01 November 2013

The New Girl (SL Grey)

- Local fiction, supplied by Penguin Books

I seldom slate a book.

(I'd love to do a lot more slating of crappy books but a. I seldom finish them, b. the publishers don't love that sort of thing and c. I feel bitchy when I do...) Having said that, I don't know what to say about SL Grey's The New Girl.

Other than: 'It's pretty f***ing weird.'

The back cover blurb intrigued me:

"Ryan Devlin, a predator with a past, has been forced to take a job as a handyman at an exclusive private school, Crossley College. He's losing his battle to suppress his growing fascination with a new girl, who seems to have a strange effect on the children around her. Tara Marais fills her empty days by volunteering at Crossley's library. Tara is desperate but unable to have a baby of her own, so she makes Reborns - eerily lifelike newborn dolls. She's delighted when she receives a commission from the mysterious 'Vader Batiss', but horrified when she sees the photograph of the baby she's been asked to create. Still, she agrees to Batiss's strange contract, unaware of the consequences if she fails to deliver the doll on time. Both Tara and Ryan are being drawn into a terrifying scheme - one that will have an impact on every pupil at Crossley College..."

That sounds pretty cool, right? It has a freaky deviant, a bored creator of those scary 'human-ish' dolls you see on Pinterest (and she has an evil step-son), and promises of a 'terrifying scheme'. It also has a weird 'new girl'. And it's set at a posh South African private school. Cool!

But things start to go wrong quite early on, and that's when a book that held the initial promise of The Slap meets My Step-Mother's an Alien becomes clunky, confusing and filled with people you can't like. Some because they're child molesters, others because they're soggy spineless blankets and still others because... well... they're not actually human.

There's also not much to justify the why behind "upside citizens living in blissful ignorance of the deeply weird world beneath their feet... in a subterranean pseudo-civilisation".

I finished it, but barely. It's too weird to enjoy. Not weird in a good way. But loads of people are loving it, and many are people whose literary opinions I respect. It's also been described by SFX, the global sci-fi bookclub, as "A surprisingly funny, deeply weird horror novel”. Funny? What? 

Maybe I didn't get it?

Note: 'SL Grey' is an open literary collaboration between two South African writers - Sarah Lotz from Cape Town and Louis Greenberg from Johannesburg. Their two previous books, The Mall and The Ward, are apparently brilliant. And I honestly don't know what to do with that information.


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