Reviews: “Carnival: Decatur” and “Carnival: Chattanooga”, by Zoe Lynne (Rating: 2/5)

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* I received an advanced copy of Carnival: Chattanooga in exchange for a fair an honest review *

My airport reads today were the first two books in Zoe Lynne’s “Carnival” series, titled Decatur and Chattanooga. I was offered a complementary copy of the first book in order to understand the second for review, and have decided to combine both books into one post.

Cover Artist: Allison Cassatta

Cover Artist: Allison Cassatta

Carnival: Decatur, by Zoe Lynne
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press (August 28, 2014)
Page Count: 202 pages
Genre: Gay (M/M) Young Adult Romance

Rating: 2 out of 5

This was a novel with a lot of potential, but it unfortunately did not live up to it. Zoe Lynne takes a great idea– four kids trying to come to terms with their sexualities and the attraction to their best friends, with the carnival as a backdrop– and bogs it down until it’s too bloated to be easily read.

My biggest issue with this novel was the prose. Lynne constantly chose to use twenty words when five would do. Descriptions were thrown in for no apparent reason, such as the repeated descriptions of Tate’s skin color (okay, we get it, he has mocha skin and is super hot!) and the brands of clothing being worn by the boys.

There was also the sub-plot of three of the four boys having magical powers. It was an interesting premise, but had no relevance to the plot other than to act as a cheat for the author. Why write an emotional coming-out scene with solid drama and angst, when one of the characters can read minds?

A proof-reader might have really helped here… someone to cut a lot of the flowery prose to a manageable level. Also, there were several inconsistencies in the writing that could have been prevented with a basic editing. For example, there were two separate scenes (one halfway through the novel, and the other at the end) where Rand tells Danny what his powers are; why does Danny act surprised/confused the second time, when Rand has already told him this!

Overall, this novel could use a solid round of editing and revising and become something truly fantastic. The characters were great, the setting of the carnival was unique and interesting… but this novel is just not very readable in its current state.

Cover Artist: Allison Cassatta

Cover Artist: Allison Cassatta

Carnival: Chattanooga, by Zoe Lynne
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press (July 2, 2015)
Page Count: 204 pages
Genre: Gay (M/M) Young Adult Romance

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

I actually liked this novel even less than book one! Chattanooga picks up right where Decatur left off, with Donny and Jesse on their way to the next carnival site, along with Jesse’s sick father. Possibly this book suffers from “middle book syndrome”, where the middle book in a series serves more as filler and back-story, but I won’t know until book three comes out.

The plot of this novel was just not very interesting. Unlike Book One, which was an introduction to the characters and the relationship between Donny and Jesse (as well as the powers that the boys have), this book just dragged along. There were two new characters, Dax and Chad (who was mentioned in Book One), but neither was really worth my time, to be honest.

Dax is the weak point of this novel, for sure. He’s a thoroughly unlikable character; at various times he is whiny, spoiled, selfish, cruel, and immature… and his constant desire to break up Donny and Jesse was not malicious or antagonistic so much as just annoying.

The only training he’d had consisted of pointing and words Dax mostly didn’t hear at the time. He’d been too interested in the lowdown on Donny and Jesse to pay attention to Leo. They were more interesting, anyway. And if Leo had told him where exactly Dax would be working and what exactly he would be doing, he’d missed, like… all of it. He was clueless. Totally. Freakin’. Clueless.

Yeah, Dax, I feel ya… I’m clueless too as to why you were even written in to this story.

There were two attempts at plot in this novel: Dax having run away from home for being bullied in school, and Jesse worrying about his father being sick. Dax being the poorly-written character that he was, I had no interest in his plot. Jesse’s sick father was an excuse to introduce Chad, who just so happens to have the power to heal!

I could go on and on, but this novel simply needs a ton of editing and revising, just like it’s predecessor. It was boring. Unlike the first book, which had a lot of potential, I really struggled to read this one. The redeeming point was Donny, who was struggling to come out and accept his sexuality; I wish there had been more of this plot, and more of Jesse working with him instead of being stubborn.

One last thing: I really dislike books where every character is gay! Seriously, the only straight people in this book were Bridgette (who was just as annoying as Dax), and Jesse’s dad (who was too sick to speak for the entire novel). Or maybe the carnival is just a magical beacon for gay men?

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