Friday, 3 June 2011

Review: Very LeFreak - Rachel Cohn

Published: January 10th 2010, Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 303 pages, paperback
Series?: No, standalone
Acquired: Purchased myself

Summary (from Goodreads): Very LeFreak has a problem: she's a crazed technology addict. Very can't get enough of her iPhone, laptop, IMs, text messages, whatever. If there's an chance the incoming message, call, text, or photo might be from her super-secret online crush, she's going to answer, no matter what.

Nothing is too important: sleep, friends in mid-conversation, class, a meeting with the dean about academic probation. Soon enough, though, this obsession costs Very everything and everyone. Can she learn to block out the noise so she can finally hear her heart?

From acclaimed author Rachel Cohn comes a funny, touching, and surely recognizable story about a girl and the technology habit that threatens everything.

My review: Hmm. Where to start with this review. Honestly, I was so disappointed with Very LeFreak. I first read about this book last year when it was released and instantly wanted to read it. The cover, the synopsis, it completely drew me in and I couldn't wait to get a copy. When I finally got around to ordering it I dived straight in, convinced that I would love it. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.

You all know how disappointing it is to be so excited about a book but then not enjoy it at all. From page one I found the writing to be clunky and a little awkward. Please see the below quotation as an example, which runs as a single sentence:

'Hey, she wasn't even bothered that yesterday she'd been fired from her work-study "security" job checking student IDs - a feat that, contrary to her university career services advisor, was not, like, impossible to pull of - yet Very probably could be counted on later today to blow the remaining credit on her maxed-out card for primary wants like new headphones rather than for secondary needs such as food and tuition.'

Okay, so I know that's not a horrendously structured sentence (it's just one I picked from page one) but I don't think a reader should ever have to reread a sentence to get it to make sense. I found myself having to skip back and reread passages continually, which constantly interrupted the flow of the story and stopped me getting as involved as I wanted to be.

Writing aside, another issue I had was with the characters in the novel. Very herself was extremely unlikable - I do get that she's supposed to be cold and a bit detatched and normally I like a bitchy protagonist but I just couldn't warm to her. She was horrible. I know that in the later scenes where she talks about her issues at ESCAPE I should have felt bad for her but I couldn't - she lies so much in the story that by that stage I didn't know if anything she said was the truth. I don't know, I didn't like her. She did too many cruel things that I don't think can easily be explained away by a person having a bad childhood - everybody has things happen to them that they can use as an excuse for bad behaviour but it doesn't cut it with me. *Rant over*

Oh, and the Lavinia thing felt a bit shoe horned in to me - the foreshadowing throughout the story was not subtle at all so I knew what was coming chapters before it happened. And the El Virus revelation? Yeah, that too.

One other thing - the swearing. Okay, I am not offended by swearing in the SLIGHTEST. I think most YA books should have more swearing, to be honest - I think swearing is all well and good and can help depict a realistic teenage/YA voice. However, Very's swearing felt completely gratuitous to me and I was really disappointed as it just seemed as though it had been put in there to try and make the book seem a bit more edgy - something I really, really hate.

And so ends my review of Very LeFreak. I'm so disappointed that I didn't love this one as I really wanted to. I will admit that I did enjoy the book more in the second half but I just don't think the writing or characterisation was up to scratch, at all. What's interesting is that Cohn mentioned it was her first novel, not her first novel published but the first one she wrote. Of course it's been edited plenty of times since then but I wonder if that's why it felt quite weak, to me anyway. I've heard so many great things about her books that I definitely won't let Very LeFreak put me off of her other books and I'm keen to try her collaborations with David Levithan in the near future.

First line: 'It wasn't the fact that Starbucks did not - would not - serve Guinness with a raw egg followed by an espresso chaser that was ruining Very's hangover.'

Plot: 4/5
Writing: 2/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 3/5
Total: 12/20 (D)


  1. Sorry to hear that this book wasn't as good as you expected. Though I have to say: What on earth is going on with that sentence?? Yeah, it might not be that awfully structured, but still, it definitely needs rereading just to understand what the writer is trying to say.

    The story does sound rather interesting though... Might try reading it someday. Thanks for the honest review! :)

  2. Aww, we hate when books we're looking forward to don't live up. And though we're usually fine with sex, violence, or swearing, we too hate when it's gratuitous. :(

    We do think it's interesting that this was her first book (written, not published) and like you, we wonder if that's a factor at play here.

    For what it's worth, we read DASH & LILY'S BOOK OF DARES, one of her collaborations with David Levithan, and we don't think it had any of these problems. (We still didn't fall in love with it, but for completely different reasons.)

  3. Aww, that sucks.
    I was looking forward to this book too - just waiting for the pb, as I'm wont to do - but now... I don't know.

    I go through the occasional internet addiction - you know, staying up till 5 am checking forums and talking to friends and gaming - so I was very interested to see a book about the topic, and I love a bitchy narrator as much as the next person, but it has to have some redeeming qualities.

    As you said, I don't think a bad childhood is a get out of jail free pass - it sounds like a cop-out.

    and I honestly don't get when authors put gratuitous swearing in their stories, I mean its obvious when they do, and it's a mood killer.

    Anyway, I do have this book, but it just got bumped way down the TBR pile.

    Thanks for the honest review. *gives cookie*

  4. it sucks that you didn't enjoy this as much as you wanted. I thought it sounded great from the summary but I'm pretty put off by your review, it sounds like a great idea that wasn't fully formed and was accompanied with kinda bad writing! thanks for the honest review!

  5. Thanks so much for that honest review - I took one look at the cover and synopsis and thought YAY but havde decided against it now :D

  6. What an absolute shame that this one was so disappointing for you! Was it the first Rachel Cohn you've read (not including collaborations, I mean)? I think I've only read Gingerbread (which I loved, btw!) but I'm still looking out for other books by her. But maybe not this one.

  7. VERY LEFREAK was overall a great book. The element of surprise plays a fairly big part. Many parts I never saw coming, which made the book really great, and the ending wasn't really lackluster, either. If you've read Rachel Cohn in the past, you'll be sure to like this book, and even if you haven't it is sure to be enjoyable.

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