“Acne, Asthma, And Other Signs You Might Be Half Dragon” by Rena Rocford

As the title of this book suggests, Rocford’s novel is about a teenage girl who discovers she’s actually part dragon — and her best friend is part troll. I requested it from NetGalley because I used to be obsessed with dragons, and also because the title reminded me of a few of Tom Holt’s novels, so I thought it would be funny.

acne asthma etc

Momentary sidenote: I’m not sure why the character featured on the cover is pretty when the character is repeatedly describing herself as ugly, not least because of the titular acne that plagues her, but there we go. Apparently ugly fifteen-year-olds don’t sell books. Who knew.

I think if I’d read this book when I was about twelve, at the height of my dragon phase, I would have really enjoyed it. The writing isn’t spectacular, but it’s decent, and there are a few funny moments. Not enough of them to really designate it as humour in my opinion, though. The plot is complex, but while some aspects of it were a little predictable, others lost me entirely (probably because I wasn’t paying enough attention).

As for the characters… well, I wanted to love Beth, the protagonist’s best friend, because she seemed like a cool person. But I never felt like I got to know her. This was true of all the characters, really. I didn’t feel like I knew anything beyond the surface information, which was more to do with what they were than who they were.

The main flaw of the book was that it required me to suspend my disbelief a little too much. I’m not talking about the dragon / troll / unicorn stuff. I wouldn’t expect that to be believable, because it’s fantasy. I’m talking about the fact that the main character has only just turned fifteen (her birthday is at the beginning of the book) and she’s driving halfway across the US, fighting for her life and killing people, having previously been a normal girl.

I guess that’s when it really hit me that I’m a bit too old for this book. If she’d always been extraordinary, I’d understand a few juvenile adventures like this. It’s the fact that she grew up normal, and changes so quickly with very little warning, that strikes me as odd — plus the fact that I remember being fifteen, and it mostly involved being indecisive and confused and making very bad life choices.

This sounds like a negative review, and it’s not. Well, not entirely. There were a few moments that I enjoyed, and on the whole the concept was something that, as I’ve said, would definitely have appealed to me at a certain stage in my life. (Most nerd girls have a dragon phase, right?)

To end this on a more positive note, here are a few quotes I enjoyed:

The cow stared back, looking even more disinclined to move. I jumped at it in the most predatory fashion I could manage. I could spit fire, for crying out loud. “I eat your kind!”

And you thought dragons were scary…

“How come you’re not scared of me?”
He chuckled. “I got hit by a falling tree once, that don’t mean the trees are out to get me.”

He has a point.

Because today just wasn’t challenging enough, now the boat was going to sink.

So although the book was reasonably enjoyable, there were too many elements affecting my enjoyment of it for me to be able to rate it higher than three stars. I think it could have used a little more work, just to sort out the pacing and finetune the balance between fast-paced and rushed.

That said, I think it might do reasonably well with a slightly younger audience, and possibly my problems with it are more to do with me than with the book itself.

Rating: ***

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