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A rising crescendo of mediocrity.

January 27, 2011

Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick, Simon & Schuster, $24.99

I decided to punish myself and read Crescendo, the sequel to the abysmally entertaining Hush, Hush. Well…I say “punish myself,” but we all know that I secretly love bad YA fiction about tortured teen relationships.

Admittedly, Crescendo is a cut above Hush, Hush: the plot may still be riddled with holes, but the action is well-paced, the characters are better defined, and the series mythology–which seemed oddly peripheral in Hush, Hush–carries more weight. And Becca Fitzpatrick isn’t a bad writer; she just needs to relinquish her vice-like grip on laughably convenient plot twists.

Crescendo picks up right where its predecessor left off. Patch, who becomes almost likeable in this book after brooding and rankling his way through most of Hush, Hush with all the charm of a camel spider, is now Nora’s Hot New Boyfriend–apparently the fact that he was intent on killing her in Hush, Hush has been swiftly forgiven. But true love never did run smooth, and this is never more true than in the pages of supernatural-YA-romance-thrillers. Within the first few pages, Nora’s confession that she loves Patch causes him to act strangely; but is it just because he’s a commitment-phobe, or are there darker forces at work? Take a wild stab in the dark.

There are some intriguing plot developments in Crescendo. Marcie Millar, the school bitch who was little more than a peripheral annoyance in Hush, Hush, assumes a growing significance in this sequel, and we begin to learn more about the odd circumstances surrounding the death of Nora’s dad. But what’s most effective is Fitzpatrick’s introduction of a new character, Scott, a childhood friend of Nora’s who’s moved back to her hometown. Of course, he’s another product of that large fiction factory that churns out Impossibly Good-Looking Broody Bad Boys for heroines to compromise their integrity over, but Fitzpatrick manages to sketch a suitably enigmatic map of Scott’s loyalties: whose side is he really on? And what is his connection to the world of fallen angels? Once again, Nora’s on the hunt for answers, and this time she’s got relationship problems to boot. As she divides her time between uncovering the secrets of the Nephilim and acting like a jealous, angry harpy every time she sees Patch, dark truths about Nora’s family history begin to surface.

But this increased narrative interest can’t hide some illogical and sloppy plot developments. Patch and Nora go through a rough period that lasts for most of the book, but its set-up is contrived and frustrating–it makes little sense that Patch, supposedly now Nora’s knight in shining armour, refuses to explain a situation that Nora clearly misinterprets. Nora herself is once again the recipient of some ridiculously expedient coincidences–a spare car key makes a magical appearance at an opportune moment, and an entire walkie-talkie conversation held right outside a window she’s hiding directly beneath goes unheard by the person she’s hiding from on the other side of the glass. Most outlandish of all is the scene where Nora tries to determine where Patch lives by taking a series of wild guesses that turn out to be spot on. Might the third book reveal her to be psychic?

Now I’m just griping, but I’m on a roll: the other thing I found irritating about this book was the apparent urge Fitzpatrick has to share, in pointless detail, what outfit Nora puts on for any given occasion. At least in Twilight, Bella’s rather middle-aged sartorial choices (brown turtlenecks and blue corduroy skirts spring to mind) were a source of amusement; but I quickly tired of being given an inventory of Nora’s matchstick jeans, ballet flats, newsboy caps, and printed sundresses. Maybe I’m just jealous because my wardrobe wasn’t that cool when I was sixteen.

But I couldn’t not read Crescendo. It’s annoying, illogical, and inadvertently hilarious, but it’s also a lot of fun, and it finishes with a rather juicy cliffhanger. I admit it: I can’t wait for number three.

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