When Olivia “Liv” Bloom receives an art scholarship to the prestigious Wickham Hall, she never expects that her world will collide with Malcolm Astor – boys from distinguished, wealthy families like Malcolm Astor don’t mingle with plain, foster care rescues like Liv. She also never imagines that only weeks after arriving at Wickham Hall she will be brutally murdered.
I try to give authors the benefit of the doubt. For me, mediocre writing can be overlooked if a story is solid and well executed. Within “Liv, Forever” lie the bones and flesh of a decent story. They never quite come together, however, to form a cohesive or enjoyable story. The end result is a painful and tedious read.
One of the biggest setbacks for “Liv, Forever” is its poor character development. It has been awhile since I have encountered characters that were so one-dimensional and interchangeable. Throughout the book, the reader even encounters girls from different time periods (not a spoiler) and they might as well be the same girl. Sure, Talkington describes what kind of music the girls like, what they’re wearing, and even makes them throw out some random era-appropriate slang but these are superficial and lack the depth needed to create a unique individual. The sideline characters aren’t the only ones who suffer as Malcolm, Olivia, and Gabriel are also downright boring and completely devoid of personalities. These wooden characters only serve to enhance another of the books flaws – the dreaded, yet often present, Insta-Love.
For the record, I am not always opposed to Insta-Love in a book and I am especially more forgiving when it comes to YA Fiction. The Love at First Sight (literally) that occurs between Olivia and Malcolm, however, is completely unfounded since there is ZERO chemistry between the two. Even if their attraction was solely physical, Talkington fails to convey it to the reader.
Another reason this book annoyed me was the overuse of “namedropping” artists and works of art. I get it, Liv is a art student. It is an authors job to create a visual for the reader, though, and Talkington uses references to famous artists and their works as stand-ins for descriptions. For example, when Liv encounters some of the woodwork at Wickham, she narrates, “The style reminded me of the etchings from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”. Following are my issues with this style of writing: First, if I had no clue who William Blake was, this description tells me NOTHING. Second, if I am familiar with The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, I am now removed from the book and am thinking of William Blake and his etchings instead. Third, letting established, honored works of art speak for you is just lazy writing. If this was something that occurred once or twice throughout the book it could easily be overlooked, however, “Liv, Forever” is abundant with these types of references. When not using Van Gogh and Michaelangelo to do her dirty work, Talkington’s writing came across as sterile and lacking emotion.
In conclusion, Amy Talkington’s “Liv, Forever” is a YA murder mystery/romance that never “Livs” up to its potential (Ha! See what I did there?). The story is disjointed and the back story – the big reveal at the end – is so underdeveloped that it leaves the reader with too many unanswered questions. The result is a book that feels incomplete.
by Amy Talkington
Published: January 6, 2015 by Soho Teen