Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review: Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig

Title: Pretty Crooked
Author: Elisa Ludwig
Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins
Release date: March 13th 2012
Pages: 368
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: NetGalley - thank you to HarperCollins and NetGalley for providing a free eGalley of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Find out more: Amazon | Goodreads

Goodreads description:
Willa's secret plan seems all too simple: take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones.
Yet Willa’s turn as Robin Hood at her ultra-exclusive high school is anything but. Bilking her “friends”—known to everyone as the Glitterati—without them suspecting a thing is far from easy. Learning how to pick pockets and break into lockers is as difficult as she’d thought it’d be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls, who are ostracized just for being from the “wrong” side of town, is way more fun than she’d expected.
The complication Willa didn’t expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, Valley Prep’s most notorious (and gorgeous) ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her: evening the social playing field between the haves and have-nots. There’s no time for crushes and flirting with boys, especially conceited and obnoxious trust-funders like Aidan.
But when the cops start investigating the string of thefts at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could Aidan wind up being the person that Willa trusts most?
First sentence:
Go go go go go go!

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I love the idea for Pretty Crooked - it just sounds like so much fun. A girl stealing from the rich to give to the poor - that's crazy and original and hilarious. The actual book, though, turned out to be only okay, in my opinion.

Pretty Crooked reminded me a little too much of the Gossip Girl books. And while I devoured the Gossip Girl books when I was thirteen, I would not want to go back to them now. Pretty Crooked has bitchy rich people who constantly talk about fashion and who gossip about one another on an anonymous web site, the Valley Buzz. I thought that would annoy me to no end, but the fact that this is written from an outsider's point of view makes it work - Willa doesn't think like the rest of the Glitterati.

I was curious to see how Willa would get such a crazy idea of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, and I was excited to see how she would justify what she was doing. Willa befriends the Glitterati and hangs out with them for a while, but she's also sort of friends with three scholarship girls, Alicia, Mary, and Sierra. Willa gets annoyed by how much the Glitterati talk smack about the scholarship girls who don't have enough money to buy the designer clothes the rest of Valley Prep wears. In order to help the scholarship girls and make the Glitterati accept them, she steals from the rich kids, buys designer clothes with the money, and anonymously gives those expensive clothes to the girls. But... really? I just don't see how that's helping anyone. Does she really think that giving each of the girls one or two items of designer clothing will make the Glitterati stop bullying them? If she bought them an entire wardrobe, maybe, but it's just not realistic that she'd be able to steal enough to buy hundreds of designer outfits. And since I couldn't understand Willa's reasoning for her stealing, it was hard to relate to any of her motivations.

I didn't get the mother's storyline. Not as in, it didn't work for me, but as in, I don't understand it. Willa's mom is acting strangely, and Willa's trying to find out why, and I think at the end there's some kind of resolution, but I didn't get it. I don't know whether that's my stupidity or whether it isn't explained well enough, but yeah. Since I didn't get the resolution, that whole storyline didn't work for me. 

The relationships Willa had with the Glitterati didn't work for me, either. The Glitterati immediately accept Willa as one of them, even though she's new and doesn't have particularly "cool" clothes - basically, she's like the scholarship girls, just with a little more money. After a while, Willa becomes more like the Glitterati, at least fashion-wise, so I could see how they're frieds then, but in the beginning, I didn't get why the popular girls would immediately invite her to their lunch table. The switch between Willa liking the Glitterati, and hating them and wanting to steal from them, is too fast, in my opinion. 

The only storyline I really liked is Willa's friendship with the scholarship girls - she's sweet to them, and I liked the scenes that included them. Even though I didn't understand her reasoning, I liked how she wanted to help them out.

I appreciated that Elisa Ludwig didn't turn this into a love triangle. There's Aidan, the hot guy everyone wants, and Tre, the guy the Glitterati tell Willa to stay away from, and I was sure it would turn into the classic and predictable love triangle. I'm glad she didn't go that way - even though I think Tre is adorable, and would have liked to see more of him.

So I didn't like the background of most of the storylines, but still, somehow, the plot isn't bad. It's fast-paced and suspenseful, and keeps you turning the pages, especially once the police are looking for Willa. All of the techniques she uses to steal and get away from the police are interesting to read about. (Not interesting as in, I'm a criminal, too, and need that information, just interesting since it's not something you normally read about.)

The writing style and voice are sweet and realistic. Willa's observations are hilarious, and how funny Pretty Crooked is is probably what I liked best about the book.

Pretty Crooked is basically the opposite of what I'd expected. I'd thought I'd love the idea and fun plot but wouldn't be too impressed by the writing and emotional depth, but it turned out to be the other way around - I ended up not liking stealing-idea because of the lack of explanation, but I did appreciate the sweet, funny writing. Even though this review sounds pretty negative, I did enjoy this book - I had some problems with many of the storylines, but Pretty Crooked is a funny, sweet, short read, and I do recommend it - the original, fun idea makes it a memorable story.

If you've read this book, what did you think?

Check out my interview with Willa from Pretty Crooked here!


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