Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer

Instant Karma book cover

Official Summary

In this 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 Barnett 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 karaoke hecklers, but there is one person on whom her powers consistently backfire: Quint Erickson, her slacker of a lab partner and all-around mortal enemy. Soon, Pru begins to uncover truths about Quint, her peers, and even herself that reveal how thin the line is between virtue and vanity, generosity and greed . . . love and hate.

Star Divider


I’m a big fan of Marissa Meyer’s books. While her plots tend to be predictable, her world building is exceptional and her characterization is complex. Her work is often more subtle than she is given credit for, and overall her stories are a pleasure to read. It is a great disappointment to me, therefore, that Instant Karma lacks the nuance of her previous novels, leaving a story that’s (yes) predictable, and doesn’t offer much to compensate for it. And strangely, one could argue the book isn’t even about “instant karma” at all.

I read and reread the publisher’s summary to make sure I wasn’t missing anything…because this book is about Prudence’s attempt to financially save the local marine rescue sanctuary. (And, seriously, go look: there is not a single word about sea animals or non-profits or anything the entire book is actually about). And as a straightforward story about how Prudence learns about the existence of the animal rescue sanctuary and then learns more about marine biology and then implements a plan to get the non-profit out of the red, this books is fine. But it’s also, well, predictable. (Even just reading my summary of events, how do you think this is all going to turn out?)

The “instant karma” of the book is secondary to all of this, and multiple chapters often pass without Prudent mentioning her karmic abilities at all. I firmly believe this story could have been written without this fantastical aspect in it, and it would have been nearly the same; arguably, the book would have been better, since obviously some readers are objecting to this pop culture appropriation of the concept of karma where the main character deals out “justice” willy-nilly as she pleases.

Frankly, the karma aspect is where I was expecting Meyer to come through and make some subtle but interesting commentary on Prudence’s character, or maybe on the nature of justice or judging other people or fate or human nature or…something. I didn’t find that here. (Predictably) Prudence kind of comes to the conclusion she’s bad at judging what people “deserve,” but that’s really the most basic of character arcs: character who is being a jerk realizes she’s being a jerk and tries to stop.

And, yes, Prudence is a jerk. That isn’t clear from the publisher’s summary either, which is fine. She is unpleasant to read about in the beginning of the book because she’s so judgmental and angry and entitled and…. But I was ok with that because Meyer has a history of writing villains, and I usually find it interesting (see Queen Levana in The Lunar Chronicles or Catherine in Heartless). But, again, I didn’t see a lot of nuance in Instant Karma.

So, if you want a story about a beach town where the main characters care about sea life and work to rescue animals and also the non-profit that helps them, this is actually a pretty good book. If you want more “instant karma” or are expecting this simply…not be to be about sea animals, you might be disappointed.

3 Stars

6 thoughts on “Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer

  1. Isobel Necessary says:

    I wonder why the description missed the whole sealife angle? Similarly, marine animals have lots of potential when it comes to cover design, but seem to have been left out there too – such a missed opportunity, I think.


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Right??? I reread the summary multiple times to make sure I wasn’t missing it, even a single mention of a sea lion or something! And people LIKE marine life and doing good things for the environment! I think it would have been a pretty good selling point for the book.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yes, it’s her first contemporary, and I’m wondering if she felt as if she had to…jazz it up a bit? I can’t tell if she thought of the sea animal rescue plot and thought “that’s boring…must add instant karma magic” or if she started with instant karma and realized that’s not actually a plot and then added the sea animal thing. Either way, I think the instant karma could have just been left out!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Amber says:

    I’m glad I clicked through on this review! 🙂 For some reason, I was thinking this was a romantic contemporary (probably because of the cover)… but I actually love that it’s eco-conscious and talks about marine biology? It was already on my TBR, but knowing this ahead of time helps adjust my expectations – it’s always so frustrating to feel like you’re not reading the book you signed up for, I’m so sorry that was your experience! But thanks for bearing the brunt of it and educating us. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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