Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Veronica Mars: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line Review

I've been a huge Veronica Mars fan since friends at my old job got me to start watching halfway through the airing of the first season in 2004. For those of you who aren't Marshmallows (fans of the show), Veronica Mars followed the title character in her last two years of high school and first year of college. Veronica is an intelligent, witty, cynical private detective in training. At the start of the series, she is a social outcast who is trying to solve the mystery of her best friend's murder the year before. Throughout the series, Veronica solves a mystery every episode, but also follows a larger, season long mystery. The show only lasted three seasons but featured unforgettable characters and relationships that stuck with me ten years after the show premiered.

Last spring, the creator, Rob Thomas, launched the most successful Kickstarter campaign in the site's history to make a movie that continued the series. Season 3 ended on a depressing, unfinished note, because Thomas was desperately trying to get renewed by the CW by hooking fans, which didn't work. Anyway, I think they met their goal of 2 million dollars in ten hours. So clearly, the show has passionate fans. The movie was released about a month ago, in theaters and also on demand. As an avid fan, I've been rewatching the show from the beginning (season one is literally one of the most perfect television arcs that I've ever had the pleasure of watching. Seriously. Watch it.) and then finally saw the movie a couple weekends ago. I'm not sure if the movie appealed to non-fans, but I loved how it brought Veronica back to Neptune after 10 years of being away and reunited her with her father, Keith, friends Mac, Wallace and Weevil and long lost love, Logan. The movie set up some other plotlines that might seem ill-advised given that another movie won't necessarily be made, but that's where the book comes in.

Apparently Rob Thomas originally wrote the plot of the novel for the movie, but realized that fans would want to see what brought Veronica back to Neptune, CA in the first place. So, along with Jennifer Graham, he wrote (well, I don't know how much he actually wrote beyond coming up with the initial plot) a novel that picks up right where the movie left off. MOVIE SPOILERS TO FOLLOW. Veronica is living in Neptune, having decided that being a PI is more appealing to her than being a high powered New York City lawyer. Her father, Keith, isn't exactly thrilled by this news, but he is dealing with recovering from a major car crash from the movie. While he is healing, Veronica takes over his cases, given her something to focus on since her love, Logan, is two months into a six month tour in the navy.

She is hired by the Neptune Chamber of Commerce to find a girl who disappeared while partying on spring break in Neptune. During the course of the investigation, the disappearance of a second girl brings Veronica into contact with a face from her past, which leads to some interesting tension and emotions for our girl. The novel follows a lot of the same pacing and beats as the show did. There are red herrings, dangerous situations for Veronica to get herself out of and tons of twists and turns. Graham does a good job of getting into Veronica's head. A lot of fans were disappointed that the book was written in third person because the show focused on voice overs that put us in Veronica's mind. However, we still got into her thoughts, and she was still the protagonist, so this didn't bother me. It was impossible to read the book without visualizing the actors from the show, so like the movie, I don't think this would appeal to people who didn't know the show, but for fans, I thought the book was a great continuation of Veronica's world. Would I prefer a movie? Sure, but just like how I love the Buffy and Angel comics for continuing Joss Whedon's world, if I can't have a movie, or even a reboot of the show that picks up from where the movie left off, this is a great option.

Of course my one complaint is that Logan wasn't in it enough. He does appear in Skype conversations, but his absence was noted, although it did give Veronica time to process her feelings for him after a decade apart. Also, I would have loved more Mac and Wallace. Mac ends up quitting her high paying tech job at Kane Industries and becoming the technical consultant for Mars Investigations, which is an interesting move, but I wanted more of her working with Veronica on cases. Finally, the plot that was briefly introduced in the movie about Weevil being accidentally shot by Celeste Kane and then having a gun planted on him wasn't continued at all. It seems to me that a "season long" mystery following class warfare and corruption in the sheriff department was introduced in the movie and then dropped here. Weevil's big scene in the movie was at the Neptune High reunion, where he joyfully introduced Veronica to his wife and talked about his little daughter and how he's totally out of gang life and owns his own shop now. But then at the end of the movie, he's back on his bike, leading his old gang in the wake of being framed by the sheriff department. I really wanted more of that in the book, but Weevil only makes one tiny appearance.

However, a second novel is in the works and should be published late in 2014. So maybe that story will be picked up then and hopefully Logan will be back. Overall, this novel was a breeze. Clearly I'm in the midst of a totally V Mars obsession with the show and the movie, so I just ate this book up, getting through it in only a couple days. Again, I have to reiterate that this book probably is not going to appeal to non-fans, nor would the movie, but if you're looking for an awesome show to binge watch, I can't recommend Veronica Mars enough. It's available on amazon prime and probably iTunes. Kristin Bell is awesome as the lead and the rest of the cast is also fantastic. And if you get as hooked as I am, then I definitely recommend the movie and the book. If you got through this review, thanks for reading. Now go watch!

Great article about the evolution of the "girl detective" archetype from Nancy Drew to Veronica Mars

Buy it at amazon and Barnes & Noble

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