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Thursday, June 21, 2012

[Review] The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis

Title: The Storyteller
Author: Antonia Michaelis
Pages: 402 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Abrams
Release Date: January 1, 2012

Anna and Abel couldn’t be more different. They are both seventeen and in their last year of school, but while Anna lives in a nice old town house and comes from a well-to-do family, Abel, the school drug dealer, lives in a big, prisonlike tower block at the edge of town. Anna is afraid of him until she realizes that he is caring for his six-year-old sister on his own. Fascinated, Anna follows the two and listens as Abel tells little Micha the story of a tiny queen assailed by dark forces. It’s a beautiful fairy tale that Anna comes to see has a basis in reality. Abel is in real danger of losing Micha to their abusive father and to his own inability to make ends meet. Anna gradually falls in love with Abel, but when his “enemies” begin to turn up dead, she fears she has fallen for a murderer. Has she? Award-winning author Antonia Michaelis moves in a bold new direction with her latest novel: a dark, haunting, contemporary story that is part mystery, part romance, and part melodrama.

I had a really hard time getting into The Storyteller. First it was because I didn't care too much for the writing style, then I didn't connect with Anna. She's very sheltered, which is fine, but she's also pretty bland and annoying. Why is she all of a sudden obsessed with Abel? Enough so that she quietly stalks him and his sister around town. I get that she's sick of her boring, sheltered life, but suddenly clinging to Abel was a bit random. Then after hanging out with him a few times, she starts thinking she knows so much about life, and that she's better than her shallow friends. That was extremely annoying, since all she did was listen to the fairytale he tells his sister. She can go back to her comfortable, upper-middle class life any time. He's living something that she cannot even begin to understand, and yet she thinks being around him makes her so wise. I don't think so.

I'm sure there's lots of beautiful imagery and deeper meaning, but it got lost for me behind an unforgivably slow and boring story. Yes, I felt bad for Abel, but seeing him through Anna's rose-colored glasses made it hard to actually care and connect. The fairytale was an interesting addition, but I found that I didn't really care for that either. It's based in reality, and holds the answers to the bigger mystery surrounding Abel and Micha's situation, but again, I just didn't feel connected to it and didn't bother trying to fit things together myself.

Anna and Abel's growing relationship was sweet as he slowly opened up to her, but then it takes a turn for the worst. I wanted to yell at Anna to abandon her little social experiment and stay away. She was so caught up in fairytales and having an adventure that she was completely blind to reality. I'm not blaming her for what happened, but she shouldn't have pushed him, and should have taken off those damn rose-colored glasses to see what is really going on in front of her! Neither of these characters were redeemable at that point. Abel cannot be forgiven no matter what his background was, and Anna is in desperate need of a reality check.

Unfortunately, this book just did not work for me. I typically enjoy stories with darker themes and rough topics, but not this time. The story didn't really grab my interest and I didn't connect with any of the characters, or particularly like any of them, including the secondary characters. I mainly kept reading to see who the murderer was, but I was surprised and disappointed to learn that I figured everything out from the beginning. I was hoping for some shock ending, but it didn't deliver. I just found myself even more frustrated with Anna.

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