Friday, August 03, 2012

Review: When You Open Your Eyes by Cecily Conway

Title: When You Open Your Eyes
Author: Cecily Conway
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: March 20th 2012
Pages: 304
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought
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Tessa is in love with Lucien, the son of a European diplomat. He's French and sexy and artistic. With him, she realizes how naive and American she is, and just how alive she can feel. But Tessa’s father forbids her to see Lucien. So they meet in secret, which makes their relationship feel all the more exciting. The harder Tessa falls for Lucien, the more volatile he becomes. Suddenly it’s not just their relationship that’s breaking the rules—Lucien knows no boundaries. And Tessa must figure out how far she’ll go for Lucien…before there is no turning back.
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Argh. I hate writing negative reviews. But When You Open Your Eyes didn't sit right with me, so here we go.

The writing is a little strange. Not necessarily bad, just unusual. For example, the author often uses reported speech instead of regular dialogue, or a few phrases between the dialogue are reported speech. Maybe it's only because I'm not used to it, but that bothered me a little; it just felt strange. The writing is very descriptive; too descriptive at parts, in my opinion, making When You Open Your Eyes read slowly, even though it's really short. The chapters are very short - there are about 100 chapters in this 300-page book - which I also found unusual. None of this is necessarily bad - it's just different, and it took me a while to get used to the style.

I'm not sure what to make of the plot. It's kind of... non-descript. I kept waiting for something big and dramatic to happen, and it didn't. We just kind of float through Tessa's life alongside her. That was how I felt until about 40 pages to the end, at which point things definitely start happening. But then, everything happens at once, and it was just too much. I would have preferred something a little more balanced - more action in the first part and less towards the end.

Tessa is an okay character. I didn't love her, didn't feel that there was anything special about her, really. I didn't like Lucien, even in the beginning, which made it hard for me to relate to the relationship and Tessa's struggles. I did think some of the secondary characters were interesting, like Esme, for example, but sadly, we don't get to know what happens to her later on.

Tessa is American but living in Buenos Aires, and most of her friends are international too. Most of the people she interacts with have something to do with the embassy. And honestly, I found the portrayal of this crowd kind of offensive. I've lived in communites like this because my dad was a diplomat and I know a lot of people like that. Not as high up in the order of embassy-people or "important" as most of the people Tessa interacts with, but still. The portrayal of these people Tessa knows, especially towards the ending, is very negative. I don't want to get into it because of spoilers, but that part didn't sit right with me.

Another aspect that bothered me is the casual way in which drug use is addressed in When You Open Your Eyes. It's mentioned quite a lot that Tessa and her friends take some pills (it's not clarified what pills, since Tessa herself doesn't even know what she's taking), but we never see what happens because of the drug use. No consequences whatsoever are addressed, which I, personally, find unsettling.

***This paragraph is a little spoiler-y. I'm not revealing anything huge, but still. You have been warned.***
The ending and the message it seemed to convey are also a little strange. This is just my own interpretation, but the title and the ending seem to imply that Tessa should leave Lucien, that his problems shouldn't be her problems. And of course I agree Tessa needs to take care of herself, too, but Lucien is mentally ill, and his episodes are not his fault. I think mental illness is a tricky topic, but making it seem like being bipolar is somehow Lucien's fault, I did not like. At all. And I didn't like how his disorder is belittled towards the end, how it gives the impression he only went "crazy" because of this one thing, and that if that problem is solved, Lucien will be fine again. That is not how things work. And when mental disorders are portrayed like that, it just really frustrates me.

When You Open Your Eyes was a frustrating read for me. I had issues with most storylines. The only thing I really liked is the story of Tessa's family. Maybe if you could connect more with the story, it could be a pretty good read, but it didn't work for me.


  1. I didn't really like this one too. I thought something big is going to happen. But, nope. Nothing big. It's flat.

  2. Yeah, I see why you'd get angry because of the way they handled mental illness - it's serious, delicate topic, it affects lots of people and it has to be done realistically and with respect.

    Of course I do believe it's very important to show that teens with mental illness can have creative, full lives with friends and boyfriends and everything as long as they get the right treatment. It's good to have that kind of hope, but it also has to be done realistically, showing it can be hard.

  3. I don't think this book would be for me, i'm not a fan of when authors mishandle such a sensitive topic. Also I don't think I've ever seen or heard of that many chapters in a book of only 300 pages that turns me off right there from the book.

  4. Sorry you didn't like this one:P I was excited to read this before, but I'm a little wary now. Thanks for the honest review:)

  5. "He's French and sexy and artistic"
    Just after this sentence I could give up on this book...


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