Genies are way cooler than vampires and a whole lot more fun.
Amber finds a genie named Jasper standing in front of her fireplace having just extricated himself from the samovar on her mantle. Think about that for a second. The book is full of stuff like that. Things go downhill from there in a hurry. Many of the worldâ€™s best comedians say that comedy is the hardest art form. Lauren Sweet has made it look easy. The book is funny throughout. She makes some of the jokes pay multiple times without their seeming tired. I laughed on almost every page. Some of the jokes work on multiple levels and pay on all of them.
The plot holds together well and I give it 4 Â½ stars. The half star has to do with the number of times I thought â€œTell me sheâ€™s not going there, and she went there anyway.â€ There were totally predictable parts and lots of surprises. It almost all worked. The bits that didnâ€™t really didnâ€™t matter.
I give five stars on characters. All the major characters are well thought out and intriguingly complex. Amber is the deepest with her conflicted emotions and shattered sense of reality. Jasper is nicely done as well. Indigo verges on stereotype, but she pulls away from the precipice in just the right level of insanity. Even the minor characters are clearly defined. To reveal any more would spoil the fun.
Style is four stars. Lauren has a habit of lumping action and dialogue together in the same paragraph. I find that confusing and sometimes it is hard to follow who is speaking. So, folks, I have just said the worst thing I can say about this book. How big a deal is that? Not very. If I were not also a writer, I probably would not have cared, but they asked my opinion, so there.
So the worst things I can say about this book are its paragraphs and its occasional obvious entanglements. For me that is high praise. I loved this book and recommend with only one caution. Do not drink coffee or tea while reading it. You will embarrass yourself.
My favorite quotes are at the end of the book, but to put them in the review would spoil the fun. Here is one from early on. Amberâ€™s mother, Indigo, meets Jasper the Genie for the first time immediately after Amber has rescued Indigo from the police or the police from Indigo depending on your point of view.
â€œStop cooking,â€ Amber said. Her stomach growled. Jasper remained focused on the gravy, though she thought she saw his lips twitch. â€œYou have to get back in your samovar before someone sees you.â€ There were assorted thumps from the front stoop, and the doorknob rattled. â€œRight now!â€
Jasper added flour and stirred. â€œI canâ€™t go back in the samovar until you make a wish. I have to service you.â€
â€œService me?â€ Amber repeated, sure she had heard wrong. Her mind skittered off into various scenarios involving sculpted abs, adult themes and questions of whether genies were anatomically correct.
As if his clothes could read her mind, Jasperâ€™s outfit suddenly grew smallerâ€¦and smallerâ€¦ Amber watched in horrified fascination as it morphed into a stripper version of a tuxedo: jacket, bow tie, and thong. Yeeps. Amber thought she might be getting heart palpitations. She backed up another step. â€œDid you say service me?â€
Jasper gave the gravy another stir and turned back toward Amber. She found herself staring at the front of his thong, which sported a red satin heart. Hot flash. Amber dragged her eyes to his face. â€œOops,â€ he said, all innocence. â€œI meant â€˜serve.â€™ My bad.â€
â€œI donâ€™t want you to serviceâ€”uhâ€”serve me!â€ Amber managed to squeak the words out while trying to find somewhere to look that wasnâ€™t a satin thong pouch or nearly naked genie flesh. This was definitely not in the fairy tales. â€œMy motherâ€™s here, for Godâ€™s sake!â€ The doorbell rang. Impatiently.
â€œExcellent,â€ Jasper said. â€œWe can ask her what she thinks you should wish.â€
Not in a million years. Amber probably couldnâ€™t even imagine the things Indigo would want her to wish for. Strike that. Sheâ€™d just imagined a number of the things Indigo would want her to wish for. â€œOh, no you donâ€™t,â€ Amber said. â€œServeâ€”later. Goâ€”now!â€ She pointed towards the dining room and the samovar.
â€œCanâ€™t. Thatâ€™s not the way it works.â€ Jasper half-turned, giving the gravy another quick stir. Then he leaned forward and raised the spoon to her lips. â€œTaste that.â€ She tasted automatically, realized that she was submitting to this ridiculous farce, and batted the spoon away. He tasted it himself, with a considering frown. â€œA little more salt, I think.â€
Jasper put the spoon down. â€œMake your wish.â€
â€œIâ€™m not ready!â€ There was no way she could think under this kind of stress.
He shrugged. â€œThen I have to stay in your home and serveâ€”â€ he drew out the word, silently adding the final syllable to turn it into â€˜serviceâ€™â€”â€œuntil you are.â€
Amber stared at his lips, so mesmerized she didnâ€™t hear the footsteps in the foyer until it was too late. She whirled around. Indigo was standing in the kitchen doorway, spangled caftan waving in the breeze from the front door, her hair wisping out like an aureole around her head. Of course. Why should a mere locked door stop the Mistress of the Universe? Indigoâ€™s hands were clasped ecstatically to her breast, and she was gazing past Amber at Jasper, her mouth pursed in the same round â€˜oâ€™ of surprise and pleasure as when she first saw Amber at the police station.
Amberâ€™s two worlds of insanity collided in her brain, causing synapse overload. She just kept looking from Spangly Mom to Stripper Genie and back again, mouth opening and closing, no sound coming out. How did one explain? Where did one start?
Indigo bravely stepped into the conversational breach. â€œA friend of Amberâ€™s!â€ she exclaimed. â€œAnd a pot roast!â€
Lauren will later make the â€œserve â€“ serviceâ€ pun work with a reference to the science fiction classic â€œServing Manâ€ in much the same fashion as she gets lots of mileage out of all the jokes.
And when was the last time you heard a vampire or a genie for that matter say â€œMy bad.â€ And mean it?
I enjoyed the book. It is suitable for high school, but it is targeted at the mainstream adult reader. Read it on the airplane so everyone will wonder whatâ€™s so funny.
On a final note, I am so over vampires and it is nice to see the Genie angle work so well. In another era, this is what Barbara Eden should have been.