*I received an ecopy of this book from the publisher. This has not influenced my review.*
To be honest, I probably should’ve stopped reading this after the first few pages because I could tell it wasn’t for me. But a Dorian Gray retelling! I had to keep reading because that’s one of the only classics I’ve ever loved, plus it’s just got a great premise with lots of potential, and I really wanted to see how this author would put his own spin on it.
Unfortunately, it seemed like this book was trying too hard to BE the original story rather than a unique retelling. Sure the book was set in present day America rather than 1800s England, the character of Henry was a drag queen rather than whatever Henry was, the artwork was a hologram rather than a painting, the character of Sybil was a stripper instead of an actress, etc., but those things are all just minor details. The plot was almost exactly the same (not just the general idea, but conversations the characters had and everything), and the characters had the same personality traits, right down to Henrietta’s love for giving paradoxical advice. Even some of her quotes were almost exactly the same as Henry’s just with more modern words/ideas. I can concede however that this disappointment might just be on me for having certain expectations—I personally prefer retellings to have more of a twist, or to have something unique to them, or to explore something from the original more in depth—so other people may like the fact that it was pretty much the exact same story, just modernized, especially if you haven’t read the original and don’t already know what’s going to happen.
Another problem I had though was that the characters felt flat. Gary (Dorian) was a jerk, which was to be expected. Liam (Basil) was reserved and kind of pathetic. Henrietta (Henry) was loud-mouthed and opinionated. But that’s kind of all they were. And the way their new identities were forced to mesh with the traits and situations of the originals felt unnatural. Some of the thoughts, feelings, actions, motivations, speech, etc. of the characters didn’t fit with the modern world or the new identities.
That being said, somehow the book got a little better around halfway through. It was still basically the same plot, but it stuck to the modern aspect more and showed more of the actual depravity (you know, all those parts the original skipped over).
But because of all that depravity, this book is not for the faint of heart. There was *TRIGGER WARNING* murder, death, suicide, graphic (but not particularly erotic because it wasn’t supposed to be) M/M and M/F sex, sexual assault/rape, and lots of drug use. *END TRIGGER WARNING* I’m not sure I’d classify this as LGBT though, despite the M/M sex. Yeah, the protagonist had sex with men sometimes, but he didn’t identify as gay or bisexual; he simply had sex with men when he was so high that he didn’t care and was physically incapable of doing it with women. The two main side characters were gay though, and there were brief M/M sex scenes on screen, so I guess that’s why it’s considered LGBT.
So overall, I was disappointed that the story wasn’t more original, and I guess the book just wasn’t quite for me.
Anyone who wants to read a story that's almost exactly the same as the original Dorian Gray, but modernized and more graphic.