I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Love Fortunes and Other Disasters by Kimberly Karalius
Published by Swoon Reads on May 12th, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
In the tradition of Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic, one girl chooses to change her fortune and her fate by falling in love.
Love is real in the town of Grimbaud, and Fallon Dupree has dreamed of attending high school there for years. After all, generations of Duprees have successfully followed the (100% accurate!) love fortunes from Zita’s famous Love Charms Shop to happily marry their high school sweethearts. It’s a tradition. So she is both stunned and devastated when her fortune states that she will NEVER find love.
Fortunately, Fallon isn’t the only student with a terrible love fortune, and a rebellion is brewing. Fallon is determined to take control of her own fate—even if it means working with a notorious heartbreaker like Sebastian.
Will Fallon and Sebastian be able to overthrow Zita’s tyranny and fall in love?
When I head about Love Fortunes and Other Disasters, three main things convinced me to pick it up: that adorable illustrated cover, the fun and quirky premise, and the promise of a hate-to-love romance. For all intents and purposes, this should have been the perfect book for me. But somehow, it ended up being something completely different.
Love Fortunes and Other Disasters tells the tale of the town called Grimbaud, where love fortunes, charms, and hints of magic are real. These love fortunes are seen as binding, so when a group of high schoolers gets less than optimal fortunes, they decide to fight back and try to end Zita’s reign over the town. Now, there were a couple of things that I definitely had to get used to in this premise. All of the people in this town take these love fortunes completely seriously. I thought the love fortunes would be more like, “HAHA look it says I’ll be alone forever,” taken about as seriously as a fortune cookie would. No matter the gender, age, or sexual orientation, the townspeople’s lives revolve around these love fortunes and they have no doubts that they will always pan out. Fallon, the main character, gets badgered by her mother about her love fortune – despite the fact that she’s a high school freshman, her mother is actually already planning out her wedding. Because, well, she has a love fortune, and that means she’s close to finding her true love, and obviously all things will be set. The lives of the townspeople completely revolve around love. And I think it’s trying to be comical in a way – in the same kind of style as the movie The Invention of Lying, making fun of our society by greatly exaggerating everyone’s actions. But it felt more awkward to me than anything.
For me, the believability was shot because no characters before this had ever had any doubts about these love fortunes. Emma Ward, the current high school librarian, was handed a fortune to become a spinster – lonely forever. She actually left the town and went traveling for a year to get away from it but then came BACK for reasons that never became clear. There are residences set up for Spinsters and Bachelors, doomed to never find love, but I was sitting there thinking, “Can’t they just… hook up with each other? If they’re all sad about not being in love?” It’s like this never occurred to them, and that kind of bugs me.
Something else I had to get used to is that there is definitely an element of fantasy to this story. In this town, there are love charms, weather charms, silence charms, focus charms – there are little bits of magic all around. Some people make it their business to make these charms. I couldn’t figure out where to place this world – is it still Earth? Is it a fantasy world? Is it the US or not? It read like a contemporary romance in the US, so whenever something magical happened, I got a bit confused.
Now, the location also confused me, because although this felt like it was set in the US, there were a shit ton of Dutch names. Characters, like Mirthe and Femke De Keyser, Bram De Groote, Ines Aandekaart, Thom Janssens; Places like Verbeke Square, Lambrechts… I’d almost say the book is set in Holland, but then there were non-Dutch random names like Fallon, Anais, Hijiri, etc. Now this might be a strange thing to hone in on and definitely only something that stood out to me because I’m Dutch, but it illustrates the messy world building and premise. This book requires you to just laugh a whole lot of things off. Sense-making is not its priority.
I tried to brush off these things and just focus on the romance, and that at least went a tiny bit better. It is hate-to-love romance though not the best I’ve ever seen. I didn’t connect much to Fallon because her narrative voice was pretty boring, but I liked the idea of the straight-laced, serious, uptight girl being stuck with the heartbreaker boy who flirts with her mercilessly but is probably far from serious. There were some fluttery moments, with banter and nicknames and teasing… but there were also many many clichés, with misunderstandings and purposeful holding back of information… And then the plot got in the way when Sebastian’s fortune came to light. Like, that should have made the ship and plot stronger, but I just rolled my eyes at it. The ending was a mess of magic, clichés, and drama, and I just felt exhausted.