At this exact point as I'm writing this review, [b:Vain|16137702|Vain|Fisher Amelie|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1352472957s/16137702.jpg|21966987] has over 5000 ratings on goodreads and an average rating of 4.46.
Which is one of the highest average ratings I've ever seen on goodreads, particularly for a book that has so many readers. I'm telling you this because I want you to appreciate what a tiny minority I am in when I say that I was really disappointed with [b:Vain|16137702|Vain|Fisher Amelie|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1352472957s/16137702.jpg|21966987]. I'm going to tell you why in a second, but I think it's very important for you to know that many many people love this book. As soon as I added it to my shelves, I received encouraging comments from the book's fans and I was certain I would love it. I was especially looking forward to reading a book with an unlikable protagonist, it's great when an author can take a person you should hate, get you inside their head and make you care about them anyway. Sadly, that's not what I felt happened here.
I feel [b:Vain|16137702|Vain|Fisher Amelie|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1352472957s/16137702.jpg|21966987] is too driven by a message which isn't incorporated subtly into the story but forced down your throat at every opportunity. It is about a spoiled, rich, selfish and bratty young woman called Sophie who gets sentenced to work in a Ugandan orphanage. Seeing these young children who feel lucky to be able to eat and get a basic education, Sophie begins to reevaluate her outlook on life, see how lucky she really is and change her ways. Personally, I don't think the change was gradual enough. This is an American girl who has been very well-educated, there is absolutely no chance whatsoever that she doesn't have an idea about how kids live in parts of Africa. Even if she'd never been to school, she would have seen those heart-breaking TV charity ads with starving children. The idea that she would arrive in Africa and be completely shocked at how these other people lived doesn't seem remotely realistic to me.
Also, I think I'm beginning to see a pattern with myself that I started to notice whilst reading [b:Gone Girl|8442457|Gone Girl|Gillian Flynn|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1339602131s/8442457.jpg|13306276]. I like reading about unlikeable characters BUT I like reading about characters who have really suffered, who can offer some level of justification for their behaviour (or at least have some redeeming qualities) and I really don't enjoy reading about spoiled rich people feeling sorry for themselves. I know the author tries to offer up the familial tensions as a reason for why Sophie behaves the way she does, but it wasn't good enough for me. If Sophie had been male, you can bet the reaction to her would have been very different... in fact, she would be almost exactly like many male love interests that I can't stand. Rich, ridiculously good-looking, mean, manipulative, controlling, sexist, kinda racist... but everyone still obsesses over them because they're so goddamn sexy. The problem wasn't that I didn't like her, it's that I didn't care about her. At all.
This book reminds me of many other young adult romance books but with a gender role reversal. This time, all the men except Ian (or Dingane, as the orphans called him) were idiotic, slobbering, sex-obsessed fools with a collective IQ of about 10. It amazed me that Sophie considered Spencer a "true friend" because he didn't force her to have sex with him when she started crying. Well done, woooo, you're not a rapist! He still, however, kept trying to come onto her after that, even though she'd made it clear she wasn't interested. Every chance he got, his tongue was back down her throat. But he's such a good friend, people. I generally found this book to be quite sexist towards men, they are simply mindless tools to be used by the wondrous beauty that is Sophie. Even Dingane - who is supposed to be the man above all others - acknowledges that she's a nasty, spoiled brat but continues to fall for her anyway. There were sentences that, if they'd been said by a man about women, would have caused outrage.
Please bear in mind, I'm not trying to say the author shares the same attitudes and ideas as her protagonist. I appreciate that she is writing fiction and has chosen to focus on not very nice people. I am simply explaining why I found myself unable to give a damn about Sophie or anyone else. Another part of the problem is that I think the writing is rather weak. This is one where you can tell straight away that it's an indie novel and it pales in comparison to the other indie novels I've read recently and very much enjoyed. There's something about the sentence structure that doesn't flow and occasionally I found myself having to read sentences multiple times to make sense of them. I guess [a:Karina Halle|4785031|Karina Halle|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1333997846p2/4785031.jpg] didn't actually signify the start of my long and beautiful love affair with indie novels. Damn it.