Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!
I hate to end the month on a negative note review-wise, but I just wasn’t a fan of this novel. I’ve been following Adiba Jaigidar’s books for a little while, and for the most part (still don’t see why Hani and Ishu still gets that much hype), she does well with writing diverse YA romances. I was excited to see her take on a different genre, but to my disappointment, A Million to One read as a half-baked, flimsy excuse for a heist.
For my review of Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating, click here!
Enjoy this week’s review!
A Million to One – Adiba Jaigirdar
Josefa, Emilie, Hinnah, and Violeta: four girls from radically different backgrounds, thrown together on the RMS Titanic. Their mission: to steal a copy of the Rubaiyat, embedded with jewels and worth a fortune. With all of their skills combined, the girls are confident that they can swipe the priceless book once and for all. But the Titanic is filled with distractions, romance, and all sorts of obstacles, and the job may be easier said than done. Add in the recent revelation that the Titanic is sinking, and the four realize that they may be in over their heads…
TW/CW: drowning, mentions of parental abuse, loss of loved ones, abandonment
Yikes. I think I’m gonna have to break up with Adiba Jaigirdar after this one. I loved The Henna Wars, Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating was decent but nothing earth-shattering, and now A Million to One was just plain disappointing. Her books have just gotten progressively worse for me? I really appreciate that she’s branching out from romance, but it really seems like she bit off more than she could chew.
Before I get to all my gripes, I will say that I loved, as with all of Jaigirdar’s novels, the amount of diversity. It’s historical fiction, but we have Black, Pakistani, and Croatian characters, a sapphic romance, and all but one of the main characters are immigrants, which is always fantastic to see. The thing about A Million to One was that everything came down to the execution, and the execution failed miserably.
If I had to sum up A Million to One in brief terms, it feels like Jaigirdar was watching your garden-variety heist movie, fell asleep half an hour in, and then tried to write a book from that memory as soon as she woke up. All of the beats of a typical heist were technically there, but they all but stood around and did nothing. Everything that should have been interesting about this novel—getting the gang together, the Titanic setting, carrying out the heist, the romance—was glossed over in favor of a good 100 pages of dithering in between each major plot point. It was the skeleton of a heist, lacking all of the meat and muscle that would have made it substantial.
For instance: the first few chapters of the novel. These were dedicated to Josefa assembling her crew, which is the kind of beat that I really enjoy in any kind of heist plot. However, all it consisted of was Josefa randomly going up to the rest of the characters with seemingly no explanation and offering them the job, and them either agreeing to it immediately (???), or, if we were lucky, having a paragraph of deliberation before agreeing to it. This could have been a perfect opportunity to develop the characters (especially since they weren’t developed much at all throughout the novel anyway) and introduce their personalities/roles in the heist, but we got absolutely none of that. It wasn’t like A Million to One was so long that this part of the plot needed to be cut down for time—it’s barely over 300 pages. There was no excuse for that.
And for the amount of opportunities that Jaigirdar had to develop these four characters, most of them were shockingly underdeveloped. Other than some insight on the motivations of Violeta and Emilie, all four characters had nearly indistinguishable voices, personalities, and no reason for being on the mission other than a vague role. We got a bit of a tragic backstory for Hinnah, at least, but a tragic backstory with nothing else to go off of does not a well-developed character make. In addition, we only got a vague idea of what the characters’ roles were—the actress, the thief, the acrobat, and the forger—often with no context. For instance: Violeta was supposed to be an actress, but we got no idea of her background, her training, and how she got to be so good. For a novel that seemed to market the diversity and individuality of the crew, it would’ve been leagues better if I had been able to tell who was who without the chapter titles.
The majority of the novel ended up being a bunch of meaningless dithering about on the Titanic, which was intended to…build up the suspense, I supposed, but it felt like far too many pages of The Gang running around the ship, chatting with a boy or two, trying to throw the guards off their trail, and making no progress whatsoever. There was supposed to be a romance somewhere hidden in there, but it ended up being my problem with Hani and Ishu, amplified: two characters just got thrown together with zero prior chemistry, insinuation, or anything that would suggest love. It got to the point where any movement in the novel was indistinguishable, and by the time I finally got around to the actual heist, any semblance of suspense or action had vanished. The only thing that managed to partially grab my attention was the fact that the Titanic had started to sink, but by then, the only aspect that somewhat grabbed my attention was that half of the main cast died. If major character deaths are the only thing that are keeping your reader interested, then something is very wrong with your plot.
All in all, a break from form for Adiba Jaigirdar, but one that ended in a half-baked, borderline boring disaster. 2 stars.
A Million to One is a standalone, but Adiba Jaigirdar is also the author of The Henna Wars, Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating, and the forthcoming The Dos and Donuts of Love.
I’ve already posted once today, but have another song anyway:
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!