A Glimpse I’d Rather not have seen

Title: The Glimpse
Author: Claire Merle
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publication Date: June 7, 2012
Pages: 411
Genre: Dystopian
Source: Amazon
Rating: 2/5

Summary from Amazon- Throughout England people are now divided into Pures and Crazies according to the results of a DNA test, with the Pures living in small Communities cut off from the madness of society, and the Crazies living outside the walls in the squalor and mayhem of the City. Until the age of fifteen, Ana has lived a privileged existence amongst the Pures, but her whole world crumbles when she finds out that there was a mistake with her Pure test. She is actually one of the Crazies, and one day in the near or distant future she will become sick. But Ana has already been promised to Pure-boy Jasper Taurell. Jasper is from a rich and influential family and despite Ana’s defects, wants to be with her. The authorities grant Ana a conditional reprieve. If she is joined to Jasper before her 18th birthday she may stay in the Community until her illness manifests. But if Jasper changes his mind, she will be cast out among the Crazies. As Ana’s joining ceremony looms closer, she dares to hope she will be saved from the horror of the City and live a ‘normal’ life. But then Jasper disappears. Led to believe Jasper has been taken by a strange sect the authorities will not interfere with, Ana sneaks out of her well-guarded Community to find him herself. Her search takes her through the underbelly of society and into the pits of the human soul. And as she delves deeper into the mystery of Jasper’s abduction she uncovers some devastating truths that destroy everything she has grown up to believe, but she also learns to love as she has never loved before.

Anyone who’s been following my blog long enough knows that I have a passion for young adult books that focus on mental illness issues. The fact that that was the inspiration for this dystopian novel really excited me and I was thrilled when this book came out. Well, I finally got around to reading it between my various NetGalley assignments, and I have to say it was a major letdown.

To begin with, I’m not entirely sure what genre Merle was going for with this book. It was a disjointed mix of dystopian, thriller, and romance that was just too much for my taste. I think if this book was a dress on Project Runway, Michael Kors would have said it was overworked and there were too many ideas; it was like a million dresses in one.

The first issue I had with the story was the romance. I didn’t really believe it and it didn’t seem like a real romance to me. I didn’t feel the love/desire Ana and Jasper supposedly felt for one another. For some reason I got a really creepy vibe off of Jasper as well. I think he was older than Ana, as in the scene where they met Tom made a comment about 10 years not being that much of a difference, or something of the sort, and she was really young and I just thought that was a bit sketchy. I also didn’t really understand why Ana was attracted to him. Jasper’s supposed attraction to Ana also didn’t seem believable to me, because I simply didn’t see a lot of evidence for it. I thought the story would be more geared to the issues around mental illness, but it was more geared towards the romance between Ana and Jasper, which was rather disappointing.

Ana was also a very flat character, in my opinion. I felt like she only existed as a vehicle for the world the author wanted to create. I feel like that happens a lot in dystopian novels: the writer just wants to create this oppressive, technologically advanced world and throws a narrator in it just so they can write about the world without making the character complex enough to make it interesting. “The Glimpse” seemed especially geared by its gimmick, one that didn’t get the story very far.

I was also concerned by the stereotypes about mental illness that Merle perpetuated in her novel. Sometimes it’s really obvious what an author’s view on the issue they’re writing about is, and I personally think it should be, especially with a sensitive issue like mental illness. She wrote a lot about how you could supposedly tell if someone was Active just by looking at them, like if their hair was falling out or they would “flip out” at random moments. Much of the language she used to describe mental illness kind of demeaned it, and I really couldn’t tell if she was trying to show how silly those stereotypes are or if she genuinely didn’t know enough about mental illness to write the book.

The book got slightly more interesting and faster-paced after (SPOILER BUT NOT A MAJOR ONE) Rafferty almost kills himself. It still didn’t make sense to me how Ana could think about using Cole’s family for help yet not take the time to understand them. She acted like she knew best, not really taking into account the family’s private issues.

In short, this book was a tedious disappointment not even worth the $6 I paid for it.

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