ARC Review: Sketchy by Olivia Samms


title:  Sketchy

author:  Olivia Samms

pages: 238

format: Kindle ARC

isbn/asin: 978-1477816509

buy it: Amazon  Goodreads  B&N

rating: 2/5 [in the genre] or 4/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  Fans of quirky characters, campy mysteries, and a touch of supernatural powers.  

My Ratings Explained

The first book in a series about 17 year old Bea Washington, an edgy, charismatic outsider and recovering addict, who discovers that with her new-found sobriety, she has a disturbing new "skill"-- an ability to see, and draw, people's thoughts. Alarmingly, these visions are only getting stronger and increasing in frequency. As another girl in school is raped and left for dead, Bea must come to terms with her talent, learn to face her own truth, and try to help identify and stop the killer before he strikes again.

the basics
I had high hopes for this book and it just didn't pan out.  The concept was good, there were some compelling parts, but there were also so many things to pick at.  An over-the-top main character on a constant alogical sugar high.  Dialogue I could never imagine in the mouths of people.  A creepy potential romance.  Don't forget super sassy gay best friend from nowhere.  A lot of people loved it, but I'm not sold.  To me, Bea was more annoying than endearing and the coolness of her gift was overshadowed by the pretty standard murder mystery.  Not to mention, Bea stolidly goes ahead investigating the rape of Willa Pressman despite Willa's violent opposition.  Talk about taking all autonomy and empowerment away from the victim.  Ignore all that, and it still had its entertaining moments.  You get family dynamics, a close friend, a string of creepy rape-murders, and a relatively surprising conclusion.  Unfortunately, the slew of downsides above was too much for me to really enjoy this read.  

plot . 3/5
The plot itself wasn't too bad.  It wasn't the twistiest, most innovative murder mystery I've ever read, but Samms did a pretty good job of creating an interesting criminal profile and an unexpected villain.  Bea's gift is the saving grace of the plot.  She can draw other people's thoughts, a new take on telepathy that was intriguing and put to good use as a plot device.  Of course, it also gave her the ability to steal people's private thoughts, which leads to my least favorite plot point: Willa.  Willa is one of the victims who escaped death.  She recognizes her rapist, but for her own reasons, she's not talking.  While Bea's desperation to save other young women is admirable and understandable, it's misguided.  I lost respect for her when she basically hounded Willa into revealing her story and then pursued the case against Willa's permission.  In a culture where rape victims are often stripped of autonomy and stigmatized, it was just another shot below the belt.  Then there are the weird holes, like how are Bea and Chris suddenly besties when it seems like they spent little time together at art school?  The parts that really shone were the procedural kind of investigating parts.  It was a fun puzzle to piece together, with a pretty shocking final showdown.  But did I mention creepy romance?  No spoilers, but it's a pretty big stretch, especially in a book about violence and exploitation against women.  

concept . 4/5
Again, I find myself extolling a concept that finds itself overshadowed by a variety of other flaws.  I love the idea of Bea being able to draw people's thoughts.  It's like telepathy with a twist.  She can only skim what's strong and at the surface, and there's plenty of interpretation to do when she has the final drawing.  In another lifetime, it could be a fascinating device.  It was even used pretty well in this book as a way of moving the plot forward and dredging up evidence.  It just wasn't enough to outshine the flaws.  

characters . 2/5
Is there such a thing as too unique?  I vote Bea.  She's an adjective dump:  feisty Bohemian telepathic ex-addict with mommy issues, a history of being picked on, and a dramatic flair.  I knew much more about what she liked and what she had done than about her.  How did she deal emotionally with the abuse of her classmates?  With her best friend's betrayal?  What had driven her to become an addict?  These missing bits made her seem like a sparkly peppy heroine without a core.  Her most human moment was surrounding Agatha's death--too little, too late.  Then I can't complain enough about sassy gay friend Chris.  Samms doesn't even bother to give him a personality beyond artsy gay sidekick.  I don't even know if I could pick him out from a stereotype lineup.  Willa gets a little deeper, cheerleader with her own dark secrets, but she enters the background pretty quickly.  Bea's parents, too, had promise, with their strained marriage and dad's quiet secrets.  Again, left behind for more peppy rainbow fun time.  

style . 2/5
Samm's style was not for me.  It was like listening to a sugar high toddler ramble.  To be fair, a lot of that had to do with Bea's character, but I didn't like Bea's character, so it fell flat.  Bea certainly had a unique voice, but it didn't feel realistic.  Read any of the dialogue aloud and you'll see what I mean.  Melodramatic, overdone, and stilted in places.  It was campy, even.  It worked for a lot of people, but it's not my style at all.  

mechanics . 3/5
At times, it felt like Samms was trying to do too much and it didn't all flow.  Not to mention realism problems.  I'm pretty sure the cops would not give Bea as much leeway in the real world, and her investigation would be stalled.  Add a few very convenient deus ex machina and I couldn't handle it.  

take home message
An over-the-top murder mystery with a spunky heroine and her fascinating artistic powers.  

Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.

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