Monday, April 29, 2013

Vain by Fisher Amelie

Vain 
by Fisher Amelie
Read: April 20 - 22, 2013
Published:  February 7, 2013 by Fisher Amelie 
Source: Gift from Asheley @ Into the Hall of Books
Category: Contemporary (Adult, NA, older YA?)

If you’re looking for a story about a good, humble girl, who’s been hurt by someone she thought she could trust, only to find out she’s not as vulnerable as she thought she was and discovers an empowering side of herself that falls in love with the guy who helps her find that self, blah, blah, blah...then you’re gonna’ hate my story.

Because mine is not the story you read every time you bend back the cover of the latest trend novel. It’s not the “I can do anything, now that I’ve found you/I’m misunderstood but one day you’ll find me irresistible because of it” tale. Why? Because, if I was being honest with you, I’m a complete witch. There’s nothing redeeming about me. I’m a friend using, drug abusing, sex addict from Los Angeles. I’m every girlfriend’s worst nightmare and every boy’s fantasy.
I’m Sophie Price...And this is the story about how I went from the world’s most envied girl to the girl no one wanted around and why I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. (From Goodreads)

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The set-up

Sophie Price is vain. She only cares about herself and what she can get from you. She is beautiful and rich and feels powerful because she is very good at making girls envy her and boys want to sleep with her, especially if they already have girlfriends. But Sophie has a secret. Inside she feels completely empty and unloved, a fact that she hides behind her façade of wealth and beauty. When Sophie is caught with cocaine one to many times, her carefully constructed world crumbles to the ground. As an unconventional punishment, Sophie is sent to work in an orphanage in Uganda for 6 months. What she finds there will change her life. 

Vain is a story that makes an impact. 

From Sophie's life of wealth and popularity in Los Angeles, to an orphanage in Uganda where children are missing parents and limbs and are excited that they have food to eat and can learn to read, her journey is extreme. Sophie travels as far physically as she does internally, when she goes to Uganda and opens her heart to the needs of others. It is very clear how little Sophie actually had in her life - no love or trust or happiness - when she is sent to a place where people have nothing but their lives, and are still thankful. It was also extremely gratifying to watch Sophie channel her drive and abilities into a far more healthy and rewarding direction. 

The horrors these children have faced are not just made up for a book. They are real. 

One of my favorite aspects of Vain is the fact that Fisher Amelie was not afraid to go big and address real world problems, namely the horrific affects of Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army's (LRA) presence in northern Uganda. The LRA terrorized northern Uganda, abducting children and forcing them into its army or into sex slavery. If the children's families did not comply, their villages were burned, parents were killed and the children's limbs were cut off to punish them and diminish their worth. The orphanage where Sophie was sent to work serves those children. Although the LRA is not currently active in Uganda, the country and its children are still at high risk, especially as the nation is poor and so many in the north are displaced and living in refugee camps.

There's a little of Sophie in all of us. 

Sophie's journey from a selfish and shallow girl to someone with purpose and love, is dramatic, and that made it moving and effective. But this book is not just about Sophie, it is about the world at large and how little the wealthy parts of it (if you have enough extra income to buy books, then you are considered wealthy) know about poverty and the violence and horror being done to children in it. It is a book that makes you feel a little bit unsettled about your safe life, and want to take some action to change it. That is the mark of a powerful story for me. Although Sophie is an extreme example, and no one wants to compare themselves to her, I think everyone can relate to her in some way. 

You don't want to miss the hot guy either.
When Sophie arrives in Uganda she is picked up at the airport by Dingane, whom she is shocked to discover is a hot South African (real name Ian Aberdeen). Too bad he writes Sophie off immediately as spoiled and unlikely to change, and he wants nothing to do with her. Thankfully for Sophie (and us readers), they are stuck working together. The more Sophie learns about Ian, the more she is drawn to him, and it's definitely for more than just to his looks. Through shared circumstances, mutual respect and honesty, Ian and Sophie slowly build a relationship that is sweet and sizzling. In addition to writing compelling heroines and addressing real life issues, Amelie is excellent at writing boys who will melt your bones. Trust me, you don't want to miss this guy. 

Like Sophie, this book has some flaws. 
Despite how much I was moved by Sophie's story, it is not without its problems. This is a self published book with some grammatical and editing errors. It also includes a lot of telling not showing, especially long passages of transition. Although I grew to love Sophie, Ian, Pembroke and Spencer, most of the other characters were not well fleshed out. Several of them were talked about a lot, but never came onscreen. Sophie's parents read as more caricatures than real, mostly because we see very little of them, although their actions are described as over the top. Sophie also kept mentioning someone named Jerrick who died recently, but we were never given any sort of explanation about who he was or what happened to him. I know it's a small detail, but he seemed important to Sophie, and every time he was mentioned it felt like a dropped plot detail. 


Even with it's flaws, Vain is an excellent story and I'm thankful that I had the chance to read it. The next book in this Seven Deadly series is Greed and it is Spencer's book. Besides Ian and Sophie, he is my favorite character from Vain, so I'm very eager to read his story.

Cliffhanger Scale: None. Standalone that's part of a linked series. 
Love Triangle Factor: None

8 comments:

  1. Eeek! I'm so excited for this. I've had it since it first came out, but for some unknown reason I haven't piked it up yet. I'm more than excited though. I love that it isn't a bad boy goes after the virgin/innocent/sweet girl type of story. It's more the opposite and even though you pointed out that some of the um.. story is being told not shown, I'm still so very intrigued by the whole idea of this book and I agree, Fisher Amelie is a great writer. I can't wait to explore this book once the time comes:-)

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  2. I think this is gonna be one of those really intense books that strikes a deep chord with me. International Relations was my majour in university and I wrote my thesis paper on human rights issues. Aside from a hugely satisfying character arc, the fact that Amelie sheds some awareness on these, otherwise, minimally publicized issues is really admirable. Though it sounds like there are definitely some flaws with the writing, the main storyline is enough to make me want to read it. I have a feeling it's going to be one of those books that affects me much like the movie Blood Diamond did. Hard to see but still eye-opening.

    On a happier note, in reference to your comment--- "It is very clear how little Sophie actually had in her life - no love or trust or happiness - when she is sent to a place where people have nothing but their lives, and are still thankful."--- you should watch a documentary called 'Happiness.' They did studies about what makes people truly happy and which people are happiest. You come to find that poorer, less fortunate souls are often the ones who feel more deeply satisfied and fulfilled. It's really interesting!

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  3. I loved Vain! It really made an impact on me and I loved getting to see Vain Sophie transformed into a good Sophie. And Ian was a charm, I really liked him and I never expected him to have an emotional story of his own. And Spencer was my favorite character besides Sophie and I'm dying to read his book and see how he breaks the cycle.

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  4. It's a shame that some of the characters in this are flat, but mostly that the parents are caricature-like. It's disappointing that the number of books with realistically portrayed and significant parents is so low. Although I am interested in the idea of this book and its honest portrayal, I do feel as if this won't quite mesh with me, so I'll probably skip it despite its good qualities. Wonderful review, Lauren! :)

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  5. Ooh, I'm so glad I got this the other day too, I'm really looking forward to reading it. The grammatical stuff in self pubby's doesn't bother me so much but flat characters and telling not showing does. But i'm glad that you gave me a heads up about it and that overall you enjoyed the book:)

    And I like the format. The "You don't want to miss the hot guy" header made me laugh. Because, YEAH. I most definitely don't want to miss THAT;)

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  6. I loved the whole part about how you said there is a little Sophie in all of us. This sounds like an eye opener type of book that makes you thankful for your life. Thanks so much for sharing, especially since I haven't heard of this one before. :)

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  7. I've heard wonderful things about Vain and I've purchased a copy because of that. I can't wait to pick it up, even more so after your lovely review, Lauren. :)

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  8. I like when books really tackle real issues, ones that teens (and adults) will find relevant now. I also like when they make you consider your own behaviour and I'm sure you're right, we can all relate to being selfish/negative like the MC

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