Thursday, December 31, 2009
REVIEW: Maid For Me
Title: Maid for me
Author: Kat Lieu
Publisher: Nummyz productions
Point of Sale: Lulu
Reviewed by: Emily Veinglory
Attributing a numerical score to a review is a very arbitrary process. But this book illustrates one good reason for doing it. I want to say up front that I am giving this book an 8/10. This might seem odd because most of the rest of this review is going to be critical. How does this make sense? Basically, this book is charming and charm is an ineffable quality that has very little to do a book's tangible attributes. I don't know how many other readers would be won over by the book's charm or find it charming at all. That is the risk you take when you listen to someone else's opinion, be it in numbers or words.
The cover sums the book up nicely. It is a cheerful, minimalist YA romance with a strong manga style and some stylistic quirks and shortcomings (Cherchez the capitals? Why credit the artist on the cover?). The story starts very strong with teen protagonist Mina Lin confronted with her fragile mother's gambling debt, and the boy she is besotted with finding a shallow but gorgeous girlfriend. By a series of events that requires some suspension of disbelief Mina becomes the maid, bodyguard and pretend girlfriend of a gorgeous industrialist's son--a somewhat older boy who is being stalked and threatened by a mysterious villain.
Mina's good nature, plight and ugly duckling-to-swan moments are all very enjoyable--and probably the books strongest element is an authorial "voice" that is idiosyncratic, sweet and very self-assured. Qualities that would normally bother me, from head hoping to a complete failure to understand how to use an em dash, didn't seem like such a big deal, so long as Mina got to go to the ball. In the second half the book seems rushed, plot twists jump out of nowhere and the cast of characters doubles. My disbelief got a little less suspended as new characters blithely involve a young teen in solving a kidnapping and attempted murder. The story saves itself at the end by resolving the love triangle in a satisfying if unnecessarily violent way--although as the boys in question had only met once during the story it really was not much of a rivalry except in Mina's mind.
Maid for Me is an adorable but deeply flawed novella that could, with a little extra work, become a much more commercial YA novel. However I suspect the author is more interested completing the work to the standards of its existing fandom rather that moving it fully into the mainstream.