Gilded by Christina Farley
or: … WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!
Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Jae Hwa Lee is a Korean-American girl with a black belt, a deadly proclivity with steel-tipped arrows, and a chip on her shoulder the size of Korea itself. When her widowed dad uproots her to Seoul from her home in L.A., Jae thinks her biggest challenges will be fitting in to a new school and dealing with her dismissive Korean grandfather. Then she discovers that a Korean demi-god, Haemosu, has been stealing the soul of the oldest daughter of each generation in her family for centuries. And she’s next. But that’s not Jae’s only problem. There’s also Marc. Irresistible and charming, Marc threatens to break the barriers around Jae’s heart. As the two grow closer, Jae must decide if she can trust him. But Marc has a secret of his own—one that could help Jae overturn the curse on her family for good. It turns out that Jae’s been wrong about a lot of things: her grandfather is her greatest ally, even the tough girl can fall in love, and Korea might just be the home she’s always been looking for.
So here’s the thing. I’ve been lucky lately; my increasingly picky reading habits have meant I’ve been able to avoid bad books for most of the year. As a result.. I got lazy.
This book has been on my ‘to read list’ for a while (a few years), and I was after something to listen to as I did mundane jobs which didn’t require any thought. The audio book for this was on special so I thought, what the heck, lets give this a try.
Oh my god
This book was bad.
Like, I think I lost brain cells.
But the disappointing thing is, the idea and concept of this book was so interesting and held so much potential. But my god was it poorly executed.
Jae was whiny, annoying, stupid (for someone who was supposed to be a good student she was the dumbest heroine I’ve ever come across), and did the opposite of what she was supposed to do. Even though everyone told her not to. And she ended up wondering why things went down poo river.
UM HELLO JAE? WAKE UP AND USE YOUR BRAIN!!
I’ve honestly never felt so little care and empathy for a main character. I didn’t give two figs what happened to her. At one stage, I was praying for the villain to succeed just so the story would end. She was so unlikable it was insane.
And lets not even talk about the insta-love or the stereotypical western heart-throb and all the problems this brings up.
I was so keen for a story that really got into and fleshed out some traditional Korean folklore. I didn’t get that. I was keen for a PoC heroine having to deal with her American upbringing versus her parents culture. I didn’t get that (just a lot of whiny monologues about how mean her dad was for not letting her run around Seoul and go back to America. Love, you’re 15. Do what your dad says.)
I’m both annoyed and confused how this book went from such high potential to such a train wreck.
This book, for those who were wondering, was written by a white woman, whose sole claim of knowledge on Korea was the fact that she worked there for a few years in the international community. For living as long as she did in Korea, you think she would have gotten a much better understanding of the culture, and not have written it so poorly. She seems so keen to write to a stereotype, she didn’t even bother to attempt to make it realistic.
As a white woman who lives in the southern hemisphere, even I know with my limited knowledge of Korea and it’s customs and rich culture, that this book is wrong. Going through the comments on Goodreads has shown my opinion is reflected a lot. There’s a distinct divide; there are those with Korean (and other Asian countries) heritage expressing the issues with this portrayal, and then there’s the other group of non-asians who are lauding it.
Even if you could ignore the cultural riot going on, it’s hard to ignore the frequent poor story telling and sentence construction. The voice actor for the audiobook did the best she could, but she struggled very obviously with the poor construction.
I honestly don’t know how the good reads rating is so high, especially when you scroll down to look at the comments.
Its safe to say that there is no way I will be even following on with this series;- I have no desire to see what other cluster-poo adventures that Jae gets up to.
Please find other great books on PoC to consume instead.