Caraval by Stephanie Garber was just an alright book for me mainly because the beginning lacked anything exciting and original but also the YA romance bits just really annoyed me. The overall plot is about a sister finding her other sister during an alternate reality game set in an enclosed location with actors/actresses and magic. This Caraval setting is a lot like an Alice in the Wonderland world and a lot of the visuals in this book reminded me of the recent Alice in the Wonderland movies.
So the beginning of this book has two sisters being abused by their father. One is about to get married and the other is found with a young man. The older sister, Scarlett is forced into playing this Caraval game before she gets married because her sister has run away from home to join it. With her is a roguish gentleman named Julian and they are trying to find the sister Tella. The story becomes a “figure out the riddles,” in a game about 80 pages in but those first 80 pages, before they go to Caraval, I just did not like. It was boring, unoriginal, and just plain annoying. The book really didn’t begin until they entered Caraval.
Once Scarlett and Julian are in Caraval the mystery and riddle aspect of the book made me read on. Yes, Garber does a good job of creating a twisty little plot that is wrapped up in this game, and that is why I continued to read. The setting was fun and I liked the outlandish outfits all the characters wore even though a lot of emphases was put on all the different dresses Scarlett wore. Seeing how the game would impact the finale was the main reason I kept reading because I knew the end would be twisty and climatic.
If there is one part of this book that bothered me the most it was the constant need for Garber to remind the reader about how attractive everyone is. I would guess that I read about Julian’s muscles about eight times during this book. So much of the romance element of this book was all about looks. Every single character was attractive. All the men were described rather similarly, dark hair, lean muscles, smooth skin, that it just seemed rather immature. Caraval is the equivalent of looking through Instagram selfies and only seeing all the perfect looking people.
Another thing that bothered me was all the constant paragraph breaks. Many times there would be a paragraph break but the next paragraph would just continue what was being explained in the previous paragraph. Many times I had to stop reading because I thought maybe I missed a sentence that shifted the scene to justify a new paragraph but it just never happened. Most paragraphs were no longer than four sentences and it just read monotonously after awhile. If it wasn’t for the mystery and riddle element of the book, I would have DNF’d rather soon, but I finished it up. It was a short book because of all the white space and written letters(which I liked).
I would recommend this to YA readers that love YA. If you like Marissa Meyer’s books you’ll probably like this. I thought that Cinder was a better-written book than Caraval however. Even though I haven’t read The Night Circus yet, I don’t think the two are comparable. If you like romance YA books I think that this will be more up your alley than mine. If this book had less perfect characters and Garber cut back the female character constantly lusting after the men, it would have been much better.
10/25 Possible Score
3 – Plot
2 – Characters
2 – World Building/Setting
1 – Writing Style
2 – Heart & Mind Aspect