Instant Karma – Marissa Meyer blurb:
Chronic overachiever Prudence Daniels is always quick to cast judgement on the residents of her coastal town. Her dreams of karmic justice are fulfilled when, after a night out with her friends, she wakes up with the sudden ability to cast instant karma on those around her.
Pru giddily makes use of the power, flexing it on everyone from public vandals to karaoke hecklers. But there is one person on whom her powers consistently backfire: Quint Erickson, her slacker of a lab partner and all-round mortal enemy.
Soon, Pru begins to uncover truths about Quint, her peers and even herself. She discovers how thin the line is between virtue and vanity, generosity and greed . . . love and hate.
When I hear that a good fantasy author is releasing a contemporary book, I get a bit nervous. It’s not that I don’t think they can do it. It’s that contemporary is such a different beast to fantasy. Where a lot of fantasy is plot-driven, with a big focus on world-building, there is often a complete change as contemporary tends to be character-driven, with little to no world-building. Obviously, there are exceptions to each rule (The Scorpio Races is an excellent example of a character-driven fantasy book). But sometimes it’s difficult for authors to go from plot to people.
I’m pleased to say that this book has a good mix of both, plot and character. Although it certainly has its ups and downs along the way.
One of the elements I really loved about this story was the ecotourism, sustainability and marine biology elements. Really, this part could have been about literally anything, but the effort that Meyer obviously put in here was incredible. It’s not very often that I learn about animals or science while reading a contemporary novel. But it showed a glimpse into this world that I now want to know more about.
The characters are full, in-depth characters with their own motivations and ethics. Did I like them all? Not really, especially at the start. But they grow on you as you learn more about them. Prudence’s fears and thoughts are similar to those that I’ve had myself. Quint’s reasoning and actions are completely logical. All of the side characters are different and fleshed out. And the longer the story went, the more I empathised with them.
I really enjoyed the family dynamics. Sure, there are one or two family members who barely have any on-page time, but the interactions still create the dynamic. The parents’ love of The Beatles is cute, I love that they are a united front. I love the wholesomeness of the family as a unit as well. Jude is adorable and I love how he and Prudence have not just a twin relationship, but a best friends one. It’s unusual, but sweet, to see siblings so close!
This is going against everything that I have said about contemporary novels, but I really liked where the story ended. I liked that not everything was tied in a neat bow and their problems weren’t all solved. Especially as some of them were definitely going to be complicated. That’s not to say that the ending was left open – it wasn’t. The story definitely finished. It was just left … hopeful.
The story was … kind of slow to start with. I wasn’t a huge fan or any of the characters… BUT, they all have really good redemption arcs, so it’s actually kind of a positive. You just have to push through!!
The only thing that I really wasn’t a huge fan of, was the way that the ‘magic’ or karma worked. To be honest, from the blurb I assumed it would be a big part of the story, but I was completely fine that it wasn’t. I almost feel like the whole story could have been written without it at all. Which is odd considering that it was a selling point for me when I read about it. It almost seemed inconsistent or inconsequential in action. Like, maybe the whole thing was made up in Prudence’s head. Which… maybe was the whole point?
The only other thing (and this is definitely a personal preference), is that I would have liked to see less plot action. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely a good amount of character-driven story. But there is also a lot happening with plot at the same time. Giving Prudence time to properly think through the outcomes of her action would have made her grow faster as a character. I think this would have evened out the gaps in plot points as well, as there were a few slow points. But as I said, this is a personal preference!
Overall, this is a super cute contemporary novel with a maybe, kind of magical element. It’s mostly light, although touches on some sad points with animal cruelty, and tries to balance the line between judgement and judging. One of the biggest takeaways is how you shouldn’t judge people based on surface knowledge. They could be going through big things that you don’t know about. This was done well, particularly for a YA story, without being too preachy.
I would recommend for fans of The Lunar Chronicles, Brigid Kemmerer, Ashley Poston, Rainbow Rowell and Emma Lord.