Don’t you hate it when your new pet tiger morphs into a sexy human man and tells you he’s an Indian prince who has been cursed to live as a tiger, except for 24 convenient minutes each day when he can become human again? Furthermore, you’ve totally been tricked into following a strange 300-year-old man and a tiger into the middle of the god-damn Indian jungle where no one can hear you scream and you are a teenage girl. Welcome to Colleen Houck’s
epic crappy saga.
This book was, to put it briefly, rather shit. I could end the review right there, but I read 500 pages of this nonsense, and I’m not going to settle for a short review. So buckle up kids; this ain’t gonna be spoiler-free.
Today’s heroine is a girl called Kelsey (another shit name from the YA genre). Kelsey suffers from author-trying-to-be-cool syndrome. This is an unfortunate and not uncommon condition that affects protagonists of all ages. It is most common in the YA genre, along with diseases such as bland character syndrome and the regrettable wish-fulfilment-device disorder. Pick up a pamphlet it your local book store to learn how you can protect yourself against books of a grievous nature.
Kelsey’s symptoms are as follows: Author Colleen Houck found that she couldn’t remember what it was like to be eighteen, which is fair enough seeing as she was in her forties when this book was published. She attempted to portray Kelsey in a way that reflected what she thought eighteen-year-olds these days are like. She came up with character traits such as incessant spewing of pop culture references, an overindulgent use of sarcasm and an all-consuming need to describe every single soul-crushingly dull detail of her day-to-day routine in excruciating length. Author-trying-to-be-cool syndrome is a true tragedy where authors try to be “down with the kids” and create what they believe to be relatable characters for teen readers, when in fact they are implying that said teen readers are as bird-brained and annoying as the protagonist.
Colleen Houck – offensive to teenagers everywhere.
So young Kelsey gets a summer job working at a circus; employed by an eccentric Italian ring leader who can’t even speak his own language. This is yet another example of author-trying-to-be-cool syndrome. She clearly thought she’d gain points by using a lot of foreign words she can’t properly conjugate, putting them in italics to make damn sure people knew how clever she is and just sitting back and watch as Italians everywhere shake their heads saying “we don’t talk like that”; but probably while eating gelato and pizza, because in Colleen Houck’s mind everyone conforms to stereotype.
Colleen Houck has probably never left America, or met anyone of foreign persuasion. But more on that later.
So Kelsey is employed to take care of the tiger, because it makes absolute sense to employ a teenager with the mental capacity of a cheese sandwich to undertake one of the most dangerous circus tasks with minimal training or supervision. Conveniently, Ren the tiger is a sweetheart and Kelsey has an instant connection with the him. She spends her days talking and reading Shakespeare to him, and he miraculously does’t bite her head off for doing so (I would have). She doesn’t know why, but she implicitly trusts this tiger and finds she has a beautiful connection to him. Which works out well seeing as he ends up being the love interest.
One day a stranger shows up and informs Kelsey that his employer in India has bought Ren the tiger. However, he would like Kelsey to accompany him and the tiger on their trip to India to ensure that Ren is well looked after during the journey. He says he can pay for all of her expenses (as long as she comes alone) and can get everything sorted out for them in less than a week; including getting Kelsey a passport which you know, doesn’t take three months at all.
Bit weird, don’t you think Kels? Do you feel maybe a hint of suspicion? A glimmer of doubt?
So Kelsey travels to India; and this is where we are treated to the extent of author Colleen Houck’s research capabilities. I’ll give her credit: she clearly spent some time researching Indian culture and mythology (and shoving a shit ton of it into the book, trying once again to show how clever she is and also beefing up the book considerably). That’s all well and good, but for all the time you spent on your India research it kind of falls flat when you don’t know that Muslims are not called “Islamics”. Do you know where else you lose points? By having half the Indian characters we meet know only very basic English, despite the fact that most Indian people can speak English very well indeed. Not only that, but if your character speaks in incredibly annoying broken English using sentences like “Watch Phet. Follow. You Try.” but then follows up with sentences like “Compose yourself and we converse“, I’m left wondering what the hell you were thinking.
Again, Colleen Houck has never met a foreigner. And that’s probably a good thing as I’m not confident she would treat them very well.
Once in India, it is soon revealed then tiger Ren is actually a 300-year-old Indian prince who has been cursed into eternal tiger form, except for some reason he can change back occasionally during the day. But only when Kelsey is around. Because the idiotic white teenager from the great old US of A turns out to be the Chosen One. Great.
Remarkably, Kelsey gets on board with the whole my-pet-tiger-is-a-sexy-prince thing quite quickly, and I did too, but what I continued to have trouble with was the fact that Ren keeps his clothes when he transforms. Now Colleen Houck, this would be fine if you explained WHY. It doesn’t have to be an excellent explaination, but you could have at least tried to come up with some sort of reason beyond “my book must remain PG-13”. Kelsey and Ren actually have a short discussion about the fact that Ren keeps his pristine white clothes on when he changes back into a human. Neither of them felt the need to voice the fact that it was quite unusual. Did Kelsey ask him why? Nope, because Colleen Houck does whatever the fuck she wants.
To cut a very long story short, Kelsey and Ren have to travel across India undertaking quests from an actual Goddess in order to break Ren’s curse. Along the way there’s a whole bunch of boring prose, Colleen Houck choosing not to embrace the show-not-tell philosophy (to her detriment) and oh hey, a love triangle.
I speed-read for about the last half of the book, so I can’t really comment on a lot of it. In fact the only reason I didn’t give up on the book was to see if we would ever get any explanation about the clothes issue! Still haven’t found it, and I don’t fancy wading through another four books. Do I believe Colleen Houck was able to dream up an explanation? What do you think?