I had to stop reading this at 80% because I just couldn't take it anymore. This is one of the most painful and unbearable reading experiences I've ever had and the thought of sticking with it for another hour just to finish makes my head hurt.
Things I liked: the cover is beautiful, and I cared about Katrina for maybe five or ten minutes at the beginning, before I slowly started loathing every second I spent reading...
I honestly don't know where to start, so this is a rant review now I guess.
First, it was mindnumbingly boring, which is a feat considering how buckwild the premise is. You'd think a book about a trans teen finding confidence through music, with the help of a teacher who sold her soul to a demon and the daughter of an alien running a donut shop, would at least be interesting in a “what the fuck am I reading??” kind of way, but it's just unbearably dull.
I'm not usually one for “rules” in art but this book is a prime example of how sometimes there's a reason we have them. Show, don't tell is a great one!
I don't know what's special about Katrina, or what Lan sees in Shizuka, or why any of them care about anything or anyone. I'm being told constantly that Katrina is amazing, somehow, in some vague way, and Lan and Shizuka are totally in love, but nothing on the page every backs any of it up and I can't actually see or feel any of it at all. This book is filled with long, detailed descriptions of food (smells, tastes, textures, ingredients, origins, all of it) and so much violin and music talk that it borders on incomprehensible for someone who isn't a musician/violinist. I wish at least some of it had been spent developing the characters or their relationships at all.
So all that that, combined with the fact that the POV changes several times per page, randomly and without warning, made me feel very, very removed from every single character and event. Show me why I should care.
Another problem is the characters and how they interact. They all just accept things way too easily and never process or react to what's happening. When Shizuka finds out the woman she's kinda into is actually an alien she doesn't even blink, as if her hanging out with a demon on a regular basis would just prepare her for literally anything weird that might happen. When Astrid walks in on Katrina jerking off in front of a camera she just shrugs and then pretends it never happened. When Lan finds out about Shizuka's deal she's mildly upset for like a minute and then after a completely unrelated interaction they're just pals again. Their relationship never really starts or changes or gets explored, it just is, barely, mostly off-screen.
Katrina's character ended up bothering me the most, I think. Maybe she has a last-minute realization that she's not a freak and a burden somewhere in the last few pages, I wouldn't know, but every single thought she has over the course of the whole story is about how miserable she is and how much she hates herself. It may be a realistic depiction of trauma, things take time and recovery isn't linear, but from a book I just want something to happen. She doesn't change one way or the other or develop in any direction, she's completely and utterly stagnant and it was just frustrating to read. Almost 300 pages in she was the exact same person as on page 1.
I don't even know how to describe my next issue, but the writing just dissolved into borderline nonsense at times. I had to reread entire pages because I had difficulty processing what the text was trying to say. It got worse the further I got into the book but at some point my brain started leaking out of my ears so maybe random paragraph breaks and double spaces (don't even get me started on this honestly......), POV shifts at the speed of light, contextless flashbacks and dream sequences jumping out at you without warning and reading about the perfect chewiness of noodles AGAIN for several sentences just feels normal and okay to other people.
I honestly hated this book. There are others I hate more, nothing in this was personally offensive to me or anything so it's got that going for it at least, but I really can't remember the last time I felt so fucking miserable reading something. Early on I told people that it probably would have been better if this was three different books, or a storyline had been cut, or whatever, but I'm not sure anything could have saved this for me anymore. Every single thing, from the tone to the structure and formatting to the characters, is just terrible.
What an utterly miserable way to start off my reading year.........