Hello everyone, and welcome back!
So I have this Thing when I’m looking up books that have already come out, aka stuff that’s going to get put on my infinite backlist when I buy it.
I tend to look up reviews in various places, but one of my quickest lazy first-glance Things is to look up a book on Goodreads. And generally, if the average score for it is under 4.0, then I get hesitant about it.
In a way, I know this is unfair. The longer a book has been out, the more time people have to review it, and new books always have some influx of five-star reviews. (Goodreads is in no way a bunch of impartial, super critical reviews.) But I think in most cases, any book I do read that’s rated under 4.0 tends to be a nope from me. Which is not to say that a lot of books over 4.0 aren’t nopes, because plenty of them also are? It’s just a superstition, maybe. Anyway.
I bought Zodiac despite the under 4.0 thing because I used to be really into astrology (not daily astrology predictive, but full charts) and the cover was pretty and it was deeply on sale when I was buying some other books. So my expectations were pretty low. And it was…a pretty wild ride.
Zodiac by Romina Russell
So Zodiac is a pretty typical YA in some ways: there’s a Chosen One type female protagonist, there’s a love triangle, there’s some kind of upcoming war situation where one reluctant teenager will implausibly one of the most important figures, society is sorted in some way by traits or whatever. We all know this drill.
But the world (galaxy?), which I was iffy about because using astrology as a backdrop felt gimmicky, actually felt pretty interesting? This book started strong with the protagonist’s characters gathering some kind of space-clam from their mostly oceanic planet and the idea of day-to-day life on the weird homes of these different zodiac civilizations is actually pretty intriguing, honestly. I wish we got more of it than we did in this book.
This book kind of goes downhill as it proceeds, though. I mean, at first the protagonist is in future-telling school and playing a show with her band while some kind of mysterious DOOM lurks, so yeah. That’s cool. And then it goes downhill.
(Other than moments of cool worldbuilding. There are also moments of ugh worldbuilding, like the fact that all the different peoples have different personal computing devices that have astrologically-appropriate cutesy names, which is just…bleh, but there are also cool moments like the way the Gemini folk imagine things into being.)
Irritating things in this book: the love triangle. Just no with it. One of the love interests acts so dang condescending to the protagonist that I never want to ship them at all, but I am clearly supposed to because it’s implied she liked him in the past, only we never get the dish about that really so who actually cares? I cannot stress how much I do not ship these two.
And the other love interest seems like a really cool guy, except for the fact that he seems to like the protagonist just because they’re the same age. But whatever. Sometimes you’re in space and doom is coming for everyone and that’s all you’ve got, so sure.
Another irritating thing: no one a smidgen older than the protagonist believes her about anything. Even though the premise of this book hangs on the notion that the protagonist predicted the doom that no one else saw, which is why she’s the Chosen One, everyone who is anywhere near being an adult just automatically does not believe her, condescends to her, and seals their own doom by doing so.
I mean, on one hand, good way to call out adults for being so ageist towards teenagers who are making good points, I guess? But also this is just really irritating to read and I don’t think this book is seriously grappling with that issue so much as just setting up easy conflict and ugh.
And okay, this is a minor gripe because basically every book that has some kind of “sorted” society does this, but in every one of these narratives, some one group has to take the fall as the “evil” one. Even though I wish in every one of those narratives, badness would be attributed to the system as a whole and/or people who manifest the group’s traits poorly or whatnot. This book probably isn’t the worst culprit in terms of that, but because it’s an astrology narrative where we all know where we’re sorted ahead of time, it’s easier to be annoyed by. #notallScorpios
(Also I was iffy on the “house” traits but whatever, I’m probably more of an astrological purist than most.)
Another actually irritating thing: this is one of those books where the protagonist is kept from doing interesting stuff. I find in some YAs, we’re told the protagonist is special but for whatever reason, they don’t get to do cool things because they’re busy being protected, trained, or whatever else. There’s something to that effect in this book, compounded by the fact that people won’t listen to the protagonist. Frustrating as heck.
But where is the mom from the prologue, though, she seemed so interesting. Like I’m kind of intrigued about her and the world (the author seems to have put a lot of work into worldbuilding; there’s a whole website about the details) but this book has too many genuinely irritating things going on for me to do the thing.
It didn’t really offend me? (Well, I mean, the idea that I should ship something so condescending kind of did, but ah well.) It didn’t really bore me or drag in terms of pace. But…yeah. Not really.
Welp, thanks for delving into the backlist again with me! Are there any books you’ve bought out of cover love? Morbid curiosity because you love the topic but have heard it’s not too good? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll see you again on Friday!