This may not have been the best time for me to read “The Casquette Girls”. Hurricane Harvey just passed, Hurricane Irma is on the way, so reading a book that takes place during the after effects of a major Hurricane was probably not smart on my end (oops?). But Arden weaves a lovely story of 16 year old Adele, who is determined to return to her home despite all the trouble the slowly recovering New Orleans faces. There, she learns more about herself, her family, and even tangles with a few of the immortals who knew her family “back in the day”. Discovering family secrets, and what to do with that knowledge, plus the mystery behind the rampant deaths in the French Quarter, PLUS going to a new preppy school and having to make friends when few of the people have returned to the area, has Adele constantly looking over her shoulder and asking: “what the heck is going on?”. As someone who currently lives in New Orleans, this was a fun read, but the story wasn’t new, nor would it be to any of the natives, or the tourists who frequently visit.
Here’s the thing, Arden loves New Orleans like only a local who has moved out of the city can. Not to say New Orleans isn’t charming to visit, it absolutely is, but not everyone in Louisiana lives in New Orleans, nor do all locals love the Quarter (Bourbon does genuinely stink—as Arden mentions. You haven’t truly lived until you have gotten a whiff of Bourbon Street on a humid August morning). So if you don’t know New Orleans, or if you do and love it, then Arden’s tendency to go on about her love of the French Quarter will be charming. For me, it got tiresome. Additionally, the overall story isn’t all that original or unique. If you have visited New Orleans and gone on a few of the ghost tours throughout the city (the French Quarter Phantoms are exceptional), or if you live here, the stories and legends Arden ties Adele to are ones you’ve heard. They are great legends, and I’ll gladly have long discussions and library scourge fests to uncover how much truth there is to the ghost and vampire stories, but still, this is a story I have heard before. I won’t say more than that to avoid spoilers, but if you’ve visited, you’ll know which ones I’m talking about pretty quickly, they involve a pair of brothers, and the Ursuline Convent.
“The Casquette Girls” also reminded me a bit of Twilight, which is hard to avoid these days when you have a teenage girl and an “immortal”, who’s paths continuously cross and the “immortal” is instantly drawn to this young teenager despite the couple hundred year age difference. Honestly, I like vampire stories and I enjoy romance and love triangles, but I always had a hard time swallowing the idea that someone who is hundreds of years old would fall for someone who has been alive less than two decades. I also found myself scratching my head when it appeared like everyone BUT Adele knew what was up, it felt a little far-fetched for Adele to be so clueless, and yet everyone she surrounds herself with know about her, and what she is capable of. Which, ended up making the story drag until 60% in when things get settled a bit, and Adele begins moving forward.
This is a long book, and when I invest so much time into reading these kinds of books, I expect more to get resolved ahead of the next story, I also don’t appreciate sudden “revelations” that are, in actuality, just a coincidence thrown in to add drama going into the next book. When you have a 500 page novel and new things get thrown at the reader late in the story for the sole purpose to be left dangling for book 2 … I have to ask: what did I just spend 500 pages reading?
Arden does capture Adele and her teenage angst very well, I enjoyed the people she meets, and how she interacts with them. I love her relationship with her father, and despite them being stories I am familiar with because I live in New Orleans, I enjoyed her retelling of the legends for Adele’s sake. I think this book does a great job stirring up interest in New Orleans, and as a new “local”, Arden really captures the French Quarter where, if you wanted to, you can actually retrace Adele’s steps. But for as much as I wanted to love this as any person would who reads a book featuring their city, I just couldn’t lose myself to the story as much as I wanted to, so this was a 3 star for me and I’ll cautiously look forward to the next book in the series.
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