Leta’s Book Review: Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer

Marissa Meyer, you’ve done it again!

Instant Karma is about a heart-warming summer in Fortuna Beach, starring overachiever Prudence Barnett and her slacker of a lab partner, Quint Erikson. Terrified of her GPA being lowered by a C on their final assignment in marine biology, Prudence convinces Quint to help her redo the project. When he finally relents, Prudence must do something in return: volunteer her time at his family’s business, the Fortuna Beach Sea Animal Rescue Centre.

In the first third of the novel, Prudence is hard to stand. She doesn’t seem to care about anything other than her grades, college applications, and career. There isn’t value in her parent’s business—the record store—or in the rescue centre. It matters more to her that she got a C, which was well-deserved. Her teacher is exactly right: Quint and Prudence didn’t work together and turned in entirely different projects. Prudence made a set of assumptions about Quint and decided that any work he put into the project wouldn’t be worth anything at all and that teamwork itself would bring down their grade. However, teamwork was specified in the grading scale and Quint has a great set of skills to bring to the table.

It takes a long time for Prudence to back down from the assumptions and beliefs that she’s decided on, which is incredibly human. No one wants to be wrong about anything. That’s why the internet is such a negative place full of arguments. It’s hard to take criticism and make personal changes to beliefs and mentalities. Part of the problem, in my mind, is that no one is taught how to take criticism. It was honestly the hardest part of my degree and even though I’m much better at it than I used to be, it’s a struggle every time to back down and say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong about _____. Can you inform me so that I know what the right answer is?”. Because of this, I can relate to Prudence in her stubbornness. I also hate her attitude because she’s completely unwilling to change in the first third of the novel.

My advice for readers going into Instant Karma: give Prudence a chance. The influences of Quint, the Fortuna Beach Sea Animal Rescue Centre, and a wider perspective of life outside of her own small path give her the experiences she needs to grow as a person. Each of the experiences we have in our lives widens our perspectives and gives us room to grow into the complex mycelial-like people that we were all meant to be.

The complicated layer that’s added on top of everything else in this novel is Prudence’s mysterious power. After singing the John Lennon song Instant Karma!, Prudence slips and hits her head, losing consciousness. When she awakens moments later, she discovers that she has the ability to cast instant karma on the people around her. At first, I was afraid for the people of Fortuna Beach. Prudence assumed that the karma she cast needed to be negative in retribution for the bad things these people were doing. And as with the project, she deflects the blame: the universe gave her these powers and decides how karma affects people, so it’s the universe’s fault when things go wrong.

Prudence’s character development is great by the end of the novel. She doesn’t change herself, but she realizes that she hasn’t been doing the right things every time. She gains the incredible power of perspective. Karma is not a negative force, nor is it positive. It simply means “destiny or fate, following as effect from cause” (Google). It is a neutral force that reacts to the deeds or actions done by a person.

Although the beginning of this novel was difficult to read because I could see through Prudence’s words, it was worth the wait to see the person she became. Instant Karma is a heart-warming story, yes, but it’s also an important one. Learning to put aside our assumptions and prejudices in favour of doing what is right is an important lesson. Community is important and being involved in your community is a mutually beneficial relationship that lasts for generations. Instant Karma teaches these lessons very well through Prudence Barnett and Quint Erikson. It’s well worth the read.


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