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I read this book tonight, so with this I am entirely caught up. Yay! Also, I have been doing this for more than a hundred days now, whoa. Remind me to write up how I feel about that at some point.

I am never sure how I feel about the word 'twee'. I can't tell a lot of the time what people mean by it, and even when I stumble across something I'm pretty sure is genuinely twee, such as Tanith Lee's terrifying cotton-candy first novel from earlier in the year, I can't tell exactly what I think is wrong with it, except that it hurts to read because something-or-other is too much of a muchness.

This book has helped me define that, because it is pretty damn twee and that's the only thing that's wrong with it. A book is twee if the entire world of it, not just any given character, is an author Mary Sue. Let me unpack that. The characters in this book are not Mary Sues; they have flaws and can be wrong and their flaws are significant to the plot. But the reason they have flaws is that they are flaws the author thinks are just adorable. His eleven-year-old heroine hates her sisters and does horrible things to them (although of course deep down she loves them really), but they are horrible things the author thinks are cute and funny and wants you to think are cute and funny. "Oh, of course," you are meant to say to yourself fondly, "people in this sort of situation just don't have much emotional intelligence. How dear of them." He is, for a long stretch, too enamored of his world to give it any teeth, to put in anything he thinks is unpleasant (as opposed to what he thinks you the reader will find unpleasant, and I should like to point out that what I actually find unpleasant is the author beaming at me mistily from the background going See I Remembered The Horrors Of These People's Past Traumas).

If you suspect that the entire worldbuilding and plot of a book could be described to you by the author as 'things I thought were precious', the book has a problem with twee.

Which is a shame, because there's a real book under there, best described as a valiant attempt to rewrite I Capture the Castle as actually Miss Marple, with elements of that other Castle book (We Have Always Lived In The, I mean). The eleven-year-old heroine is too clever and idiosyncratic to be remotely realistic, but she is enjoyable, and everything plotwise ticks along, and there are occasional moments where it is almost but not quite Cold Comfort Farm, which is a perfectly reasonable ambition for a book to have in its life. There is vitally important philatelism and clambering around unsafely on the tops of buildings and bicycling while singing at the top of one's lungs. It's clever and fun and funny and different.

It's just not half so clever and fun and funny and different as it thinks it is, and would have been more of all of those if it hadn't known itself to be a witty book. The trick of one particular kind of humor is the audience can't tell you know you're funny.

Ah well. The twee gets much less prevalent as the book goes on. I may even try the sequel. I have a pretty high cute tolerance, mostly.

Edited to clarify confusing sentence. This is why I shouldn't write at four a.m.


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March 2017

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