Publisher: Pan Macmillan (Trade Paperback – 10 November 2020)
Length: 390 pages
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
One of the leading authors of young adult fiction, Marissa Meyer, returns with a fantastic and compelling standalone romance novel that sees two opposing personalities come together in dramatic and entertaining fashion.
As the summer break is about to begin in Fortuna Beach, a bustling coastal town, chronic overachiever Prudence Daniels is looking forward to her holiday, especially following an arduous biology class with her slacker lab partner, Quint Erickson. However, disaster strikes at the last moment when she receives a bad grade on her project and Quint refuses to participate in any attempts to redo their assignment.
As Prudence stews with her friends at the local karaoke bar, she slips and hits her head hard after bravely singing Instant Karma by John Lennon. While at first she considers it to be bad luck, Prudence discovers that the blow to her head appears to have given her special powers that allow her to dole out bad karma instantly to anybody she meets. Soon, Prudence is enjoying being a force for good in her town, ensuring karmic retribution to anyone who she witness doing wrong.
At the same time, Prudence is still determined to fix her bad grade and approaches a local sea life conservation organisation for more information, only to discover that it is run by Quint’s mother. Managing to talk her way into volunteering, Prudence finds herself working with Quint, who agrees to help redo their grade if she keeps up her volunteering efforts during her break. As the two inevitably butt heads, Prudence quickly discovers that Quint is the only person whose karma she cannot affect with her new abilities. Sparks will fly as these two get closer together and Prudence is about to find out that fate has some real surprises in store for her and Quint.
This was an interesting new standalone book from Meyer, and I was surprised with how much I enjoyed it. I have to admit that teen dramas that focus on high school romance are not something that I am usually interested in, but I felt the need to read something a little different and I had some great experiences with Meyer’s books in the past. Meyer is an incredible skilled young adult fiction author whose works usually have a fun twist to them, like The Lunar Chronicles, which re-imagined some classic fairy tales, or her bestselling Renegades trilogy, which focused on a disenfranchised supervillain who goes undercover within a superhero organisation. I am a major fan of the Renegades novels and I absolutely loved the last two entries in the series, Archenemies and Supernova (Supernova was one of my favourite books of 2019). Due to how much I enjoyed Meyer’s previous novels, I thought I’d give Instant Karma a chance, and it turned out to be quite a fun and compelling book. I actually ended up reading it in a single night (I had a deadline) and ended up really liking it, even if I probably wasn’t the intended audience for it.
Instant Karma contains a fun young adult storyline that sees two teenagers with a contentious history find themselves forced together in a wacky and genuinely nice story. While in many ways this is a fairly typical young adult story, with the classic opposites attract tropes, Meyer mixes it up by including some cool new elements, such as the main character’s ability to manipulate people’s karma or the background storyline of the characters trying to save a sea life conservation organisation, resulting in an excellent and fun story. While many of the story points are a bit obvious (there is never a doubt that the two main characters will eventually fall in love) Meyer still takes the narrative in some fantastic directions, and readers are guaranteed some fun drama and excellent character development. I actually really enjoyed getting through this story and I found myself getting extremely invested in the romance between the two main characters. This ended up being a really good young adult novel, which is probably best enjoyed by a teenage audience, although older readers will have an awesome time getting through this narrative as well.
As I mentioned above, Meyer chucks in some intriguing story elements into this book, and one of the best ones revolves around the protagonist’s newly discovered ability to impact the karma of people she comes into contact with. This was a rather interesting plot inclusion and it initially proved fun to see the protagonist work out her new powers and use them to get petty vengeance against those who do something selfish or annoying in front of her. However, there is so much more to this part of the book, as Prudence begins to realise that not everything is as black and white as she initially believes, and maybe the people she punishes do not actually deserve their fates. For example, she uses her abilities in one case to punish a woman who was defacing a local restaurant billboard. While it initially appears that she has gotten justice for an innocent struggling business, it is revealed throughout the rest of Instant Karma that the vandal was actually protesting some legitimate concerns, and the actions that Prudence punished were less destructive than she initially believed. The protagonist encounters a number of these ethical dilemmas throughout the novel, and she finds herself doubting some of her actions and decisions, while at the same time karma and fate push her in some interesting directions. This adds a really intriguing and compelling edge to Instant Karma’s story, and I quite enjoyed seeing these ethical deliberations unfold, especially as they have some major impacts on the story.
While the karma manipulation story element is fun, the plot inclusion I was most impressed with was the focus on marine ecological conservation. A surprising amount of Instant Karma’s plot revolves around the two main characters working at a small sea life conservation organisation which is operated by Quint’s mother. Throughout the course of the book, the protagonist, Prudence, learns a huge amount about conservation and animal rescue as she volunteers alongside Quint in an attempt to raise her grade. This then evolves into an intriguing storyline that sees Prudence attempt to increase the organisations funding by running a series of events to raise awareness and elicit additional donations. This proved to be an extremely compelling part of the book’s plot, and Meyer has obviously done a large amount of research around the subject, presenting the reader with a substantial number of intriguing facts and depictions of conservation activities. This entire inclusion fits into the narrative extremely well, and leads to a number of dramatic and romantic moments as the protagonists clash over various aspects of the conservation work, especially when it comes to their differing opinions around ideals and realities. All of this adds so much to Instant Karma’s overall narrative and I really enjoyed learning more about sea life conservation through this excellent portrayal of a small volunteer organisations.
Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer is an excellent and enjoyable young adult novel that presents the reader with a fun high school romance between two combative teens. Meyer adds in a lot of fun story elements to this book and I ended up having a great time reading this awesome novel. An amazing read for lovers of teen drama.