Book Review: Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

I probably shouldn't start off doing reviews with such a negative one, but this review is a form of catharsis that will hopefully help cleanse my mental palate.

Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

Pros: Pages can be used as kindling to start a fire.
Cons: The story, characters, and plot.

Rating: 0 out of 10 stars
Grade: F

Book Blurb: Nora should have known her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.

The farther Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim blood line has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?

Alz's Take: Let's be clear: I read the first book, Hush, Hush, and didn't like it except as fodder for Krispy and me to make fun of. It suffered from a bland heroine, her irritating and stupid boy-crazy best friend, and one of those typical YA alpha-stalker I-love-you-for-no-reason love interests who happens to be a fallen angel named Patch.

So I picked up Crescendo with a philosophical mindset, expecting a book full of badly-written tripe but with some lol-this-is-so-bad moments.

What I got instead was a brain hemorrhage and cardiac arrest. This is one of the worst books I've ever read. I'm not exaggerating. And I've read a lot of bad books.

The short of it is that this book is a wallow of self-inflicted teenage angst featuring a heroine whose main motivation throughout the book is getting back at and hurting her boyfriend for reasons she sewed up out whole cloth and jealousy. Also, there's a mysteriously vague plot about a Nephilim blood society that seems of little threat or consequence because of how poorly-organized and clumsy they are, except that they are very threatening and full of consequences because the author says so. Curious? Want to know exactly what they do and how they're going to implement their nefarious plans, and what they have to do with the heroine? Congratulations! You won't find out any of that in Crescendo because it's almost entirely setup for the next book. Want the resolution and revelations that come at the end of a book? Congratulations again! You won't get any of that here either. Even granted that this is the middle book of a trilogy, Crescendo fails as a standalone; if you haven't read Hush, Hush, you won't really know (or care) what's going on, and the lack of any resolution or clear answers gives no sense of satisfaction upon reaching the absurd cliffhanger ending.

Click below to read an extensive diatribe of how and why this book fails on so many levels.

Nora Grey in the last book had barely any personality. In this book, she's pathologically insane and suffers from such a massive overdose of teenage angst I'm surprised she didn't vomit blood and collapse into spasms by chapter three. I'm willing to put up with teenage angst because this is, after all, book two of a YA romance, but Nora Grey is exclusively responsible for her own misery, for all that she blames it on Patch. Repeatedly. For whole pages at a time.

In the very first chapter, Nora tells Patch "I love you," but he doesn't immediately respond because he's distracted by something dangerous and hurries Nora away to safety before departing.

Nora then spends the rest of the book trapped in a maelstrom of tears and otherwise adrift on the boundless seas of self-pity because Patch didn't immediately gush his eternal undying love for her. One moment Nora loathes Patch and wants to tell him "screw you" for being a playboy and counting her as a conquest, and the next moment she's ablaze with desire for his sweet, sweet embrace and willing to forgive and forget everything. One moment she thinks it's for the best that they separated because she's protecting Patch, and the next she's spewing venom and vituperations because he hasn't called or texted her. She swings back and forth between these states literally between one page and the next.

Patch is hardly a presence in the book; mostly all he does is appear to save Nora's life and/or rescue her from danger, and her response is to rail at him that she doesn't need his help and why doesn't he love her and what's he doing with Marcie Millar. The ingratitude is, shall I say, palpable. Especially since she throws herself into incredibly dangerous situations in exceedingly sketchy places with extraordinarily threatening people with the mindset that she's going to get back at Patch for cheating on her and not loving her by putting herself in danger and forcing Patch to watch when she makes out with shady guys she's not really interested in. She tells herself that since Patch is her guardian angel, he'll be forced to protect her no matter what, and he deserves all the hurt because he led her on, while at the same time telling herself she's hurting him to drive him away for his own good even though it hurts her too. Huh?

I don't think I've ever wanted to throw a book against the wall so badly, but I have more respect for walls than that; if this thing hadn't been a library book, I would've taken it outside and run it over with my car. I've read my fair share of bad books of my own volition, but my masochism was tested to the limits with Crescendo. Nora is infuriating, self-centered to egomaniacal extremes, and I hated her with such ferocity my blood pressure skyrocketed throughout the entire book.

Another thing that made me despise her was her utter lack of trust and faith in the people closest to her. Bad enough that she refuses to listen to anything Patch tries to tell her, but Nora also turns on her more or less blameless mother with such boomerang alacrity that I was rendered inarticulate with fury. Without spoilers, let us say that an enemy of Nora's tells her something briefly about her mom, and right off the bat Nora believes this person with no further questions or explanations. For the rest of the book she internally rages at her mother with a passion nearly equal to her Patch-angst and consciously decides she's going to have her little say (essentially spitting in her mother's face) and then walk away forever without giving her mom a chance to say anything. Drama queen and teenage angst are not the words for it. I had to keep a box of tissues handy to wipe away the foam of rage from my mouth.

Oh, and there was a plot in the book. There were some very leading hints and some very vague ones dropped here and there that mysterious things are going on, but contrived plot devices do not a plot make. Crescendo is 90% Nora Angst and 10% Plot (Twists).

The culmination of the plot all happens in the last several chapters of the book, and then it's one plot twist after another in such rapid succession I had trouble keeping facts straight and understanding why these twists were important, especially since at least one of the twists (which had its own totally unnecessary and implausible twist) was an overly complicated way for the author to make the whole plot of this book viable—without this twist to explain away things from the first book, this second book wouldn't make sense (not that it does anyway). Thanks to barely-there and poorly-rounded characters and how the entire book is one great violation of the Show-Don't-Tell narrative adage, the revelation of the villainous mastermind was neither shocking nor interesting, especially since his cardboard-cutout motivations and about-face personality change were bought wholesale from Generic Evil Villains Inc.

Thanks to the confusing tumult of the twist-laden last quarter of the book, there is very little sense of satisfaction or resolution (there's going to be a third book, after all, so you can't answer everything, though apparently Ms. Fitzpatrick thinks it's even better not to resolve anything at all), particularly as this book suffers from Twilight Syndrome: there's lead-up to a dramatic climactic end-fight that we don't get to see because the heroine falls unconscious, and by the time she wakes up, it's all over and we only get a secondhand glossed-over description of the action.

Then, just when everything seems like it's winding down to a disgustingly saccharine out-of-character-for-this-book happy-dappy ending, BAM! You thought those plot-twists were over, eh? Think again, sucker! Take another plot-twist right on the last page along with a cliffhanger life-or-death ending!

Alz's Conclusion: Reading Crescendo killed off significant portions of my brain. Go read The Hunger Games instead.


Ariana Ferrone said...

This kept me laughing! I haven't read Hush, Hush because of the numerous bad reviews I've read, and this evaluation of its sequel just cements my desire to stay far, far away from it.

Merc said...

That review is awesome. Also pretty much what I had expected, given the first book (I could only see a sequel going down hill, from the prologue/first chapter excerpts I'd read awhile back).

*offers calming cookies*

But thank you--now I will not kill brain cells trying to read it. (I didn't plan to, but you know how library books just kinda show up in your hands and get home and... sometime later you realize you're reading this and OH GOD WHY? yeah)

XiXi said...

OMG thank God I'm not the only person out there who hates Hush, Hush. Thank you. It is the epitome of crappy "edgy" fantasy right now.

I love you.

Alz said...

Ariana - I would rather read Hush, Hush than Crescendo, but given the choice I'd really rather not read either (except to make fun of HH).

Merc - *stuffs self on cookies* Oh, I know about library books too! In fact, Krispy is the one who got it from the library for me because she knew I really wanted to read it--and foolish me, I did, because I thought it would be a funny experience, not an excruciating one that caused my eyeballs to implode.

Icy Roses - Hush, Hush at least had a small bit of vague (and of course nearly entirely) unfulfilled potential. Crescendo was a soul-crushing morass of trying to be emotionally engaging, smart, and edgy. I shudder to think what the next book (which I refuse to read) will be like.

Lydia Kang said...

I never read Hush Hush, and now I'm kind of afraid to.
Thanks for a very honest review. I don't see them as often as I'd like.

Christina Lee said...

eek- wowee! what an honest review!I also wasn't a fan of Hush Hush, but was curious about this one.

Alz said...

Lydia – Hush, Hush actually worked okay as a standalone book, though it was pretty terrible. I just couldn't believe how bad Crescendo was in comparison.

Christina – Same here! Not a fan of HH but was curious about the sequel and now I rue the day I first cracked open Crescendo. I did read the promo prologue + chapter that was released early online and wasn't impressed, but I had no idea what I was in for.

Sophia Chang said...

I'm so

1) happy to see a negative review for once. It seems like every YA blogger has to say amazing things about the books they read, when many of them are vapid.

2) jealous! I feel like I can't say bad things because some people know who I really am on my blog, and since I want to be published one day, I'm afraid of karma coming around...wah!

Found you guys through a comment on Danyelle's blog - love the racebender link! Azn represent! :P

Unknown said...

Wow.. that's a little harsh... It wasn't THAT bad. And REALLY? The Hunger Games?! Oh sweet Jesus. Everybody says The Hunger Games is so good, but honestly, it's pretty overrated. I'm sorry, but really?

Alz said...

52 Faces – Thanks! I totally understand the desire to review only things that are good or only mention good things, especially if you don't want to tread on any authorial (or editorial) toes—and also because new authors are essentially spreading their wings for the first time. But if they can managed to get published and gain thousands of fans regardless of the quality of their writing, then they can take a negative review or two from a critical critic like me. ;)

Orange – Really.

Anonymous said...

I know everyone has an opinion but I really enjoyed them. I think those books were just what I was looking for! I am a really keen reader and I have to say Hush, Hush and Cresendo werent my favourite books, not by a mile, but I loved the mystery and never-ending drama! I agree Nora wasn't the best character that she could have turned out to be but I guess that was what made Nora Nora, also Patch was a good character. Yes I do also think that it could have been better but I really enjoyed it and I am awaiting to read the 3rd one!
I do respect your review and see why you have put that and I agree on some things but on others I think you were a little extent but thats your opinion :D. I did like the book and woudlnt say it was in my list of really disgraceful books, I see you have a strong opinion and I did laugh at your comments. However, I thoroughly enjoyed them.

By Macey<3