Danika reviews The Gifted Ones by Lisa Vaughn

I think I might be a little burnt out on self-published books.

The problem is that I always have the same problems with them, and almost all of those problems can be summed up with “not enough editing.” The Gifted Ones (a memoir), unfortunately, fits in that category. The typos are numerous, including two ones that I noticed repeating. The first is mistaking “of” for “have” (“should of” “could of” “Wouldn’t Peggy of been proud?” (pg 171)), and the second was “towing the line.” There was also a lot of unnecessary emphasis (lots of bolding, underlining, italics, all caps).

I don’t want to say it was all bad, however. I really think it has potential. I found the childhood part slow, but the story after that is compelling.

I think I might be able to be a little more coherent in point form.

Positives:

  • I really think there is enough action for a novel-length story. Everyone thinks their life story is interesting, but not everyone actually has enough happen to fill a whole book.
  • I loved the budding romance. It seemed very natural. I also thought the first kiss was memorable. The scene was striking.
  • [spoilers] I was impressed that Vaughn gave her romance with Selina the weight she did, considering it one of the two true loves of her life, not just a passing fling on the way to heterosexualville. I really appreciated that. [end spoilers] 

Negatives

  • It’s a lot like reading a diary, but without the immediacy. I really would have liked to see a little more of a critical eye instead of just detailing what happened, how she felt at the time, and the occasional speculation.
  • A lot of things are over-explained (but that’s my pet peeve in books, so it may just be me).
  • Swearing in dialogue between teens makes perfect sense, but having it in the narration was odd. Again, it’s somewhere between being a first-person, in-the-moment account and a more reflective account with the knowledge gained over time. It don’t quite achieve either, which makes it awkward.
  • The word “retard” is used, again, not just in dialogue, which is understandable in the 70s, but uncritically in the narration, which really made me cringe. It happens more than once.
  • There is some heavy-handed foreshadowing (something like “But we had no idea how bad it would get!” at the end of a chapter).
  • Her childhood, which was pretty typical, got a lot of space and detail, but [spoilers] her engagement and marriage was summed up in a few paragraphs tacked on to the end. [end spoilers] There didn’t seem to be a coherent conclusion, which made me wonder what the focus of the memoir was.

Oddly, I think if this had simply been her diaries from the time, I probably would have enjoyed it more, because I love reading diaries and journals, but it wasn’t quite as immediate as that, or as critical as I would like out of a memoir.

Overall, Vaughn’s romance is compelling, and her later partying lifestyle–as well as dealing with anti-gay bigotry in the 70s and 80s–is more than enough material to form a great story, but The Gifted Ones just needed far more editing to achieve that, including paring it down so that it had a clear goal.

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