October 08, 2013

Chloë Rayban: "Justine Duval" (Series Review)

Title: Book 1: Wild Child
                        [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
         Book 2: Virtual Sexual Reality             
                        [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
         Book 3: Love In Cyberia
                        [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
         Book 4: Terminal Chic
                        [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Justine Duval
Author: Chloë Rayban [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary With a Twist
Year: 1991-1994-1996-2000
Age: 12+
Stars: 2.5/5 if compared with more "serious" books...3.5/5 in guilty-pleasure scale :). So it's a 3-star rating on the whole.
Pros: Fun, high-spirited books with a deliciously flawed lead. Also, clean novels, if that's what you're looking for.
Cons: Light read. Not very original ideas, though well executed and with some surprises awaiting the reader.
Will appeal to: Those who are looking for a relaxed, humorous read.

Blurb: Book 1: Wild Child. A hilarious story about a stylish, sassy London girl. A bizarre meeting with her future self – ten years older and wiser – gives our hip young heroine Justine the chance to come to grips with her ultimate destiny. Book 2: Virtual Sexual Reality. Justine only goes to the Virtual Reality Exhibition in the hope she might get lucky with fit hunk Alex. Instead she gets unlucky with an Alternative Reality machine and leaves the exhibition as Jake! Once she's got over the shock, Justine starts to see the potential of her new situation. As Jake she has the opportunity to hang out with the lads and find out what really makes them tick. But when her real self develops a major crush on her virtual self, things start to get just a bit too complicated... Book 3: Love In Cyberia. There's only one thing that could induce technophobe Justine to dabble on the Information Super Highway - and it's male. Yes, the chance to share love-bytes with a cool boy-babe is all it takes to get Justine surfing in Cyberspace. But when the black-clad lad, Los reveals his website wanderlust for time travel, Justine finds herself in a datspace dilemma...Just how far should she go? Book 4: Terminal Chic. These days falling in love can happen at the touch of a button and when it happens to Justine, it happens in a BIG WAY! A few e-mails and she's head over Gucci heels in love with Los, but there's just one snag: he's from the year 3001. Justine is going to have to time travel to be with the one she loves but will she adjust to the technically advanced society Los lives in? And will Los be able to adjust to Justine's way of seeing things? (Goodreads & Amazon excerpts)

Review: Sort-of-disclaimer: I read the Italian translation of this book, so I can't really judge the writing style. Also, I don't know if any parts of this novel have been cut off in my version.
First off, this post marks my first time reviewing a whole series instead of its separate installments. I chose this format because I realized that my reviews were probably going to sound much alike, inasmuch as these books share the same main features, and I'm not fond of repeating myself. Of course, since I'm a considerate human being, I didn't feel like boring my readers either ;).
On a formal level, this is not your typical series:
   Evidence 1. The first book was probably meant to stand alone, since its first sequel is dated three whole years later. Justine has roughly grown older in sync with that, for she was 14 in the first book and is 16 in the second...Nevertheless, a couple of years later - when another installment comes out - she is still 16. And in the last one - dated 2000 - only a year has passed from the events in book 3, so she is supposed to be 17, though it's stated in the book itself that she was born in 1981 (which would have made her 10 when the first installment came out, and 19 as of now). So, you could safely say that there isn't any attempt at a serious time and event consequence. 
   Evidence 2. While the first two installments are loosely related (Justine mentions a particular event from book 1 in book 2) and the other two are closely linked, there doesn't seem to be any specific trait d'union between the two couples of books. Also, Justine never addresses her past unusual experiences in any of the sequels (except for her first encounter with Los, of course). On one hand, the pattern of her adventures resembles that of a cartoon character who has uncountable experiences unrelated to one another, as if she was living a bunch of different lives, every one of them standing on its own. On the other hand, Justine is not bidimensional, and she does grow up a bit from book 1 to book 4, even though she mainly remains her old, deliciously flawed self. Also, her friends and family are a constant through all the four installments, and their features are always recognisable. [...]

Justine is everything I'm not - beside being 14-16-17, of course ;). She comes from a well-off family (though her parents don't seem to be too lavish with money). She is a trend-follower (though this doesn't make her posh). She is very prone to troublemaking (though there is definitely no malice in her). But she is also innocent, well-meaning, spirited and funny. I was originally drawn to her adventures by the promise of my favourite kind of stuff (time travel, magical realism), but I have reread these books a few times since then, and I still enjoy Justine POV as much as her surreal experiences. That's saying something, since I'm a grown woman and - like I stated above - me and Justine couldn't be more different.
These are not sci-fi stories. Paradoxes are never given an explanation - they're only meant to be enjoyed. Every ending virtually erases what has been happening in the respective book (see Wild Child and Virtual Sexual Reality), or disrupts the time consequence, inserting new events that in turn depend on other not-yet-occurred ones (as in Love in Cyberia and Terminal Chic)...Nevertheless, Justine manages to feel real. Young readers may even learn some lesson about growing up or dealing with the opposite sex. Some of Justine's predicaments are a bit extreme of course - for example, falling in love with her male counterpart (weird) or having her own father flirt with her as a young man in the '60s (a bit disturbing, though he doesn't know who she is...but she does...and still doesn't address the parental topic in her story). The last installment is visionary and even slightly post-apocalyptic (I say "slightly" because there's no real sense of danger and doom like in the modern examples of the genre). It also has an open ending, sort of - in the sense that you have to imagine what may come next, or reject the whole thing as impossible, even if time travel were real. The fact is - you gotta love these books for what they are: pleasant, humorous tales, with a jaunty lead and a fun cast of side characters, where you ride for the sake of the ride and don't regret it at the end.
(Note: book 3 and 4 may sound a bit outdated nowadays, due to technology spreading widely in the latest 20-15 years and taking over most of our lives - but all in all, this shouldn't mess with your reading pleasure).

For more Contemporary/Contemporary with a Twist books click here.


  1. I probably wouldn't give this series a chance based on the covers - it seems like a MG series (except for the titles) but it sound alike a lot of fun.

    1. The Italian covers were much better LOL. I suppose I wouldn't have read this books if I had stumbled on the original versions, because you are right - they look very MG. It does make sense though, since Justine is 14 in the first installment, and all the series is very light compared to nowadays YA

  2. The covers aren't really my thing, but I secretly love guilty pleasure reads ;)
    It just sounds like plain old fun and I REALLY need that from time to time. So who knows, maybe I'll give it a chance!

    1. Secretly, uh? ;)
      Plain old fun is OK from time to time. In between one mindfucker and another!


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