Over the holidays, my aunt (if she’s reading this, hi Auntie Linda!) got me two books in a series, both signed by the author. I read the first one, called The Fountain by Suzy Vadori. Sadly, I was not very impressed.
The story follows a girl named Ava Marshall, who moves across the country to go to the same boarding school her parents went to: St. Augustus. Almost immediately she is bullied by a senator’s daughter named Courtney. Courtney’s antics are evil, and she hates Ava for absolutely no reason. Ava doesn’t know what to do, and she feels helpless. So, when she stumbles upon an ancient-looking fountain in the forbidden West Woods on her way to her Gran’s, she makes a wish. This wish makes Courtney disappear, and her family with her. Which means that Ava’s aunt never got into college.
Ava spends the rest of the book trying to fix her mistake, along with her new best friend, Ethan. She must compete with her English teacher, Ms. Krick, who wants to wish for endless youth, to get to the fountain. She has to unravel a mystery and dodge her boyfriend from back home, Lucas. She is caught in a fight to reverse her wish as quick as she can so that her father can live his life like normal.
Alright, onto the good stuff.
Storyline: This story is a teenaged love-story drama with a hint of fantasy and magic. Not usually my style, but I enjoyed the book nonetheless. It begins at St. Augustus, where Ava makes her wish at a magic fountain in the woods. Then, as Ava slowly figures out that Courtney had disappeared, her new best friend Ethan joins the hunt for answers. From then on, it’s just plot twist after plot twist. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but I must say that the plot twists are overkill. There are way too many. It almost seems like Vadori ran out of ideas. I get it, though. I’ve been there. I just feel like things could have been done differently. There honestly isn’t much else to say.
Storytelling: The storytelling of this book is decent. The first chapter showed a glimpse into the future, and chapter two bounced back to the beginning, which followed Ava’s first day at St. Augustus. I liked that a lot. In fact, there was a lot of jumping around the timeline, which I found intriguing (in a good way). I rarely read books like that anymore. However, even though there are flashbacks, in certain places it seems as though the author is trying to cram as much context into the book in as little time as possible. Don’t be afraid to leave things unsaid! Nevertheless, even if you decide to give a ton of context, you should explain the importance of this context, which Vadori didn’t seem to do. Due to this… stuffage of context, certain details are unclear or are hard to remember. Additionally, the context Vadori did give was not exactly what I felt was needed―she gave the wrong context at the incorrect times. A lot of the time I was thinking, Why do I need to know this? This added a lot of annoying mystery to the book. The wrong things were left unsaid, and it made me somewhat confused.
Now onto the subcategory of detail. When Suzy was writing about people or outfits or anything similar, her description was amazing. Like, 9/10 amazing. On the other hand, she didn’t really describe events in the book. Her amazing description was left in the unnecessary details. I don’t want to know what Ava looks like while she’s staring at herself in the mirror. I want to know how she feels when she’s breaking the rules by running into the West Woods. I want to know the thoughts running through her head when Courtney sabotages her. I want to know how her body moves under the water when she swims. Yes, I know she’s an amazing swimmer, but how does that look? How far behind her are her opponents? Also, how does the West Woods look when you’re in the dark and risking expulsion? Sure, a little bit of detailed description about a dress is great every once in a while, but I really don’t want or need to hear about Ava’s sand-colored hair in the second chapter.
Characters: Ava Marshall starts off as relatable. She’s anxious for her first day at school. She’s scared that she’ll get a crappy roommate, she misses her boyfriend, and she’s homesick. She ends up getting a good roommate named Jules, who I’ll get to later, and seems to forget entirely about her boyfriend after she meets a new boy named Ethan. I’ll get to that later as well. Anywho, first, I must say that Ava is an astonishingly flat character. She shows almost no feeling and seems incredibly unintelligent. She has no visible flaws. She only has basic characteristics that everyone has. Later in the story, I ended up yelling at the book because so many things are so obvious, and she just doesn’t seem to get anything. In order for me to truly relate to her, I must be able to see her thought process, and why she does what she does, and I can’t see that. Onto her relationship with Ethan. When Ava meets Ethan, it’s like she completely forgets about Lucas, her boyfriend from San Francisco. She even goes on a date with Ethan. The author only even mentions Lucas when he calls or texts Ava, and of course when he visits her for homecoming. Why is she being unloyal to her man? When Ethan kisses her in front of Lucas, how did she not see it coming? Again with the unintelligence. Overall, Ava is rather annoying. I’d enjoy the book more if she had any development whatsoever.
Now onto Ethan. He’s attractive and he plays basketball. He can easily sneak around the school after hours. He’s a major flirt. That is really all I see in him. He is also quite stupid, and vulnerable and hopeful for instantly believing Ava when she tells him about her wish. I’d at least ask a few questions before going along with the whole magic thing. The author tries to make him more likable by making him interested in books. Cute, but can you show us how, or why? I’d also love to see more feeling out of him. The only time I really see anything except sly smirks from him is when he’s drunk and trying to win Ava over. I can feel his sadness. Barely, that is, but at least it’s a start. My advice to the author is to think about emotion.
All in all, Vadori could greatly improve on her characters. What is Gran’s importance? I could ask the same thing about Coach Laurel. Is Jules only there for fashion advice? Is Lucas only there for drama? I need less plain archetypes. I need the author to really know her characters. It seems like many of them are just there to be there, to fill space.
Voice and Point of View: I would describe this piece as mostly written in an informal voice. A big part of voice is vocabulary, and the author’s vocabulary varies. As does the omniscience of the third person point of view. Sometimes, we see Ava’s thoughts. A lot of the time, however, we do not. I personally love a very omniscient third person, so my advice to the author is to add more thought and emotion into her writing. Don’t be afraid to use italics to emphasize.
Dialogue: I am the least impressed with the dialogue in this book. Not to sound harsh, but it was kind of difficult to read. Yes, it conveyed normal teen emotions, but who uses “Uuuuuuh” in writing? Why the extra letters? Generally, the dialogue was incredibly flat and short. Don’t be afraid to rant. I know that it’s hard to put yourself into the mind of another person, and that can result in flat dialogue. I say practice, and get to know your character. Put your character into a certain situation. What would they say at that moment? If one of the characters from WIP, Solaris, were, say, being charged by a rhinoceros, she would say, “Oh, for f***’s sake.” If her little brother, Lux, were in the same situation, he would say, “Crap!” And if their mentor, Echo, were there, she’d just stare down the thing and scare it with her glare. If you are a writer, get to know your characters! It will definitely help you in the long run.
Alrighty, friends. That’s enough ranting for today. I may have been a little bit harsh in my critiquing today, but in total, The Fountain was a decent read. It was nice to have a break from the heavy writing of Sarah J. Maas and read something a normal girl my age would read with no problem. I rate it a ⅗ stars. Thanks for reading, and I will see you next week!