Review: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown

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Rating: 2.5 / 5
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Mystery
Expected publication: June 11, 2013 by Balzer & Bray
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Anna Van Housen is thirteen the first time she breaks her mother out of jail. By sixteen she’s street smart and savvy, assisting her mother, the renowned medium Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage show and séances, and easily navigating the underground world of magicians, mediums and mentalists in 1920’s New York City. Handcuffs and sleight of hand illusions have never been much of a challenge for Anna. The real trick is keeping her true gifts secret from her opportunistic mother, who will stop at nothing to gain her ambition of becoming the most famous medium who ever lived. But when a strange, serious young man moves into the flat downstairs, introducing her to a secret society that studies people with gifts like hers, he threatens to reveal the secrets Anna has fought so hard to keep, forcing her to face the truth about her past. Could the stories her mother has told her really be true? Could she really be the illegitimate daughter of the greatest magician of all?

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A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my thoughts in any way.

Final Verdict: 2.5 / 5

Yeah…

Not really sure how to put my utter disappointment and headache into words. It is not often that I get a migraine from reading a book; those are usually for the really bad ones like Wasteland and even The 5th Wave, although that’s a story for another day. I really wanted to love Born of Illusion, especially after reading In the Shadow of Blackbirds, a book that made me interested in early 20th century settings and the mentality and attitude towards the paranormal back then. I was expecting a lot from this one, and although the novelty of magic, spiritualism, and psychic powers in the beginning was very delightful to read at first, it wore off after a while…. and went downhill right after that.

This is not to say this book was bad. I enjoyed it, but unfortunately, the negatives far outweighed the positives. I could only salvage very little from the disaster that happened. Sigh. Let me start off with the good stuff first, shall we?

THE POSITIVE

* Despite the lack of description of the surroundings, the writing somehow gave me that 1920s vibe. I’m guessing it’s from the abundance of formality in the dialogue and words exchanged between and among the characters. I really liked how I could picture the place, the faces, the clothes, the grumpiness and the smiles of each and every individual, which is quite surprising given the narration style, which I’ll get to later. I probably just have a big imagination, but yeah, the feels were there.

* I also really liked how it showcased the strained relationship between the mother and daughter. I really appreciate it when YA novels at least try to include a parent and their connection to their kids in the storyline, especially since it’s so lacking in this demographic nowadays. Anna and her mom’s bond isn’t perfect – they always misunderstand one another, with the former oftentimes feeling her mother loves her career more than her. I really felt for the heroine whenever she thought she was left out, and valued the development of their relationship as they learned more about each other. Hopefully, there will be more of this in YA books, as I strongly believe moms and dads are still vital factors in a teenager’s life.

THE NEGATIVE

* Anna, the main character, infuriated the hell out of me, which makes it like adding insult to injury as she was already bland, boring, and as interesting as watching wet paint dry. Seriously. The story was narrated in her 1st-person POV, and the narration was just so dull that when I was reading it, it felt like listening to someone speak in a monotonous, robotic voice. It also didn’t help that the sentences were oftentimes a “subject-verb” thing, which, I thought, was tedious to take in. From page 267 of my copy:

I agree. I don’t want my mother to hear about it either.

I pace my bedroom after dressing for the day. Mrs. Lindsay is insane. Why do I keep running into her? Could she have been invovled in my abduction?

I have to find out more about that vision. I know it’s the key to everything.

I shiver. Owen is taking me to the Metropolitan Museum ofArt tomorrow, but last night’s fiasco has cast a pall over everything… I viciously jab a pin into my plack cloche to hold it in place. Cole isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs; he’s more… I sigh. Wonderful. Cole is more wonderful.

It’s probably just me, but the left side of my brain hurt from that.

And oh, did I mention she was very wishy-washy? As in super indecisive? There was a love triangle here, which I felt wasn’t really necessary, and it really annoyed me how she was leaning to both of them at different times. Her cheeks would warm every time she sees them, she would swallow every time both of them touch her, and she would always expect a kiss from both… ugh. When she’s with love interest A, she would think of love interest B and vice versa, and it drove me insane. The love interests weren’t even that interesting, either. One’s overly mysterious, which I couldn’t really fully understand why, as it led to more harm than good. I mean, yeah, I understand that confidentiality was an issue, but it really irritated me why he didn’t want to tell everything to Anna and had to wait nearly at the end for it when we all bloody know well that her knowing was vital and important. I couldn’t appreciate the stalling and withholding of important information. The other love interest was such an eager beaver that it was so obvious something wasn’t right with him, but the main character didn’t even notice until the end… and she was supposed to be really good at reading the emotions of other people! :| Geezus, what a fail.

I also found Anna very stupid and gullible, which was quite ironic because she prided herself as very street-smart. Yeah, right. So she followed this dude in her thirst for knowledge, and she found out he was a freaking fraud. A con man. And he even admitted this. But despite already knowing he was suspicious and dishonest as hell, she still agreed to meet with him, considered his offers to join him, even took his word more than the other honest dude’s… which truly baffled me. Girl! You know he’s an asshole and a con! Why the fuck would you even want to continue meeting with him?! She made some questionable decisions, too, which I, for the life of me, couldn’t understand why. There was this scene in the middle of the book where she got kidnapped. Thankfully, she escaped and found help from some shopkeepers. When they asked her what happened, she thought to herself she couldn’t tell them she was taken against her will and even tied up. WTF? Her justification: “what can I tell them? That I was taken by unknown people for reasons equally unknown?” T___T UM, YES? HELLO? KNOCK KNOCK? DOES YOUR SKULL HOUSE A BRAIN?? When people get kidnapped in real life, they also don’t know why, but that doesn’t stop them from reporting and telling others about it, especially when it could help them!! RAWR!!!

* I also found the storyline a bit lacking. It was quite simple, and for a plot that involved psychic powers like seeing the future, reading other people’s emotions, and so on and so forth, it didn’t quite develop from there. It definitely had potential to go bigger than the usual “Why do I have powers? What do I do with it?” and the greedy villain who aimed to take advantage of it, so I was very disappointed when it ended at that, because I was fairly certain there were so much more possibilities with this kind of premise, especially with the social setting of the 1920s! Oh, well.

* I thought the climax and the ending were too abrupt.The escalation of events starting from the climax up to the ending felt very convenient. I can’t really go into details, but it was very anti-climactic. In the end, I didn’t care much for the characters.

OVERALL…

* Be wary of the main character. It may just be me as a lot of other reviews liked her, but she really got to my nerves. A lot. To the point I had wished I would be manifested inside the book so that I can give her a piece of my mind of how stupid and idiotic she was.
* Get this if you want to read a story of a mother and daughter coming into terms together, with psychic powers as a backdrop.

P.S: sorry for possible typos. I’ll check it out tomorrow after I wake up. *so tired*

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Faye

Faye

A 21 years old Filipina who loves books, games, languages, and most especially, food. Secretly wishes to be an astronaut so she can explore the stars. Has a love-hate relationship with Philippine politics. To get in her good graces, offer her Foie Gras, Or shrimp. Or a JRPG. A YA sci-fi book works, too. You can follow her on twitter here: @kawaiileena

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  1. Patricia says

    Yikes! LOL. The heroine does sound like someone I’d stay far away from. I may get this, but not too soon. I like books with the 1920s feels, too. There’s just something magical about that period of time. Thanks for the review!

  2. Tina says

    I wanted to read this and still may even after reading your review, which was great by the way. It sounds like I would not like the heroine either and she probably would give me a headache. Thank you for your honest and amazing review.