This book did not meet my expectations.
The premise was so incredible – a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in glittering 1920s Shanghai?
And yet I struggled to care about anything throughout this book. I did not like the two main characters, and their ‘romance’ was completely and mournfully bland. The secondary characters were so much more vibrant and interesting than the two protagonists.
The twists and turns were not done in a deft manner. I called them far before they were given to me. Any suspense was subtle, and the climax felt woefully anti-climactic.
Some scenes didn’t feel necessary, or completely forced. The drinking scene, for instance. The ‘rough’ character they encountered, who forced them to take shots, made no sense. Why would they trust this guy? Why would they willingly get so drunk? I’ll tell you why – Gong just needed the two characters to get well inebriated for the next scene she had planned.
As for the writing, I truly think Gong has an astounding talent. Unfortunately, she hasn’t honed it yet. She has a lovely, lyrical style that has moments of overwriting. There were some off-putting instances where she would have some stunning narrative interspersed with jarringly basic writing a lot of YA is cursed with. She consistently falls into the trap of telling readers things rather than showing us. The fictional dream was shattered for me over and over again because of this, and perhaps that is part of the reason I did not care one whit about anything.
Seriously, her writing is an odd blend of excellent and amateur. I honestly believe she will become a writer to be truly reckoned with one day, especially since there are a couple passages in These Violent Delights that really showcase her talent. The prologue and Chapter 12 are the strongest pieces of writing in this book, though they were also a bit jarring, as they are in present tense while the rest of the novel is in past tense.
I sound harsh. But mainly because I’m disappointed and because I think Gong can most definitely write, she just hasn’t found her stride yet.
I have yet to decide if I’ll read These Violent Ends or not.