This month’s LSH challenge was to read a book with a foreign title – which I found surprisingly difficult! Being a regular reader of fanfiction (and of Harry Potter fanfiction in particular), I’m used to every other story having a foreign title (usually Latin). But apparently this is another way in which published fiction differs from fanfiction… 😉 I eventually managed to find two books to choose between: Arcanum by Simon Morden, which looked super-interesting, but was over 700 pages long – and I really haven’t been in the mood to read any long books lately – and Fiesta by Kate Cann, which looked fun, but also kind of terrible. Anyway, to nobody’s surprise, I decided to pick up Fiesta.
This book follows Laura, an English teenager who’s just started her gap year, and is on the road trip from hell across Spain, accompanied by her two best friends, Ruth and Yaz, as well as Ruth’s obnoxious boyfriend Tom – the driver, who is the main cause of the “from hell” part of the trip.
I didn’t have very high expectations, going into this book, but I did hope that it might surprise me – and it did, at times. I enjoyed the snarky opening; Laura and Juan’s romance was quite cute in places; and the scene where Laura went into town by herself for the first time, and made friends with the Spanish bus driver was – though short – probably my favourite moment in the book. It was the rest of the book, however, that was rather a let-down.
First up, the characters were simply awful. Tom, as I’ve already said, was an obnoxious bully, and I found it really hard to understand why Ruth hadn’t just dumped him, and this made me like Ruth much less, as well. She spent pretty much the whole book just letting him walk all over her. Yaz showed some promise at the beginning of the story, but her character became less and less likeable as it went on. Even Laura had her moments, coming off as petty, shallow and jealous. All this combined to make the idea of them having been best friends for years and years seem completely unbelievable.
My other main issue with the book was (surprise, surprise!) to do with how Kate Cann dealt with Tom. He showed several worrying character traits over the course of the book, but none of them were ever really dealt with: Laura and Yaz are constantly talking about how awful he is, and how he’s always pressuring Ruth, but they never do anything about it – they never even try to talk to Ruth, even though she’s supposed to be their best friend. Eventually he gets called out for making racist remarks, and I’d hoped that he was going to get put in his place at this point, but instead he just brushes it off, and he never has to face any real repercussions. Worst of all, though, in my opinion, is this scene, fairly on in the book, after they’ve just witnessed a couple having a fight in a restaurant:
“God – that woman, though! Shouting the place down like that! That bloke should’ve smacked her one.”
“He’s joking,” says Ruth at me, not meeting my eye.
“I am not,” says Tom. “You yell at me like she did, babes, and I’ll lay you out.”
So apparently he’s okay with the idea of hitting his girlfriend. And over what? Making a scene? He’d made plenty of far more embarrassing scenes himself already, even though this only took place about a third of the way through the book. But the comment was never brought up again, and when Tom did eventually get his comeuppance (far too late), it was offstage, and very minor – I never for one second got the feeling that he was losing anything that he wasn’t prepared to lose, or that he would learn anything from the experience.
Overall, I’d say that this isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read (or even the worst thing I’ve read this month), and had a few surprisingly cute moments, but mostly it was just… grating. I definitely won’t be reading any more from this series.
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Edit (25/3/2016): Changed rating from 2/5 to 1/5.