So, apparently if you have a Kindle and Amazon Prime (actually, I'm not so sure about the Prime part...) there's a program where you can get a book to read a month before it's actually released the public. Pretty cool, right? I mean, it's not an ARC or anything, but it's still fun getting your hands on something so new the general populace doesn't have it yet. Anyway, that's how I got Christina Farley's debut young adult novel Gilded.
Generally, I really like young adult fiction. It's easy to read and stuff happens at a much faster pace than in most "adult" books I've picked up. Gilded falls into these parameters. Stuff starts happening almost right away, which means we aren't left looking for the plot for 60% of the the book. That's a good thing. What's also good is that...wait for it...Gilded is different! Oh my gosh. That was awesome to find out. Let me tell you why.
Overall, it's the story of a teenage girl with a destiny determined by a curse that's been haunting her family for generations. That sounds pretty typical, and it is, but Farley managed to do a great job with it because a) she infused the entire story with Korean folklore, which is something I haven't really seen done all that much, and b) the protagonist herself is an American-Korean. Both her parents were from Korea, from what I gathered, so she has a lot of connection to Korea even though she's lived most of her life in Los Angeles. The story, by the way, takes place in Seoul, where Jae and her father have recently moved for her father's job; it's this move, and Jae's presence in Korea, which activates the curse. It's pretty cool having a non-white protagonist, though Jae is pretty "American" in most senses. I can only list a handful of other books that have "ethnic" protagonists, so this was a nice addition.
I thought this was fairly well done. The characters are believable, for the most part. The story can be a bit melodramatic at parts, but then again, it's also about teenagers, who are pretty melodramatic as a rule, so I can let that go. Jae did frustrate me at times by not picking up on things as quickly as I thought she should, especially toward the end when she should have had enough experience to recognize what was going on around her. I liked Marc, the love interest, though his role wasn't what I thought it would be. I thought he was going to be like the human form of Haechi or something, but he wasn't. That would have been cool, but I'm not exactly an expert in Korean mythology, so I'm not sure if it would have worked. The main character I had an issue with was Jae's father. He thinks all of the stuff that's going on with Jae isn't real, and I feel like something had to give here. Either something should have happened much earlier in the novel to convince him of the reality of Jae's situation (and was he even convinced at the end? I'm not sure) or he probably should have had his daughter committed to a mental institution. Which might have been interesting, come to think of it.
The ending of this did feel a bit rushed. A ton of stuff happened that wasn't exactly tied in earlier in the story, making it seem a bit disjointed. I think some of this could have been cut for the sake of streamlining the novel, and I think that it probably wasn't because Farley wanted to show how much Jae could go through. It kind of worked, kind of not; I mean, yes, it made Jae seem stronger, but like I said, it also came off as disjointed and hurried. Some of these later plot points (a fox spirit, the weird orb thing) could have been cut or possibly reserved as points for future books, because Gilded is very obviously the start of a series. It's not a cliffhanger, though, so you can read it without fearing for your sanity at the end. Overall, this was an enjoyable, quick read suitable for pretty much any audience.