Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book Review: Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig

SUMMARY: 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 have 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 burglaries at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could he wind up being the person that Willa trusts most?


Pretty Crooked had a lot of potential that it didn’t completely live up to. Slow to start, choppy in many of the transitions, with some elements left lingering in a way that felt like it was just to try to ensure readers picked up the next book, this was a book that disappointed in a lot of ways. Still, there was a certain drive behind it that kept me reading, and some of the characters grabbed me. With an interesting twist on the Robin Hood theme, this one definitely has its perks to it, even if some level of suspension of disbelief is required with it.

Willa is a girl who, at least at the end, I really liked it. I was able to get behind her in her determination to help the scholarship students are her rich prep school, and I supported some of the decisions she made, however misguided they may have ultimately been. What bothered me about her was how long it took her to open her eyes to what was real, and the level of superficiality that went with her at the start. Though she seems to be someone who has her style and way of doing things at the start, she almost instantly becomes brainless and fashion/shopping obsessed, in a way that is grating and almost blatantly out of character. While I can appreciate the fact that having money is new to her, and this is a side of life freshly opened to her, she seemed like a completely different person right away, before snapping back to the go getter she was on the first page as soon as very blatant evidence comes out that some of her new friends are, in fact, jerks. Still, her overall development was well done, and I think there is room for some great antics from her in the next book that will have a greater level of depth to them than this one.

There is some romance in this one, though in truth it felt as though it was there just to have romance, rather than being something Willa really wanted. Aiden is the stereotypical rich playboy, the guy who flirts with everyone and is used to getting what he wants. At times, I wondered why he was so interested in Willa apart from she’s new, and more than that, I wondered what Willa really saw in him. Sure, there were times where he was sweeter, but mostly he just seemed shallow and often times bland. Though he redeemed himself towards the end, I much prefer Tre, a boy with a rough past and secrets of his own, but who has this quietness about him that is melting. Tre has some great scenes in the book, and in a lot of ways, his character stands out as much as Willa’s. Rivaling Tre for well done characters is Cherise, the exception to the rule of the mean popular girl. Though she has a few falters of her own, Cherise has a great strength to her that shines even through Willa’s eyes. Unwilling to take part in some of what the other Glitterati do, but also not going so far as to just walk away from them, she straddles her own battle lines and does it well. She is a great friend, and someone who has a huge influence on Willa, and the interactions there are one of the best parts of the book.

My biggest issues in this book are the lingering threads, and the pacing. It takes until about halfway through the book for Willa to actually start figuring out how to steal from her rich friends to give to the poor scholarship students. Before that, the book is mostly shopping, partying, random scenes at school, and more shopping. With choppy transitions between the different scenes that are, overall, really rather unrelated, and a repetitive feeling well before things actually take the new turn, this is a book that can be hard to get through, at least until Willa starts thinking again for herself. As far as lingering issues goes, there is something going on with Willa’s mom that is sort of hinted at, but overall, seems to just be there to try to add drama and mystery, without serving much other purpose. With hardly any big clues, and definitely no closure in this regard, I felt like this was done just to make sure readers keep going, rather than because it actually fits into the story that well, at least at this time. Willa and her mom are laid back and pretty close, at least before this book opens, and I had a hard time believing that this new life and money rips them apart and lets both keep secrets and they’re just okay with that. There was a level of obliviousness that felt convenient rather than real, which is the main thing that left me feeling unfulfilled at the end of this book. Apart from this aspect, Ludwig ties many other things up in a good way, giving herself a steady launching point for the next installment. Despite the problems I had with this one, there is a level of humor and fun in this one that makes for enjoyable reading, and for anyone who likes seeing the gray areas of justice, this is definitely a book to check out.

Source: ARC received from publisher in exchange for an honest review 
Reading level: Ages 13 and up 
Hardcover: 368 pages 
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: March 13, 2012

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