I am not a very good book reviewer. I like most of the books I read, making for an overwhelmingly positive batch of reviews. It’s hard for me to pick apart a book that I like, searching for aspects that could be improved. And in that rare occasion that I really don’t like a book, I try to find the good in it, and then end up writing a pretty positive review.
Not this time. “Royally Lost” by Angie Stanton had the makings of a really cutesie, funny summer read. I say it had the makings, because it is truly the most absurd thing I’ve ever read. Let’s start with the easy stuff, what’s essentially on the back cover: Becca, the main character.
Please, put yourself in her position. You’ve just graduated high school, your loser boyfriend dumped you and you’re facing your last summer of childhood. Kind of a bummer, right? But then your dad and stepmom surprise you with a European cruise along the Danube, visiting a different city each day. Your first trip to Europe! Awesome, right? NOT IF YOU’RE BECCA AND YOU’RE A SPOILED LITTLE WHINY THING WHO IS INCAPABLE OF GRASPING THE AWESOMENESS OF EUROPE. I mean, she whines about her horrible dad for making her go to Europe. I’m sorry, making you go?????? Hello, that’s incredible and you are rude. So that aspect of her character was really hard for me to get past, if you didn’t realize. It would have been easier to accept her reluctance if I understood where it was coming from. There was very little background information given, not many explanations of her behavior. There was some evidence of a disconnect between her and her father, and there was definitely some deeper family issues there, but none that warranted the snobbery this girl positively oozed. I wish there had been more depth to her, more understanding.
And then she meets a dude, and she’s all Oh, I guess Europe isn’t too bad because now I have a to boy to take up my time. I am offended. She is blatantly honest, especially in her disapproval of the Continent. And Nikolai, the guy she meets, who also — what do ya know — happens to be a European prince, eats up this Europe-hating behavior like it’s cute or something. I’m sorry, but no matter how much your family and history bothers you, there’s no way her obvious boredom with Europe wouldn’t annoy his princeliness, even just a little.
Plot holes and character weaknesses aside, the writing left much wanting. The first thing you learn in any writing class — creative, news, nonfiction, whatever — is to show not tell. Show us how your character is feeling, don’t write “she was feeling sad today because it was raining.” That’s lazy and boring. Show us through dialogue and setting and metaphor. Just show us.
And another random thing about “Royally Lost” is that it’s quite overwritten, like Stanton was trying so hard to sound realistic that everything, dialogue especially, sounds fake.
I love Europe so much and am dying to go back, so it would be hard for me not to dislike a girl who is so vocally ungrateful for the opportunity to travel. That being said, I read reviews on Goodreads to see how other people felt, and many of them seemed to feel the same as me. Some didn’t, of course, but I am not alone in my distaste for Becca and “Royally Lost.”