Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Land of 10,000 Madonnas by Kate Hattemer {review}

The Land of 10,000 Madonnas 
by Kate Hattemer
♦publisher: Knopf BYR
♦release date: April 19, 2016
♦hardcover, 352 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦source: arc from publisher for honest review
Five teens backpack through Europe to fulfill the mysterious dying wish of their friend.

Jesse lives with his history professor dad in a house covered with postcards of images of the Madonna from all over the world. They’re gotten used to this life: two motherless dudes living among thousands of Madonnas. But Jesse has a heart condition that will ultimately cut his life tragically short. Before he dies, he arranges a mysterious trip to Europe for his three cousins, his best friend, and his girlfriend to take after he passes away. It’s a trip that will forever change the lives of these young teens and one that will help them come to terms with Jesse’s death.

Review: The Land of 10,000 Madonnas sounded like a such a fun but heart-wrenching European road trip story, but sadly, it just didn't speak to me.  I felt like it was going for a certain level of depth and character growth through a group that was grieving and working together to fulfill their friend's wish, but it just didn't quite hit a mark of sincerity for me. 

Jesse has past away from a long-standing disease, and as his final months, he arranged to send his two cousins, two friends, and his girlfriend on a quest through Europe to find his estranged mother. They are each left a different set of clues and they must work together to find her. Problem is, they don't really know each other, and each are handling Jesse's death is their own way: with angst or guilt or heartbreak or what have you. There personalities don't mesh well, and while that's completely realistic to have a group that really gets under each other's skin, especially in an already emotional situation---watching them gripe at each other all through Europe with different levels of disdain, selfishness, or pettiness doesn't really make for an interesting read. 

Another problem I had was with the flow and writing itself.  The jump from present to flashback and back to present was breakneck and jarring every time.  Also, the story is told in five alternating third-person POVs, with a few journal entries from Jesse. While that may work sometimes, many times I found their voices just not distinct enough to pull it off and found myself having to back-read a page or two into a chapter to remind myself who was at the helm. 

There were things I did really like about this, though.  I did like a few of the slow-building comraderies between a couple of the characters, one that was especially hard-won. I liked the actual flashback moments with each character's memories of Jesse and what it brought to the story (though many times I didn't actually like Jesse himself).  And I actually really loved the way the story resolved itself.  It was not what I expected and I really enjoyed that turn in the story. 

Overall, I few engaging, humorous, and heartfelt moments, but not enough to overcome the issues that kept me from really enjoying this one. 


Kate Hattemer graduated with a degree from Yale in Classics. She works as a bookseller in Cincinnati and is the author of The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy, which has received five starred reviews.

Purchase the book:  Indiebound  •  BookDepository  •  Amazon


Post a Comment