A Touch of Scarlet: Unbound, #2 -- Eve Marie Mont
Spoilers about A Breath of Eyre follow! You have been warned.
In the first book of the Unbound trilogy, high school sophomore Emma Townsend gets struck by lightning and zapped into Jane Eyre. Ultimately, it turns out that she was in a coma and that It Was All A Dream (there's a little bit of OR WAS IT??, but for the sake of simplicity (AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, BREVITY, WHICH IS, AS YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED, NOT MY STRONG SUIT) I'm going to stick with that), but everything works out and she Gets Her Man and all that jazz. Overall, I had mixed feelings about it, but I wrote all about that at Kirkus, so I won't repeat myself here. Overall, my feelings about A Touch of Scarlet are way less mixed than my feelings about A Breath of Eyre: it had many of the same negatives, but less of the positives.
Emma has to read The Scarlet Letter over the summer, but she puts it off and puts it off because she and Gray Newman are busy running through fields of daisies together and being revoltingly [<--my opinion, obvs., but it's worth mentioning that they are SO EXCRUCIATINGLY LOVEY-DOVEY that I ended up writing notes like 'barrrrrrrrrrrrrf' and 'vom'] in love. So she crams it in right before school starts up again, and she HATES it. Partly because, as she puts it, "Hawthorne never used seven words if twenty-seven were available", and partly because it cuts into her Gray-time. He is, after all, leaving for Coast Guard training soon, and so she won't be able to talk to him for eight weeks.
So, she goes back to school Gray-less and bereft, but there's lots going on there, what with Michelle's confusion about her relationship with Owen—she cheated on him over the summer—and the mysterious break-up of the Fearsome Four (the school's resident mean girls). Then Michelle starts HANGING OUT with Elise Fairchild, Queen of Evil, and one thing leads to another and Emma starts having Scarlet Letter-themed visions.
Things that didn't really work for me, but that very well might work for other readers: it was very clear to me where Michelle's cheating plotline was going from the very first second, and as it was super-obvious to me, I found it frustrating that Emma ultimately had to have the situation spelled out to her; and [SPOILER] after Gray breaks up with Emma, she becomes as insufferable as Bella Swan when Edward Cullen dumps her. As I said, though, my dislike of those aspects of the book is based purely on personal preference.
Things that are more straight-up across-the-board problematic: Emma's narration never really gels into a consistent, believable voice. She ranges from snarky-casual to super-duper stiff and formal (with the occasional infodump), and there's a lot of telling rather than showing, especially when it comes to the interactions and relationships between the characters. Michelle's storyline (along with the student protest and the alternaprom and the end of Dr. Overbrook's arc) never completely integrates with the rest of the story, and so it feels at best, like it should have gotten its own book, and at worst, extraneous. (And, in terms of plotting, very afterschool-specially.) Finally, the one thing that I really liked about A Breath of Eyre—the alternate view of Bertha Rochester—isn't a factor in this installment: all of the Scarlet Letter stuff was about Emma figuring her own problems out, rather than a combination of literary interpretation AND Emma's own story.
I'm still planning on reading the third book in the trilogy, but that's less because I'm ALL HET UP about it and more because I figure I've read the first two already so it would be silly to skip out on the third. Also, the third one is based around Phantom of the Opera, so I'm curious to see what Mont does with it.
Book source: Review copy via Netgalley.