I believe I’m a good person. But what if I’m not?
I usually spend a rather inordinate amount of time praising Marissa Meyer’s books, so in a way I suppose it’s not surprising that I loved her newest book, Instant Karma. But, in my defense, there’s actually a lot to love about this one. I usually enter Marissa’s books with pretty high expectations, too, since I’m often riding off how much I love and appreciate The Lunar Chroincles. And if nothing else, Instant Karma, is an excellent example of having a wonderfully developed main character.
To Be Type A
Prudence, or Pru, is basically your typical Type A personality. She’s a chronic overachiever, is very aggressive in her passion for work and getting things done her way. She has a hard time surrendering control with pretty much everything and is quick to take over if she feels like something won’t be completed to standard. Of course, this makes it easy to domineer over others. And it’s kind of hilarious since Pru also wants others to do their share of the work.
When she’s partnered with Quint Erickson for a biology project, she is quick to determine and judge him for his apparent slacker tendencies and assumes from the start that not only will he not do the work but that his work will be extremely subpar. It doesn’t help that he’s almost always late to class. When the big day arises for their presentation and it’s immediately clear that they did not work on it as a team, their grade suffers.
As Pru is thoroughly incapable of accepting a C for any project with her name on it, she convinces her Biology teacher to give her a re-try. The only problem? She has to convince Quint to complete it with her.
Thus begins a wild summer in which Pru suddenly has to reevaluate everything she thought she knew about Quint Erickson.
A Path Toward Self-Improvement
Honestly, I’m a huge fan of Marissa Meyer’s writing style. The other thing I’m a massive fan of is the way she develops her characters. I’ve generally been massively impressed with the flawed sort of characters who have a long path toward growing up or finding redemption and actually get there. This sort of development has Prudence’s name written all over it. In retrospect, Pru’s development is hands down the best thing about this entire book.
I can’t say I blame some readers for finding her downright unlikable. At times, she genuinely is. But the great thing about Pru’s character is that she questions herself over the course of the novel. Sure, Prue begins as a judgmental girl. She starts off certain to her core that she is right in casting aspersions on those around her. But as the story progresses, she re-examines herself and her preconceived beliefs. She takes the time to realize that her early opinions were not entirely founded.
I loved this about Pru. Sure, she starts out very self-righteous and positive that she can’t possibly be or do wrong. She begins feeling superior and deserving of this newfound power to enact karma upon those around her. But later? Later, Pru realizes many of her errors. She recognizes her faults, realizes where she was wrong, and takes efforts to right all harms she inflicted. That sort of development and self-reflection is amazing to see in a novel.
I feel like a great many teenagers can relate to this. And I’m sure there are many out there who need to see the importance of self-reflection and improvement.
Instrumental to Pru’s development is the adorable and kind Quint Erickson. Though we can easily guess, it turns out that Pru doesn’t know Quint as well as she thinks she does. When she sets out to convince him to re-do their final project, she finds herself suddenly volunteering at his mother’s Animal Rescue Center. And the more time she spends with Quint, the more she grows as a person.
Quint, himself, doesn’t have a long path to follow in his journey to self-improvement. Sure, he has to re-evaluate what he knows of Pru and what he thinks of her, but that’s mainly it. The rather predictable moment of conflict between them is entirely reasonable, as far as I’m concerned. And, yes, it’s definitely a hurdle he has to tackle. But the events that lead up to it, particularly the counting moment, do justify the reaction a bit.
Also important are the wonderfully cute sea creatures that the Animal Rescue Center is dedicated to caring for. Soon Pru and Quint spark a deal: she will help out at the Center in exchange for his participation re-doing their project. But the more time she spends there, the more volunteering becomes about helping the center than about getting a better grade.
Honestly, the karma plot was the weakest point of this novel. The central conflict, while quite predictable for me, made sense for the novel. I, personally, wish it was harder to figure out the big issue and who was really at fault. But, at the same time, I can’t fault Meyer for the plot. It was a decent, if a little cliché, one.
What I can fault her for, however, is the fact that Pru’s karma powers were not used at all in resolving this conflict. In fact, barring the guilt Pru would feel later when she realized the karma she’d enacted had not been fair, her karmic powers were genuinely useless to the plot. They added to her development, sure. But I wanted more. If Meyer was really going to take advantage of this plot point, it needed to play a role in the conflict resolution.
And it didn’t. At all.
In general, though, I loved this book. Quint was adorable, Pru’s development was phenomenal, and the chemistry between them gives you all the feels. Their romance is definitely slow-burn and, unlike most hate-to-loves I’ve read, their initial hatred felt rather genuine. And that’s the thing about Meyer as a writer: all of her characters feel so real. It’s something I will always deeply appreciate her for. This is probably why she remains, to this day, an auto-buy author for me.
There may be moments in some of her books that don’t work as well as I’d have liked, but at the end of the day, she is still a phenomenal writer. I adored Instant Karma and I hope you do, too.
Before I go, though, I have to give a quick shout-out to one of the funniest moments I’ve read in a while. The quick commentary on how landline phones still work during a power outage was hilarious. I can’t help wondering how many young readers are going to come across this line and be utterly mind-blown by the information. I wonder how many are going to wait for the next power outage so they can try it out.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.