I could've liked it, but.

All right, let's start with the facepalming, to get it out of the way:
* Nothing remarkable about the writing style. I've seen worse, but I've also seen much better.
* Several "what the hell" and "head, meet desk" moments. The almost-constant lechery undermining the narrative. It's set in a school, the characters are all pupils, yet some have it with teachers, and Anne's Guardian is just one seriously disturbed creep. (His role is to determine Anne's "quality" in life, and grade her on whether she lives up to it or not for the next two years. He determines her quality is "seduction", and then proceeds—twice—to unzip his pants and suggest they have sex in exchange for good grades.
* Some plot holes. For instance, the aforementioned Guardians: every pupil is supposed to have one, but we only see Teddy? Where are the others? Also, what classes? The only class Anne ever goes to is Art; we never see her study anything else.
* Slut shaming. The cliché beautiful-yet-mean-girls quartet, immediately hostile to Anne, immediately judged and described by the latter as sluts and skanks. Most girls in the story seem to be that; the ones who aren't vanish before the middle of the book. Not only does this particular cliché annoy me, slut shaming in general makes me want to slap someone.
* The dance off. No. Just... no.
* Anne is of the Too Stupid To Live breed (yes, considering what the novel's really about, this is quite the irony). She's supposed to be smart, but doesn't piece obvious things together before it's too late. She gives up on looking for something that, if found by anyone else, will cause serious trouble to herself and another person

(a shoe with that other person's name inside).

(show spoiler)

A couple of characters wave huge "hint here!" signs at her by totally changing behaviours, or giving her items, yet she doesn't bother to check said items. I was surprised she actually guessed what the Big V meant all by herself.
* I didn't really get the romance part. I understand the connection, but it doesn't justify romance to me. It felt like some unwanted cherry plopped on sauerkraut.
* Languages and nationality: the description of a French accent didn't sit with me (trust me, I know what French sounds like, I've spoken it all my life, and we don't "drawl"). Also, it was weird how Anne could immediately exactly pick who was Thai, Indian, Canadian, etc.

However, I did find a couple of redeeming qualities to this novel. It gave off a Silent Hill-esque vibe, and I'm totally partial to anything SH-related. (It's not a SH rip-off; it simply left me with similar impressions—whether that was intended, or a complete coincidence.)

When Anne realises everybody's dead, and she must be as well, Cania Christy, the island, the village, suddenly take on a whole other meaning, with that claustrophobic feeling of being locked inside a nightmare world from which you can't get out just by wishing it. I wasn't too keen on the Big Reveal about the villain behind it all, nor about the sudden heel-face-turn coming from a character who had been creepy from beginning to end, but its deeper aspects, the power play, the way parents were so to speak forced to bow and kneel down for one fickle piece of fleeting hope... Now that was, in a way, cruelly enjoyable, as well as frightening—because who can honestly say "I'd never do it, I'd never sell my soul for a few more years with my deceased child"?

(show spoiler)

 

The last 30% of the book sort of made up for some of its previous facepalm-inducing moments. Not enough for me to give it 2 stars, but at least 1.5. I can't say I totally disliked this novel.