Sublime Karma by Peyton Garver
November 30th, 2016
I received a copy of Sublime Karma in exchange for an honest review.
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When Brie’s stepfather moves the family for what he calls a new beginning, it’s not the new beginning the beautiful, yet guarded, senior would have hoped for. Brie is instantly targeted by jealous girls at her new school, and the only available seat on her bus is next to the school’s star wide receiver, Jake, who for some reason, finds her offensive. After a humiliating article and picture of Brie is posted in the online school journal, a demon she thought she’d overcome resurfaces, and her life unravels. A newly compassionate Jake has finally taken an interest in her, but can Brie learn to trust her heart, or will she miss out on the best thing that ever happened to her?
Jake has his own secrets and has built his own walls, but eventually his curiosity about the new girl gets the best of him. Unfortunately, now there is competition: the captain of her cross-country team. Jake’s romantic histories with the girl next door and the school’s queen bee, adds tension to a simmering tempest when all he wants is Brie. Is he strong enough to help the one he loves weave sense into her crumbling new reality while overcoming his own tainted past?
I rated Sublime Karma 3/5 stars on Goodreads.
This review, like all my reviews, is spoiler-free.
Sublime Karma is pitched as an authentic young adult contemporary that addresses the realities and strife of high school life. Based on this description, I’d say this book checks off all the boxes. The characters are authentic, the romance is slow-burning and adorable, and topics such as abuse and self-harm are discussed in a manner I found incredibly raw and appropriate.
Garver portrayed protagonists Jake and Brie as authentic and original through the use of phonetic spelling, such as dropping Gs at the ends of words and abbreviating “going to” to “gonna.” This device was a double-edged sword: it increased authenticity, but sometimes got in the way of reading the prose consistently. Some language was too colloquial to the point of being distracting. This is a valid stylistic choice, but was not my favorite.
Sublime Karma focuses on the relationship development between Jake and Brie, which I found charming and genuine; I was rooting for them throughout the entire book. The fact that they were very comfortable around each other gives me the impression that they’re two real teenagers who want to spend time together and develop a relationship. Even at their first meeting, it’s clear that they want to be together because of their natural chemistry. Jake makes Brie feel at ease, and vice versa.
I also disliked how the antagonists were portrayed throughout the book. The mean, popular, quarterback-dating cheerleaders were awful to Brie (because they obviously served as antagonists), but they had literally no reason to target Brie as they did. Real people, no matter how mean they are, don’t bully the new girl just because she’s new. I wanted more depth and complexity in these characters to at least justify their actions, if not give readers something to sympathize with.
Scenes were either a deeply moving account of Brie’s emotions or a bland summary of the exact, overly specific actions each character took. Most of Sublime Karma was the latter. Rather than describing the inner workings of our protagonists’ brains, the majority of the storytelling was a bland step-by-step of what they did and how they did it. This made the book feel like a summary of events rather than a commentary of the woes of high school life. In these scenes, I longed for more emotional complexity. The characters were dealing with interesting events, but their commentary on them didn’t give any new perspective; the things they said had been said before.
However, when the scenes did portray emotion, they packed a punch. In one scene, a character engages in acts of self-harm, and Garver described this character’s pain and grief in perfect clarity. I haven’t read many YA books involving self-harm, but I empathized with this character during this specific scene because her thoughts and feelings were depicted so clearly. This scene resonated with me and made me understand how easy it is to justify such a harmful practice.
Have you read Sublime Karma? What did you think?
Related Post: Annie’s Fall TBR
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