Book Review

Review: Acne, Asthma and Other Signs You Might Be Half Dragon

Acne, Asthma, and Other Signs You Might Be Half Dragon
Rena Rocford
Acne Asthma

Pages: 260
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Date Published:23rd November 2015

Allyson fights acne, not trolls. As an inhaler-carrying member of the asthma society, she just wants to meet the father who turned her mother into a paranoid, move-across-the-nation freak. Now she’s trying to fit in at yet another school, but for the first time in her life, she has a best friend, Beth. When Allyson accidentally spits fire at kidnappers in the mall, she realizes why her father isn’t in the picture: she’s half dragon. Her acne? Emerging scales. Her asthma? The side effects of her dragon’s fire breath. Instead of freaking out, unflappable Beth reveals her own troll heritage and explains how things work with the supernatural creatures hiding within the modern world of smartphones and skyscrapers.

When trolls kidnap a unicorn, Beth gets blamed. Allyson is determined to prove Beth’s innocence and keep her friend off the unicorn chopping block. When they start looking for the kidnappers, they get a call from the last person they expect: Allyson’s father. He tries to warn them off, but he’s been put under a spell by the kidnappers to keep the victims from escaping. Nothing short of death can stop him. Now Allyson must choose between killing the father she’s always dreamed of, or letting her best friend die for a crime she didn’t commit.

I’ll be, like, honest, alright? So I got suckered in by the front cover, ok? And it was a freebie from Amazon, right? And it sounded kinda fun. So I picked it up and eager as a beaver in dam-building season started working through it thinking it would be a nice, quick read and had as much potential as a properly constructed teapot – it’ll get the job done but not much more than that. Oh boy. WRONG.

BAM! Allyson is suddenly identified as half-dragon, breathes fire, realises her best friend is half-troll, meets some bad guy trolls, goes to school, has a rubbish birthday, pancakes her face with make-up and the school Principal has no real problem with the parent of a student beating up another student.

But let’s just accept that for now, get through another couple of chapters and then start dealing with all the questions that come with that kind of revelation.

Then BAM! She’s on the run – possible to save a cute guy, but that’s never really solved – with so many repeated questions, but no answers to anything. But sarcasm, plenty of sarcasm, so much sarcasm that you don’t really know what’s going on any more – and some asides too, don’t forget about them! Oh, and the bizarre comparison imagery!

Then we’ll make some jumps in logic, steal a car, go shopping, let the plot spring through the logic mire and see where we go, yeah? Maybe we’ll meet a cute guy, maybe some more magical – or half-magical – creatures.

We can even go and meet Allyson’s estranged father – how we arrived there I’m not really sure – but you’da thunk that some of the characters might have figured out that shared surnames make it likely people are related? Nevermind.

Even writing in Rocford’s style is tiring. As is her use of bizarre imagery, odd similes, over-blown language and sarcasm from the protagonists and huge leaps in plot logic.

The characterisation also makes very little sense – one moment a girl thinks that she’s normal, the next it’s announced that she’s a dragon. The next few chapters are interspersed with constant questions of ‘so I breathe fire now?’ but no real answers are given to the reader or to poor Allyson, who is, more than anything, a victim of a forced narrative.

The whole feel of the book is contrived, as it jumps from one plot point to the next, all of which conveniently comes together, propels the characters along and exhausts the reader. The bare descriptions and settings help the plot to move along, but also leave you lost in its wake.

Beth and Allyson’s dialogue is also hard to follow, as it jumps around from image to image and sarcastic comment to sarcastic comment, making it hard to guess at their real meaning.

The book is nice concept that would work well for YA audiences – particularly those that like sparkly vampires – but is so under-developed in content and sensible explanations that it’s a struggle to make sense of it all. On the plus side, when the writing is good, it is very good – slick, easy and fun to read. If only it were more consistent and explained itself, rather than leaving the reader wondering what on earth just happened.

1.5 stars

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