There is a phenomenon in our bookish world that is not just uncommon, but almost completely unheard of. That phenomenon occurs when the MOVIE/TV SHOW is BETTER than the book. Up until a few days ago, the only book on that list (this list is completely my opinion, so take it as you will) was Inkheart – I will watch that movie all day long, but if I have to read that book again I will gouge out someone’s eyes. So sadly, I am adding another to that list.
My first introduction to the Secret circle was actually a marathon of the show. My step-dad and I somehow gravitated to the couch, put on that channel, and then remained glued to the TV the ENTIRE day. I found the series kind of slow but interesting enough that I wanted to keep watching.
The book doesn’t really have that charm. I went in with high hopes since I liked the show, and I have read LJ Smith before and her writing isn’t horrible. I keep trying to tell myself that it was published in ’92 and that was a very different time (like, dude, I was 7) so maybe that is my issue? Maybe it’s just not holding up well?
So, to dive in: my issue with the book started right off the bat. Our main character Cassie, your standard cardboard heroine, is preparing to head back to her home and friends, only to get the bad news that her estranged grandmother is dying and her mother wants to move there to look after her. Cassie’s reaction was to cry and freak out because her mother couldn’t possibly understand how hard it was to leave her friends and have to start all over again at a brand new school. As a child of a single mother – we moved around A LOT, it’s not hard, and even in ’92 they had that nifty little invention known as the telephone. Cassie just screamed self-centred brat …and it doesn’t get better through the rest of the book.
Cassie is forced to move into her grandmothers ramshackle house in the city of New Salem, and start school there. Cue every 90’s trope ever. Bad-ass biker chick, voluptuous succubus, big-tit cheerleader …and they all randomly hate Cassie even though they have never seen her before. They spread rumors and terrorize Cassie (even set OBVIOUS traps that she walks into and needs to be rescued from) because …their personality is “mean girl”? During said trap they try to light Cassie on fire, and Cassie needs to be saved yet again, only this time not by the tall-dark-and-handsome-cold-smoker-bad-boy (AKA every 90s trope rolled into one) but by a beautiful High School senior named Diana (I’m Canadian, so terms like junior, sophomore, and senior mean nothing to me, so sorry about that!). She is beautiful, caring, thoughtful, and just an all around wonderful person. It’s to the point it’s rather annoying. But, she is the complete contrast to some of the other members. Where Faye is curvy, dark, and sexual, Diana is slim, fair, and virginal. Diana cleans Cassie’s soot covered clothes and takes her home. From there the girls bond and even jokingly adopt one another as sisters. That part was cute, I will give it that.
Diana and the others are part of a secret group, a secret group that runs the school. Even the adults and teachers keep their distance and let them do as they please. A little unbelievable, but I will suspend belief a little. The group are the descendants of the New Salem’s founders …which were the true witches who managed to escape Salem during the witch Trials (I do have an issue with the “New Salem” thing, but I’m complaining enough about this book, I might as well leave my smaller issues out). With one member down, they need to bring another into their Circle, and the intended is a young witch named Kori. She is the younger sibling to two of the members already and a shoe in …until she is found dead at the bottom of a set of school stairs. This leads me to my next big issue with Cassie. She asked Diana to join the club, was told they have already let someone in and they can only bring in one yadda yadda, but when Kori died, they let Cassie in instead …and Cassie was bitter that even in death Kori was more popular than her.
And what would a YA book be without it’s forced love triangle? This one that was basically written with predictive text is definitely not one to break the wheel. Cassie met a young man before she moved to New Salem, and in their 5 minute conversation fell madly in love (because apparently she’s a Disney Princess) with him. Turns out, this guy has been dating Diana since childhood. So he is torn between his girlfriend and this girl he knew for 5 minutes that is apparently “unlike anyone he’s ever met”. Cassie’s immediate reaction upon finding out was to hate Diana. The girl she spent a week or so trying to find because she was so pretty and wanted to be friends with, who did everything she could for Cassie, asked for nothing in return, and adopted her as a little sister …all cause she was dating a guy Cassie had talked to for 5 minutes.
Everything about this book made me mad. But, it is not the most horrible thing I’ve ever read. It is a brainless read, predictable, but fun for what it is (high school witches of ANGST). I know it’s a popular series, but I have never been in the demographic that read these books or books like this, until I was an adult and already well enough read to realize the multiple fallacies. A young person 14 – 16 would probably like this book more than me, but the 90s references might go over their heads.
As for myself, this is the first and the last in the series I will be reading.