Meg Cabot is the author of the wildly popular “Princess Diaries” series (adapted into two Disney movies starring Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews), the “1-800-Where-R-You” books (loosely adapted into a short-lived series on Lifetime), “The Mediator” books (not yet adapted into anything), among a variety of other books for teens and adults.
As her nickname might suggest, it is not easy being Jinx. Jean Honeychurch has been unlucky since the day she was born, with her luck only getting worse from there. Jean was even unlucky with her name: not Jean Marie or Jeanette, just Jean (although her last name does hearken back to Lucy Honeychurch in Forster’s A Room With a View which is cool even though Cabot never mentions this fact in the story).
It is because of her bad luck that Jean has to leave her family and friends in Iowa to come and live with her aunt and uncle in New York City. Readers don’t learn exactly why Jean has come to New York until the middle of the novel. Until then Jean alludes to the reason she had to flee in annoying asides noting how no one knows the “full story.”
Jean had hoped to escape her bad luck in the big city, or at least dodge her reputation. But Jean’s glamorous and sophisticated cousin, Tory, has other plans. In fact, she has a lot of plans where Jean is concerned. After another of Jean’s unfortunate accidents, Tory realizes that Jean is magically gifted, which ties into an old family prophecy. Thrilled to have another witch in the house, Tory invites Jean to join her coven. But, for reasons that are revealed later in the story, Jean refuses. Family feuding and intrigue ensues.
I liked the story here. But I wanted to like it more than I did. It was funny and light, which is really hard to achieve in writing. But certain elements of the prose were quite annoying. Every time Jean alluded to the “full story” of her trip to New York, I had to fight a strong urge to skim ahead and see what she was talking about. That’s how long it took for Cabot to explain everything.
Allusions like that are fun to build up the story, unfortunately Cabot doesn’t use them very well in the narrative. Instead of creating tension the asides just make Jean seem like a pain for not explaining herself sooner. At the same time certain parts of the plot are predictable enough that it seems silly to build them up quite so much.
Jean is also an infuriating heroine. She is incredibly likable, but also painfully naive and gullible. Cabot seemed to take Jean’s “country fresh” personality way to far. Jean is so sweet that she is a veritable doormat to her less-than-loving cousin. Again and again Jean also shows herself to completely oblivious to what’s going on around her. This behavior might be sweet for a country girl, but it seems forced–even for a sixteen-year-old from Iowa who may not be as worldy as this semi-jaded city dweller.
This book wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either. (If the plot sounds interesting, by all means give it a try.) I enjoyed reading it, but I expected more from the story and the characters.
Possible Pairings: A Room With a View by E. M. Forster, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, Swoon by Nina Malkin