Review by Iola Goulton
Amazon SummaryVeronica doesn't think she's going crazy. But why can't anyone else see the mysterious blond boy who keeps popping up wherever she goes?
When her best friend, Mackenna, invites her to spend the summer in Scotland, Veronica jumps at the opportunity to leave her complicated life behind for a few months. But the Scottish countryside holds other plans. Not only has the imaginary kilted boy followed her to Alloway, she and Mackenna uncover a strange set of rings and a very unnerving letter from Mackenna's great aunt---and when the girls test the instructions Aunt Gracie left behind, they find themselves transported to a land that defies explanation.
Doon seems like a real-life fairy tale, complete with one prince who has eyes for Mackenna and another who looks suspiciously like the boy from Veronica's daydreams. But Doon has a dark underbelly as well. The two girls could have everything they've longed for... or they could end up breaking an enchantment and find themselves trapped in a world that has become a nightmare.
My ReviewDoon is apparently based on the well-known musical, Brigadoon, which is so well-known that I’ve never heard of it. Maybe it’s well-known to Americans and Gleeks. I decided not to read the Wikipedia plot summary and to let Doon tell its own story, although that turned out not to matter: Doon bears little resemblance to the musical.
The story is told in the first person from the alternating points of view of Veronica and McKenna. First person present tense is pretty normal for YA, but it does rely on having a likeable narrator (and most have a single narrator). Veronica was the main narrator, and I found her much more likeable than McKenna, whose narrative contained constant references to Broadway musicals (Sacred Stephen Schwartz!) and current pop culture. It got old fast, and will date almost as quickly.
Parts of the story felt contrived, particularly the final showdown (which, in hindsight, is symbolic of Jesus’s death on the cross for our sins, the final battle of Armageddon, and our ultimate destiny as His bride. If anything, this makes it worse. Making teens figure out the symbolism underlying a piece of writing should be a crime, especially when that writing is supposed to be entertainment).
I initially thought these aspects might have been parts of the plot of the original musical that just hadn’t translated well to 2013, but no. It felt as though the authors had written themselves into a corner, so they invented some new magic to get them out (at least JK Rowling had the skill and foresight to foreshadow her miracle magic. In Doon, it just appears). This shows a lack of concern for world-building (or perhaps a lack of understanding of the importance of good world-building in fantasy).
There are a number of other weaknesses in the writing, like redundancy, repetition, telling rather than showing (particularly with the pages of history of Brigadoon), excessive use of dialect, and insufficient difference between the voices of the two main characters (I kept having to flip back to see who was the current viewpoint character). It’s also annoying (and atypical of YA) that the first half of the book is largely driven by narrative rather than dialogue and action. It drags. However, bad writing hasn’t stopped either Twilight or Fifty Shades from selling stratospheric quantities …
Doon has attracted a lot of attention: it’s the first book in Zondervan’s new crossover Young Adult line, Blink. Over 3000 people have marked it as ‘Want To Read’ on Goodreads (compared to 300 for the next Dee Henderson novel). Most early reviews are positive—the negative ones are scathing, claiming the story is full of shallow characters (true) and cliché writing (also true). I’ve looked at the other books read and rated by these reviewers, and it seems they are the people Zondervan are trying to reach with this novel.
Will Doon reach secular YA readers? I don’t think so. It’s not edgy enough. Yes, Veronica has an awful home life, but the story of Doon isn’t how she deals with normal teenage problems. It’s how she escapes into another world and meets a handsome Prince who (if she can catch him) will love and cherish her forever. Even though they’ve only had a handful of superficial conversations before she decides she loves him.
And ‘crossover’ or not, I’m not convinced that a book where teenagers drink beer and champagne (albeit legally), where a lead character practices yoga (including positions such as Downward Dog, and practices ‘pushing negative thoughts out and drawing in the positive’) is appropriate in a book published by a Christian imprint, ‘crossover’ or not. Nor does language such as ‘screw that’, ‘what the heck’, ‘mother cusser’, or references to playing for the other team. Seriously. Adding a few almost-swear words isn’t going to make the book cool enough for the Cuddlebuggery crowd (who hate Fifty Shades because they’ve read it, not because they’ve read about it).
What about Christian teens? Will they enjoy Doon? If they’ve been raised on a steady diet of bonnet fiction and Amish romance, then Doon will seem fresh and edgy. But I’m not sure if they’ll get to read it. Those parents who wouldn’t let their children read Harry Potter or Twilight would be advised to avoid Doon for similar reasons. And if they haven’t read Twilight, they’re not going to understand references like “his conflicted Edward Cullen act would hook her faster than meth”.
Yes, there’s no sex in Doon. There’s no sexual abuse, no teen pregnancy scares, no drug-taking, and the only drinking is legal. But there is more to being a Christian than that. There’s stuff like being "in the world but not of the world". And having a personal faith in Jesus. Neither Veronica nor McKenna has any personal faith in anything but themselves, and the Doon villagers sing praises to the Protector, the one who cast the enchantment on the village. It’s implied they are praising God, but it’s not clear. The Protector who can cast stronger spells than the witch could be any witch, wizard or warlock.
Young Adult fiction isn’t about selling books to teenagers. It’s about writing books that speak to them. And speaking to them means talking about their problems.
I wanted to love Doon. I wanted it to breach the gap between saccharine Christian bonnet novels and edgy YA while still retaining a sense of a Christian world view. It has a fabulous cover and apparently has a six-figure marketing effort behind it. I liked most of the characters; I liked the story well enough. But I didn’t love it. I think it is let down by the writing, and it didn’t meet my hopes and expectations of what a YA novel should be, let alone a crossover.
Doon is trying to sell to teens, not speak to them.
Thanks to Blink (Zondervan) and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon at their blog.
Review by Iola Goulton. I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website, or follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. I love reading, and read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog.
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What do you think about the concept of 'crossover fiction'? Will you read Doon?