In New York Times bestselling author Marissa Meyer's young adult contemporary romance, a girl is suddenly gifted with the ability to cast instant karma on those around her – both good and bad. Chronic overachiever Prudence Daniels is always quick to cast judgment on the lazy, rude, and arrogant residents of her coastal town. Her dreams of karmic justice are fulfilled when, after a night out with her friends, she wakes up with the sudden ability to cast instant karma on those around her. Pru giddily makes use of the power, punishing everyone from public vandals to mean gossips, but there is one person on whom her powers consistently backfire: Quint Erickson, her slacker of a lab partner. Quint is annoyingly cute and impressively noble, especially when it comes to his work with the rescue center for local sea animals. When Pru resigns herself to working at the rescue center for extra credit, she begins to uncover truths about baby otters, environmental upheaval, and romantic crossed signals―not necessarily in that order. Her newfound karmic insights reveal how thin the line is between virtue and vanity, generosity and greed . . . love and hate… and fate.
After a karaoke song, Prudence slips and falls, hitting her head. After that, when she clenches her fist, she seems to be able to dole out instant karma with bad things happening to people who are up to no good and good things for the opposite. However, this ability leads her to feeling guilt, because who is she to judge?
As she spends the summer volunteering at a sea animal rescue to try to convince Quint to give her a second chance, she learns more about why it matters and the value of what they do. She also has a lot of ideas that might really help them out - if only she can make it happen.
What I loved: This book has a lot of complexity in the plot and characters. There are some interesting themes around money and the value of possessions/what is really important, challenges of family, ethics around animals and the environment, and the need for empathy and perspective in judgments of others. The instant karma was an interesting twist, but I actually enjoyed the rest of the story more - although Prudence was not really likable at the start, she is still growing up and learning, and I loved the way we see her character grow and endear her to the reader.
The book gives the reader a lot to think about in terms of businesses and non-profits and the ways that they may financially struggle. In addition to the other themes, this would be a perfect choice for a book club with so much to discuss and delve deeper into.
What left me wanting more: In some ways, I felt like there was almost too much going on with the storylines, and we don't quite get resolution of all the branches, though the major ones are tied off. I think I would have appreciated spending a little more time on one specific path, rather than chasing so many. I also felt like the ending was a bit rushed. There are some bad things that happen, and the resolution was too fast for my taste. I would have liked a bit more to flesh it out.
Final verdict: Overall, INSTANT KARMA is a charming YA contemporary that brings important themes to the reader. Be prepared for a book you'll want to talk about and think about after the last page is turned.