Ticker by Lisa Mantchev

November 26, 2014 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

Ticker-Cover-FinalDid you ever read a book and suddenly realize it sounds like something you would have written in high school? At first there’s an appeal — ooh, this book sounds right up my alley! Then, confusion — wait, what is going on? Then, embarrassment — oh dear. I’ve written something like this and thought it was really, really good.

That’s what Ticker was like for me. The premise is fantastic — a girl with a clockwork heart living in a steampunk version of London is torn when the man who enabled her to live despite a heart defect is imprisoned for experimenting on human subjects. The man promises he can fix her heart by upgrading the equipment…but he’s also kidnapped her parents. Strife!

Meanwhile, this 16-year-old girl is doing some kind of romantic dance with the 19-year-old head of the city’s giant private military. The second he arrives in her house in about the first chapter, the reader is subjected to this awkward teenage hormone-fuelled “will they won’t they”  tension characterized by the typical YA tropes — the Handsome Young Man, the Near Death Experience, the Hospital Visit (complete with flowers) and the Homo Ex Machina Rescue. The only thing more awkward than this romance is how unawkward it’s meant to seem.

There’s a lot of death, a lot of feels, if you will, exacerbated by several gratuitous scenes where our Handsome Young Man takes an Orphaned Waif under his wing and allows us to see what a fantastic father he’d be. The heroine literally dies no fewer than three times. There’s a lot of focus on clothing and logistics and what everyone is eating, as well as several scenes where our Handsome Young Man and I’m-Not-Frail Heroine must pretend to be married — for the sake of disguise! To save her family! To interrogate photographers!

It’s bizarre. Add in a steampunk-style Morse code text messager, and you have a novel that could have delved much more deeply into questions of life, prolonging life by artificial means, the dangers of a private military, and the ethics of medical testing. Instead, you have a novel with exciting promise that is marred by excessive sentiment, fashion and an odd obsession with lemon cake.

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