Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading ... Suspicion by Alexandra Monir

Monday, December 1, 2014

Just Finished Reading ... Suspicion by Alexandra Monir

Suspicion
by Alexandra Monir
To be published by Delacorte
on December 9, 2014

Source: eARC for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: "There's something hidden in the Maze." Seventeen-year-old Imogen has never forgotten the last words her father said to her seven years ago, before the blazing fire that consumed him, her mother, and the gardens of her family's English country manor. Haunted by her parents' deaths, Imogen moves to New York City with her new guardians. But when a letter arrives with the news of her cousin's untimely death, revealing that Imogen is now the only heir left to run the estate, she returns to England and warily accepts her role as duchess. All is not as it seems at Rockford, and Imogen quickly learns that dark secrets lurk behind the mansion's aristocratic exterior, hinting that the spate of deaths in her family were no accident. And at the center of the mystery is Imogen herself--and Sebastian, the childhood friend she has secretly loved for years. Just what has Imogen walked into?

My take: Some of the marketing for this book calls it Princess Diaries meets Alfred Hitchcock. While that sounds awesome, this is also a retelling of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I think this book struggled to be a romantic suspense, a Cinderella story, and a paranormal romance all at once. While I thought some of the retelling choices were really great, the fact that the book sticks to a major plot point without set-up may baffle and annoy some readers. Let me back up a bit and explain.

I'm a lifelong fan of Rebecca and  I try to read all the YA retellings:

New Girl by Paige Harbison (Harlequin Teen 2012)

The Dead and Buried by Kim Harrington (Scholastic Point 2013)

Thorn Abbey by Nancy Ohlin (Simon and Schuster 2013)

As a retelling, I thought that Suspicion made some interesting choices, but also fell into some of the Rebecca pitfalls. I love Rebecca, but will admit that a) the narrator can seem a bit like a doormat, b) the characters aren't the best developed. Let's discuss!

What I liked:

Manderley/Rockford: The original story begins and ends with Manderley, and I liked the fact that Manderley has become an English country manor with a spooky, supernatural vibe.

Rebecca/Lucia: In the original story, Rebecca and the narrator have no prior connection to each other, and I really liked the fact that they were cousins in this YA version. This could have given the Imogen's jealousy of Lucia a whole new spin.

Mrs. Danvers/Mrs. Mulgrave/Maisie: In the original, the narrator is tormented by the evil Mrs. Danvers, and I thought it worked well to give her a teenage daughter.

Supernatural elements: In the book, there's the sense that the ghost of Rebecca haunts Manderley, so I liked the paranormal stuff that was added in Suspicion.

What didn't work as well for me:

The romance:

In Rebecca, the narrator is young and poor, working as a traveling companion to a cranky old lady, and is swept off her feet by the rich and charming Max de Winter. She sees him as a ticket out of her dreary life, and she grabs it. So yes, the original is insta-love-y, but in a way that made sense to me. I felt a lot of sympathy for Rebecca's main character because she's a little bit mousy and underconfident and feels like she can never live up to the beautiful, dead Rebecca.

In Suspicion, Imogen grows up in privilege -- she's an American whose family visits her cousin Lucia in England, where meets the handsome and charming (and titled!) neighbor Sebastian. After Imogen's parents die, she doesn't see Sebastian for ten years. She's now a rich and titled heiress, and while that "Princess Diaries" aspect of the story was fun, it took away all the vulnerability of the main character in the original. Plus, the fact that Imogen suddenly falls madly in love with her dead cousin's boyfriend makes her seem like the creepy one. (Yes, the book sets up that she had a childhood crush on him, but she was ten years old at the time.)

The intrigue: 

Suspicion tries to have it both ways: to include the murder plot of Rebecca and to add a new subplot about supernatural powers. It was too much for me. The murder suspect makes complete sense in the original, but feels a little WTF-y in Suspicion and comes so close to the end of the book that everything felt rushed. There's also a new twist (highlight for spoiler) -- the whole Lucia pretending to be Maisie -- (end spoiler) that didn't make much sense to me and also felt crammed in at the end. Finally, I think the supernatural stuff could have been used to better effect. I mean (highlight for spoiler) Imogen's relative was hanged as a witch. I would have liked the story better if Imogen was around for Lucia's murder and was accused of it. And, how could nobody realize that Maisie was Lucia? When I got to that part, I kind of gave up. (end spoiler)

In sum, while I liked the set-up of this retelling and felt it had promise, a lot of things about the story didn't really hold together. If you have read Rebecca, you might enjoy seeing this take, but if you haven't, I think you'll find some aspects of the Suspicion a little out-there. Maybe a lot out-there....

If you have read Suspicion or Rebecca or both, tell me what you think!

21 comments:

  1. It sounds like the author took pains in making this retelling a cut above the rest. However, I can see why doing it made this an unrecognizable retelling. I'm still curious, though.

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    1. Retellings can be so tricky! I've been thinking about it, and I'm fine with retellings that stick close to the original and I'm also fine with retellings that forge a new path. But this book tried to do both, and that just got to be a lot going on..

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  2. Oh Jen i'm sorry this one just didn't work for you. I'm not a big fan of retelling myself but I can imagine how if one is just too different from the original story I wouldn't be able to love it, either. Unless it's Sarah J Maas. Throne of Glass isn't a retelling but it is loosely LOOSELY based off of Cinderella so there's that.
    Hopefully your next read is more enjoyable Jen.
    Lily

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    1. I like retellings that are different -- just read Princess of Thorns and that was awesome. As I said above, I think there was just too much going on in this book!

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  3. It's nice to see that you give the book a fair analysis - pros and cons! I think there is a fine line with retelling and maybe she just hasn't managed to follow it

    Steph - http://the-darkness-will-never-win.blogspot.com

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    1. I think that retellings can be like books adapted to movies -- you just can't please everyone. I think this book just tried to work too many angles -- YA, Downton Abbey, Rebecca, Princess Diaries, paranormal....

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  4. Hmmn, I read a few reviews of people who hated the ending. I've never read any of the books it's based on so I think I would be lost...I'll probably skip this one.

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  5. I'm finding a lot of these retellings are trying to do too much in one book to add a modern twist and then none of it really ends up working. :-(

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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  6. Great review :) There are a lot of retellings around nowadays and I definitely don't get on well with most of them. But that cover is stunning.
    Cora @ Tea Party Princess

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  7. I've never read Rebecca but I did read New Girl (and I actually really enjoyed it). I've heard quite a mix of opinions with this one. I had heard that the pacing is off and it seems like you felt the same way. :/

    Amber Elise @ Du Livre

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  8. I've actually never realised this was a retelling, seeing I haven't read the original I'm second guessing whether I'll be able to see the bigger picture. It sounds as though she tried to write a unique take on what could be seen as an old favourite, but a little too unique and it looks as though it's more loosely based on the original. Love that cover though. Might check out Rebecca before attempting this one. Awesome review, loved the comparisons! <3

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  9. Ok, I have to ask! QUESTION: Im planning to read Rebecca as my next classic. I was going to read Suspicion sometime this month but now I'm wondering if I should wait and read Rebecca first?! After reading your review I a, thinking I may be confused since I haven't read Revecca first. Wanted your opinion :P Great review, loved the deets!

    -Dee @ Dee's Reads

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  10. This is very interesting. There are so many fairy tale retellings out there, but I didn't know Rebecca had been redone so many times too. All your points were very well taken. Too bad the end was so rushed and less than believable. Thanks for the review! :)

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  11. I have not read either, but now am thoroughly intrigued!

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  12. I have never read Rebecca, but liked Timeless by Monir, so I thought for sure I would love this book, but that wasn't the case. It was a rather "meh" read for me and some of the pitfalls you experienced, I experienced as well. Like you I liked the setting and the paranormal elements, but the romance fell flat for me, too. Thanks for the honest review!

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  13. I'm sorry to hear that you didn't enjoy reading this book more, Jen. I love Rebecca, too - it's one of my favorite classics. but I haven read Suspicion yet.

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  14. Aw, always sad to hear when romances don't work for the book

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  15. I love Rebecca, that book's just fantastic. The fact that this is a retelling made me curious.
    Btw, the cover is gorgeous.

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  16. I'm really liking the cover. And I think I may like this one. I do favor mysteries and it seems I may enjoy it. Nice review.

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  17. I haven't read either of those books. And although that this book has some negative reviews I pretty much still intend to read it for some strange reason >< I want to see what it will be like for myself!

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  18. I haven't read Rebecca, but I am in the middle of Suspicion right now. I am liking it so far, but I am also pretty early in the book. She is just about to go back to Rockford, so I have a feeling things are about to get "real" very quickly. haha

    Great review!

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