BOOK REVIEW : Caraval
By Stephanie Garber
BY SULPHIA IQBAL
WARNING: If you haven’t read the book yet, stop at the 2nd section.
ALSO: ISN’T THAT COVER JUST BEAUTIFUL??
Caraval was an emotional roller coaster through a complex web of mystery and the unknown, sisterhood and friendship, sprinkled with the right amount of magical goodness, so unlike other books you might have read this year.
There are times where I’m reading a book and there are just far too many problems to ignore. At some point, I usually put said book down and call it a day. That was not the case with this one. While Caraval was not perfect, it made me feel like that was okay, like I didn’t have to think too much about what I was reading. It was simply Caraval, the story of two sisters and their everlasting, steadfast love and friendship.
Scarlett and her younger sister Tella live on an island with their harsh and rigid father who plans to force Scarlett into marrying a guy she’s never met. After the disappearance of their mother years ago, their father’s personality had begun to transform him into an abusive man, willing to punish one sister for the fault of another just to make his consequences clear.
The two sisters grew up hearing many stories from their grandmother who introduces the story of the Legend. According to grandma, Legend conducts Caraval ( this game that’s almost like a reality game show mixed with Willy Wonka ) every year, each game with its different purpose. He invites exclusive players to play one another for the grand prize: a wish granted by Legend himself. Scar and Tella idolized Legend while growing up. They wrote to the gamemaster each year, asking him to visit and help them escape the wrath of their father. They would eagerly wait for a letter that never came.
Because of this, Scar was in disbelief when she receives tickets from Legend to play this year's Caraval. Despite years and years of waiting for a letter back, ironically Scar actually opposes the idea of attending Caraval, arguing that not only could they not leave the island under their father’s nose, but there was also Scarlett’s wedding, which was to happen in a week or so.
Julian, a random (when I mean random I mean actually random) friend of Tella’s, helps knock out Scar and drops Tella off at Legend’s island. By the time Julian goes back and brings Scar to the island, Tella has disappeared.
Already guessed what this year’s Caraval is about?
Yup. This year’s objective : find Tella Dagna. With the help of Julian, who has apparently played the game before, Scar reluctantly is immersed in a confusing wild-goose chase in a world where everything is a mere illusion- a game that is controlled by Legend and could very well ruin you. But Scarlett can’t let that happen. She has to find her sister, save her from Legend, and return back to their island before their father finds out.
I found this book and its concept really creative. It was refreshing to read a YA book where there are two female who were actually friends and had none of that sister hate and/or girl problems. The idea of this reality game show coming to life by a misunderstood villain and two sisters who are caught in the middle of it all - it was straight up my alley and I’m sure yours too.
Things That Were Not So Great
WARNING: If you haven’t read the book yet, don’t read anything under this!!!
Caraval had a lot going for it, but as the persnickety (don’t you love that word?) book reviewer I am, I will address some of the minor issues.
Like I mentioned in the beginning of the review, there is a handful of nonsensical and overly dramatic phrases scattered throughout the book, such as :
“It smelled like the middle of the night”
“He tasted like midnight and wind”
“Tella’s expression fell, like a doll Scarlett had dropped.”
“She could see the sting of her rejection in shades of stormy blue, ghosting over his heart like sad morning mist."
Like what?!!! How on earth can someone taste like midnight? Does midnight even have its own taste? And since when did curiosity have a color? For those of you who have read Shatter Me and did not like it for this exact same reason, I know you can resonate with me. I mean, I get it, metaphors and literary devices are important, but when authors go too far *CRINGE*, it has officially become a high school creative writing class piece.
Additionally, there was practically no character development whatsoever. The two main characters in this book were really iffy from the start. Scarlett is consumed by the need to protect her sister, making tough decisions and taking in consideration everyone’s opinion, even her dad’s. She was willing to get married to someone she didn’t even know just so that everyone around her could be happy. At one point, I remember Julian asking whether she ever actually cared about herself. It’s not like I really didn’t enjoy her character, but I just think Scarlett could’ve matured a bit more by the end of the book. She was kinda whiny and had to get a hold of herself, though I wouldn’t know how to act myself if my sibling was kidnapped as part of a game that could potentially cause me to lose them forever. Tella, always the rebel, couldn’t stand waiting for things to magically solve the issues involving her father and therefore makes rather rash decisions. Even in the end, you see her acting behind her sister’s back, and though you really don’t see her as much, I really wish we could’ve seen more of Scarlett and Tella together and their development as individuals and sisters. Honestly, the only character who actually changed to some extent was Julian. In the beginning, you wouldn’t think his role was as essential to the book as Tella’s or Scarlett’s was, but he’s more important than you think.
The ending was kinda disappointing. Towards the end, I was in this frenzy, guessing possible identities and connections between the characters. At some point, you think you got it and then Garber is like HA YOU THOUGHT WRONG and yeah…..And then you get to the end and you’re like...oh, and I’m going to stop there before I spoil anything.
I really liked the premise of this book and read the book with an opened mind. There was so much hype about it and I naturally told myself not to expect anything too great. I think that’s the best way approach books like this, so if you decided to ignore the warning , try to ignore whatever I said in this second section and read the book.
“Every person has the power to change their fate if they are brave enough to fight for what they desire more than anything.”
“Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or performance. It's the closest you'll ever find yourself magic in this world.”
“Welcome, welcome to Caraval! The grandest show on land or by sea. Inside you’ll experience more wonders than most people see in a lifetime. You can sip magic from a cup and buy dreams in a bottle. But before you fully enter into our world, you must remember it’s all a game.”
“What happens beyond this gate may frighten or excite you, but don’t let any of it trick you. We will try to convince you it’s real, but all of it is a performance. A world built of make-believe. So while we want you to get swept away, be careful of being swept too far away. Dreams that come true can be beautiful, but they can also turn into nightmares when people won’t wake up.”
Check it out at the library and goodreads :