review: tangled by carolyn mackler


Jena, Dakota, Skye, and Owen are all at Paradise—the resort in the Caribbean, that is—for different reasons, but in Paradise their lives become tangled together in ways none of them can predict. Over the course of four months, through four voices and four stories, what happened in Paradise will change them all.

In this extraordinary novel, the Printz Honor–winning author brings us her most accomplished work yet. Tangled is a story of the secrets we keep, the risks we take, and the things we do for love.

(courtesy of Goodreads)

My Opinion*:

Tangled by Caroyln Mackler isn't as quite as tangled together as the title suggests. While there are four characters that narrate their own portion of the book, the summary is misleading. I was expecting this book to have simultaneous narratives, with the setting of Paradise resort remaining static. Instead, each teen has their own respective month to tell their story, and only one of the four parts ends up being set in Paradise. While reading, I almost felt like this book could have been expanded on and separated into four different novels. As it stands, Tangled is at both cringeworthy and heartwarming, depending on what part of the book you're reading. However, Mackler succeeds in creating four very distinct voices, and four very realistic and relatable characters.

Tangled opens with Jena, a sixteen-year-old girl who is very insecure about her body, and also jealous of her not-quite-friend, Skye. Jena's voice is very chatty, very bubbly. She has a habit of keeping an "Everthing book" in which she pastes quotes and memorable souvenirs, an quirk of her character that I quite liked. However, in the beginning I grew quickly annoyed by Jena's vapidness* and inability to talk about anything other than how Skye was perfect in every which way. Her continuous stream of self-loathing thoughts were a bit hard to bear: Jenna is just so very shallow and assigns her self-worth to what others think of her and her appearance. At the same time, she can be quite funny, in a cringeworthy-I-feel-embarrassed-for-you way that sometimes made me shake my head and sometimes laugh.

After Jenna's recount of her vacation in Paradise, Tangled jumps to Dakota, the boy that Jena hooked up with at Paradise. At face surface, Dakota is incredibly shallow as well--he seems only concerned with impressing girls and playing sports. However, as his narration continues, it's lovely to see his character take on a more three-dimensional feel as he struggles to deal with the death of his girlfriend a few months beforehand. He begins to transform from a guy that is incredibly unfeeling and selfish to one that thinks before he acts.

The jump to Skye's narrative is a bit sudden--we're finally introduced to the girl that Jena aspires to be. From the outside-looking-in, it seems that Skye has everything in the world--beauty, an acting career, and millions of dollars in the bank. However, she's been suffering from depression, and struggles to come to terms with the suicidal thoughts she's having. This part of the book mostly concerns the various auditions she's attending as an actress and is ultimately the most disconnected from the other narratives.

The book wraps up with a month from Owen's point of view. Gangly, red-haired, and the brother of Dakota, Owen is absolutely heartwarming. He was my favorite character of them all, and quite relatable. I really just wanted to reach into the book and give him a hug--he was so sweet and adorable in his social awkwardness and honesty. It is in Owen's narrative that we again encounter Jenna, who's made a remarkable change in just a few months. I grew to like Jenna in this part, as she has come to realize that her obsession with guys based of their looks and her warped sense of body image are problems that she needs to overcome. However, I found the blog posts that the two write to be a little cringeworthy as well, since they had a somewhat self-pitying tone to them.

If this review has been a little jumpy, it reflects the nature of Tangled. I did think the voices of the characters were each unique, but I felt like each character's conflicts had little relation to the other main character's, so the sections of the book in turn had little relation. I think this book would have been much stronger if it was just a dual perspective with Jenna and Owen, who were the most dynamic and interesting. Mackler's prose is very smooth and flows well--definitely focused on voice rather than on descriptions. Even though I had issues with the format of the book, Tangled was hard to put down. The character arcs of the four are the true triumph of this story--they evolve to be better people because of their problems. In the end I still have mixed feelings though--I liked and disliked a lot of elements, which I suppose is in accord to the disjointed nature of this novel.

Rating: I give it a 7/10. Maybe pick it up at the library but don't rush out to buy it.

*Sorry if this was a little spoilerish--I usually try not to spoil but this book was hard to review without giving things away :)

**Also, the fact that she looks up to Nicholas Sparks = bad sign. For laughs read this article, in which Sparks looks down on Cormac McCarthy and compares himself to Hemingway. ha. ha. ha.

FTC disclosure: I got this book from the library. Yay for free books!