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What: The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz

Who: HarperTeen

When: July 25th 2017

How: A copy of this novel was provided by HarperCollins for review via Edelweiss.

Mercedes Moreno is an artist. At least, she thinks she could be, even though she hasn’t been able to paint anything worthwhile since her award-winning piece Food Poisoning #1 last year.

Her lack of inspiration might be because her abuela is lying comatose in faraway Puerto Rico after suffering a stroke. Or the fact that Mercedes is in love with her best friend, Victoria, but is too afraid to admit her true feelings.

Despite Mercedes’s creative block, art starts to show up in unexpected ways. A piano appears on her front lawn one morning, and a mysterious new neighbor invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Red Mangrove Estate.

At the Estate, Mercedes can create in ways she never has before. She can share her deepest secrets and feel safe. But Mercedes can’t take anything out of the Estate, including her new-found clarity. As her life continues to crumble around her, the Estate offers more solace than she could hope for. But Mercedes can’t live both lives forever, and ultimately she must choose between this perfect world of art and truth and a much messier reality.

why i did not finish the gallery of unfinished girls

I wanted to like The Gallery of Unfinished Girls. The premise sounded good, the cover is gorgeous, and it’s about a bisexual Puerto Rican girl. However, The Gallery of Unfinished Girls was just not for me, and here’s why:

1) The writing style in this book was at times incredibly simple, and at others it was filled with so many metaphors it was difficult to decipher what was trying to be said through them. I feel like this was really jarring because one minute it would be general descriptions and the next it would be descriptions that had my scratching my head in confusion.

2) There was nothing to the main character, Mercedes. I mean, sure, there were parts of her that were fleshed out, but I didn’t know what was driving her in this book. I didn’t know what was supposed to be pulling me in, because at 41% nothing was really happening at all. I just wanted to engage with her, and her wants and needs, and this didn’t happen at all.

3) The artistic pretentiousness was next level in The Gallery of Unfinished Girls. There was just so much angst and artist drama that it was kind of painful to get through. Mercedes tore up her award winning piece, and was painting walls red, and I just couldn’t read any more about the pain of being an artist and not being inspired enough.

4) Despite the blurb saying that Mercedes is “madly in love” with her best friend, Victoria, I wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t even really get a feel for the fact that they were best friends. This relationship was more told than shown, with only about three scenes with Victoria occurring in the 41% of the book that I read.

5) The side characters weren’t fleshed out at all. Even Mercedes’ sister. Her friend Tall Jon. Lilia. They all felt kind of cardboard cut-out-y to me. Mercedes’ sister was only there to lie to Mercedes’ mother when she called, and to suddenly be a prodigy pianist player. Tall Jon was only there to give Mercedes cigarettes and new music. I don’t even know what Lilia was there for – I guess to be a Mysterious Artist. None of these side characters felt like they played any integral role in what was happening, or had lives outside the scenes where they were with Mercedes.

6) I just didn’t care what was supposed to happen next, which I guess is because all of the above. Nothing was pulling me to keep reading, and so I didn’t.

© 2017, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.

trigger warning: absent parents, grandparent in coma (after two strokes), use of ableist language, and shaking building (like in an earthquake) in this novel. please note that this is not a full list of trigger warnings as i did not finish this novel

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Posted on: August 4, 2017 • By: Chiara

13 Responses to DNF Review: The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz

  1. Aww… I’m sorry to see this was so disappointing. :( I can definitely see where you’re coming from though. Nonetheless, thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3

  2. Oh, what a letdown – I’m sorry this book wasn’t for you, Chiara. I find that many books about artists can too easily spin into the overly melodramatic “art is suffering / pain is beauty” stereotype, which is enormously harmful for young people who are aspiring artists (not to mention super boring to read about). It’s disappointing to hear that this book fell into that same trap, but here’s hoping your next read is a bit better!

    • Chiara says:

      It definitely tipped into the melodramatic artist trope, which I am not a fan of. I feel like the only book I’ve read that captures being an artist and artistic struggles without going over the top is I’ll Give You the Sun. Thank you, lovely!

  3. I’m sorry to hear you couldn’t finish this. This is one I was thinking of reading – I love the title and premise and the cover is pretty inticing too. This is the first review I’ve read so I’m not sure I’ll read it yet or not. I have so many books to read atm that if I do decide to read it it will be a long time from now. Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts.

    • Chiara says:

      Me too, Rochelle. Maybe if Amazon has the preview section you can read the first chapter or so and see if it’s for you? I know some other readers who have enjoyed it, but it definitely wasn’t for me, unfortunately. No problem!

  4. shooting says:

    Bummer! I wasn’t super excited about this one, but I hate to hear it was a DNF for you. I love characters so having what sounds like cardboard characters isn’t a plus for me!


    • Chiara says:

      I really don’t like DNFing books, but I just don’t have it in me to finish books I’m not enjoying! I do love characters, too, so was sad that these ones were so flat :(

  5. Jackie B. says:

    Thank you for writing this review! I feel like the world needs more DNF reviews so we can discover the real reasons people stop reading. It’s a shame this didn’t work for you– but I completely understand why. I get so frustrated when the characters are unconvincing and the writing is jarring. Better luck next time!

    • Chiara says:

      I always feel like if I DNF a book that I’ve gotten for review I should review it, anyway! And I always find it interesting to see why other people DNF books, so maybe they feel the same way about why I DNF books, haha. Yeah, there was just not enough to keep me pulled into this book, sadly. Thank you, Jackie!

  6. verushka says:

    Well damn, I’m sorry such great potential in the blurb fizzled out :(

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