I wasn’t going to buy this book. Carrie’s previous book, On The Other Side, left me underwhelmed and I didn’t have high hopes for improvements. But then I was taken in by the pretty cover and the pre-order prizes and, as a book deal aficionado, I managed to get it for under £6. And I was surprised: this book is a huge improvement, but, and I hate to say this, I don’t think Carrie’s writing is at publishable standard just yet.
Cherry has a hidden talent. She can see things other people can’t and she decided a long time ago to use this skill to help others. As far as the rest of the town is concerned she’s simply the kind-hearted young woman who runs the local bakery, but in private she uses her gift to add something special to her cakes so that after just one mouthful the townspeople start to feel better about their lives. They don’t know why they’re drawn to Cherry’s bakery – they just know that they’re safe there and that’s how Cherry likes it. She can help them in secret and no one will ever need to know the truth behind her gift.
And then Chase arrives in town and threatens to undo all the good Cherry has done. Because it turns out she’s not the only one who can see what she sees…
– Official synopsis
If you don’t know already, Carrie Hope Fletcher is a singer and actress in the West End who has amassed a large internet following, particularly on YouTube. She’s very talented and very sweet and I have no doubt that her writing will fall into place. She’s at the stage where she’s completing manuscripts but she’s still working out character development, plot structure, pacing, etc. Most writers can’t get anything published at this point, but, with her pre-prepared readership, Carrie has jumped right past that stage.
I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, especially if otherwise non-readers pick the book up because they like Carrie. But I do wonder what her editors were doing during the writing process, because there are some aspects of the book that I just don’t understand how they made their way into the final piece. With a bit more polishing, the book could have avoided all of its new-writer symptoms. But no, instead the reader is left with:
- Inconsistent narration and perspective The book is written in the third person which mostly revolves around its lead, Cherry. However, it occasionally, and often with disturbance, travels into the point of view of other characters. This isn’t just the odd chapter, but midway through a paragraph. It doesn’t help that the characters, as in her last book, have very similar names (Chase and Cherry) and I kept mixing them up. This results in a basic and ineffective method to convey information to the reader.
- Inconsistent formatting This one isn’t Carrie’s fault but I still don’t know how this made its way into the final book. On the most part, the book’s format remains the same – the beginning of each chapter has the same illustration and each chapter has the same font – but on occassion it changes and I have no idea why.
- Typos and mistakes I don’t know if they came from Carrie or if the text was amended incorrectly along the way. Either way, there are so many! Did no one proof read this properly?
- Infodumping There seems to be an obligatory Carrie Hope Fletcher infodump a few chapters in. On The Other Side was a greater offender of this writing sin, but All That She Can See was not immune. It isn’t necessary to go through a character’s entire life story the moment we meet them. In fact, the jumping between time frames only made the beginning of the book confusing.
- Telling instead of showing Show, don’t tell – it’s a classic writing rule, one your English teacher probably taught you. Unfortunately, Carrie hasn’t quite got her hand round this surprisingly tricky technique yet. Everything is laid out very simply for the reader. Instead of working out nuances, the reader is told what to make of the plot. It’s not necessarily bad writing, in this case, but the book could definitely benefit from a bit of subtlety.
- A confused intended audience Is this book women’s fiction (why is that genre even a thing..?) as publicised or is it YA, or younger, as it reads? The warm writing style and magic bakery really reminded me of the Lulu Baker series, which you would probably find in the 9-12 section of Waterstones. I was also reminded of Holly Bourne’s Soulmates (a very YA book) because both books take a similar turn towards the end. One minute the characters are warm and friendly, happily enjoying their cake; the next, they’re swearing and fighting against a secret organisation. Which is it? Who is the book written for? I don’t know!
- A wobbly plot It just didn’t work very well, I’m afraid. Two genres and two levels of pacing sit on each half of this book. If you prod the story too hard, you might poke a hole straight through. The themes were a bit all over the place and I wasn’t sure what it was trying to achieve sometimes. All of this could have been rectified if someone had spent a bit more time with Carrie, working out exactly what she wanted the book to be.
I’m sorry for being so negative about this book – I did enjoy it! It’s just frustrating to see the book let down by things that are totally avoidable. So now, to balance everything out, I’m going to make a list of the things that make me excited about her future novels (because no doubt there will be many more):
- Her characters Carrie’s leads have a drive to help others and to be exactly themselves. It’s sweet and definitely a good message. She also strives to include generally underrepresented characters (both of her novels include LGBT+ characters, for example) which is great.
- Her ideas There is a definite uniqueness to Carrie’s books and it doesn’t show any sign of stopping which is exciting.
- Her writing There’s something about Carrie’s writing that makes you feel all warm inside. As much as I’ve criticised above, she obviously has a writing spark (it’s just frustrating that we have to watch her learn how to use it).
All That She Can See is far ahead of On The Other Side and I just hope this momentum will keep up. The next Carrie instalment could very well be the magical story I’ve been waiting for.