Getting sucked into bookish hypes is so easy, but often not worth it. Esmée will look into these hyped novels for you, so only she has to potentially waste her time.

What’s this hype everyone’s talking about?

Caraval is a YA novel about two sisters, Scarlett and Donatella, who escape their abusive father to take part in Caraval, a dangerous and glamorous game hosted by the mysterious Legend. With the promise of magic and a wish for the winner, the two girls embark on a journey that might be more dangerous than they think.

So, if you’re a bookstagrammer it was very hard to not notice the hype around Caraval. This book was made for Instagram, sporting four different black and gold hardcovers that are gorgeous. It was published on the 31st of January and it already has almost 10.000 pictures on the app. Besides the obsession with the looks of this book, it was also an instant NYT bestseller and the author went from being unknown to the hottest thing in YA in a matter of days. People were even selling the ARC’s on Ebay for insane amounts of money, just to get their hands on it before it came out. If I have to believe my fellow book bloggers, Caraval was the best new book since The Night Circus and by now you should really know about my obsession with that book. So I figured I’d jump back on the hype train for this one. [spoilers ahead]

Don’t Believe it

Comparing books to The Night Circus is a dangerous thing, but I do get where everyone is coming from. The game Caraval and the setting that Stephanie Garber came up with are very reminiscent of the circus. There are people in costumes, a town soaked in magic and mysterious forces controlling everything. I kind of liked the setting, because I’m a sucker for mysteries and magic, but it really wasn’t nearly as inventive and magical as The Night Circus was.

Caraval is a cool game and all, but it just didn’t suck me in like The Night Circus did do. The biggest reason for this was, that I felt from the start that nothing was actually at stake. Garber wants us to believe that the game is real, that Scarlett and the ones she loves are actually in danger, but this is not that kind of book. She’s not going to kill off the sister, have Scarlett go through actual drama and make her figure out how to deal with it. Instead, magic solves all and the girls live happily ever after until the next novel when a new adventure begins.

I’ve talked earlier about my dislike for YA that doesn’t challenge the reader and Caraval is exactly like that. Especially the characters lack depth – Scarlett just wants to protect her sister, Donatella wants adventure – and no plot twist or incredibly handsome boy can change this. Instead of focusing the story on two sisters and their bond, they are ripped apart immediately, so that we spend our entire story with Scarlett and Julien. Most of her internal and external dialog consists of cries about having to save Donatella and suggestive moaning on how hot Julien is, even though he’s obnoxious. The love story is then of the typical flirty boy/coy girl variety where the girl just needs to let loose a little and give in to adventure. Lovers of the book are saying how they haven’t seen anything like this story ever – even though they keep comparing it to The Night Circus – but I found it very difficult to find anything new to this. Maybe I’m just old, but this novel really is just The Game, but without any of the actual excitement.

And sure, the subject of abuse is tackled in this book which could have been an interesting angle, but Scarlett’s father is such a cartoonish villain that really seemed evil just for evil’s sake, that I found it hard to care about her fight for freedom. Instead of actually tackling the issues that come with abuse, it’s used as a plot device to keep the story going. I would have loved to see how Scarlett’s history affects her personality, but all it did now was make her a one-trick-pony with nothing on her mind besides saving her sister no matter what.

Caraval is a decent book if you’re into YA that’s sparkly and dazzling enough to hide that it doesn’t make you think, but if you’re looking for something a little more challenging, then I’d suggest you leave this one for the bookstagrammers.

Did you buy into the hype of Caraval and did you think it was worth it? Share your experiences in the comments!


Esmée de Heer is head honcho over at the Bored to Death book club website, writing the daily content and making sure the site stays up and running. She's one of the founding sisters of the book club and enjoys reading and giving unsolicited love advice.

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