Thursday, May 14, 2009

Let her go!

I popped this book into my CD player (it won't transfer to my clunky computer for downloading into my bargain-brand MP3 player), feeling ready to dive into the way-back machine. Locked Inside was originally published in 2000, and with its plot reliance on a MMOG, I prepared for much hilarity at the "ancient" technology. Surprisingly, author Nancy Werlin created a wired protagonist whose online adventures sound fresh. (And the fact that I know the above acronym only proves that I'm a librarian and can find out stuff, because I have never played one EVER.)

Marnie Skyedottir is the orphaned child of a former gospel singer who changed her name, created a new spirituality and died in a plane crash, leaving Marnie rich, but lonely. She attends a girls prep school, but spends most of her time online playing Paleopolis (that MMOG), planning for the day she turns 21 when she can turn her back on her loving guardian, Max, and control her fortune. Recently in Paleopolis, her avatar has acquired a semi-stalker, an Elf. On a whim, Marnie contacts the Elf by email and he responds. Then Marnie learns that her time online is being monitored and her computer is removed so she can catch up on her schoolwork over spring break. A teacher, Leah Slaight, volunteers to tutor her. While driving back from a tense lunch with Leah, Marnie is attacked and wakes to find herself ... yes ... Locked Inside Leah's basement. Leah believes that she, too is a daughter of Skye, and she's not going to let Marnie go until Marnie agrees to acknowledge her.

Marnie effects an escape, but literally runs into the Elf as she scrambles up the basement stairs. The Elf had been worried when he didn't hear back from Marnie via email, and had tracked her to Leah's house. Leah panics and shoots the Elf in the leg, and now both of them are ... Locked Inside. During their captivity, Marnie discovers that her prison is not just a physical one, that her grief and loneliness have locked her emotions inside as well.

I believe I've said in this forum before that I'm generally not fond of Nancy Werlin's melodramatic stories. However, I very much enjoyed the audio version of The Rules of Survival, so I believe I listened with an open mind. I liked the concept of this story, but it did get draggy both during and after their incarceration with the philosophical digressions of what locked inside really means. Ultimately, Locked Inside just didn't transport me like Rules did. And, I have to say, I think it was the narrator, Emily Durante.

Durante reads the narrative (non-dialog) portions of the book in a mechanical way that I found myself snidely imitating when it got really obvious. This is a complete shame, because she is just excellent at creating characters. When speaking, everyone -- without exception -- sounds like a real person talking. Gender or age don't matter. She was really engaging. But then we would head into long sections of text and she'd revert to that automaton delivery. It was very disconcerting and kept taking me in and out of the story.

I also heard a number of pronunciation errors that occasionally gave me the impression that the first time she saw the book was when she sat down in front of the microphone. I'm still chortling over one of them. Since I don't have a copy of the book to refer to, I can't say for sure that this was not a choice by the author/narrator, but it sure sounded like a clunker to me. How do you pronounce [Gustave] Flaubert? Well, Durante said it phonetically, which stopped me dead in my puttering-around-the-house tracks and racing for the player so I could hear it again. Could she have possibly said Flow-bert? Yes, she did. Am I being a snob? Perhaps, but the editor should have caught that one.

We only have one copy of this book in our system, and it only checked out twice last year. Maybe it's more dated than I think. Of course, it could quite possibly be that old-fashioned cover. And Marnie is supposed to be Goth-y, this girl just looks like a teenager who isn't getting enough sleep.

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