This week in my little ‘Nostalgia Series’ I’m reading The Prophecy of the Gems by Flavia Bujor. She was very young when she wrote it and it has been translated from French to English so, if you are going to read it, keep those two things in mind!
What I remembered:
I have been talking about this book like the absolute sun shines out of it since I was about 10 years old. I used to recommend this to everyone I met – I loved it!
My mum bought it for my sister and I to read when we were travelling around Australia in 2004, so I was only 10 years old at the time. We had audiobooks on that trip but we didn’t have many physical books – after all, they’re bulky to travel with and we had plenty of other things to be doing. I remember many nights that we would listen to this book being read to us by Mum and I think it was very special to me for that reason.
What surprised me, when I picked this book up a few weeks ago to re-read was that I didn’t remember very much at all, despite having read the life out of it throughout high school. I knew that the book was written by a 12 year old girl, 14 by the time it got published and I remembered the girls’ names, Jade, Opal and Amber but that was about it. I knew that I didn’t like Jade, I felt ambiguous towards Opal and I loved Amber. I also had some strange memory of Amber lying in a field but that was honestly the extent of it. I was really keen to get back into it and see why I liked it so much.
While I was reading:
Look, the writing is … so so. There is no doubt that it’s written by someone young and inexperienced. Not that the premise isn’t good or creative, it just isn’t well-executed. It is cringe-worthy most of the time and there’s so little character development that you just want to cry.
The plot travels at almost breakneck speed and, while most adventure and fantasy novels have a time where the protagonists are exploring their skills or gifts, this one kind of bypasses that whole experience. Amber is still my favourite out of all the girls but none of them is particularly lovable or even detestable. They all seem fairly bland to me and I do not relate to them at all in any way – but then they are 14 year old girls.
The plot also jumps between present day, where a sick girl named Joa is dying and she dreams the story of Jade, Opal and Amber – as I read, I remembered that bit, but I also remember that I found it jarring and absurd when I was a kid. I hate it no less now. Flavia Bujor should have just had the confidence to write a full fantasy story, not explain it as some kind of dream.
There were so many characters introduced in this story and sometimes, you barely got 5 pages with them and the girls moved on. The whole time, I couldn’t help but think that none of the characters got the airtime they deserved.
After finishing reading
There were some pretty questionable approaches to topics in here. There is one scene where the girls need to confront Death, who has gone on strike:
“I’m too fat,” lamented Death. “That must be my main problem. I try to diet but it’s impossible, I’m just so greedy. I absolutely must lose weight.”
“Don’t worry,” sputtered Jade. “You’re fine the way you are.”
“Am I? You think I’m pretty, and nice?”
Hot damn I didn’t like that scene. Several times they equate her weight to her attractiveness and it’s just not a great message to send.
There are also quite a few instances of insta love, too which are a little unsettling. Not only is the love instant, we hear very little about the relationships afterward. It’s simply locking eyes, in love, now we’ll die for each other. It’s extremely worrying but it is also not entirely unexpected from a story written by a 13 year old girl.
Despite the bad writing, I actually wish that this book was longer. I wish that more time had been taken to flesh out the plot and really make it something stronger. It definitely has so much potential and an intriguing premise. I just wish it had been executed better!
I am glad I read this as a kid and I think I would still recommend it to younger readers. The plot is simple (even if there are so many holes it’s resembling swiss cheese). There is nothing that is too difficult to get your head around and I remember, when I read it as a kid, that I felt grown up reading it. It has big flaws, there is no mistaking it but it is still a good book for someone so young and I think the fact that it was written by someone so young makes it more relatable for younger readers. I’m glad I was one of those younger readers all those years ago.
Get ready for the next instalment in June where I re-read the Georgia Nicholson Diaries by Louise Rennison (queen of my heart and also the world).