The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd Balzar + Bray (an imprint of HarperTeen/HarperCollins), 432 pages Expected US Release Date: January 29, 2013 Format: Print ARC Source: Around the World ARC Tours - thank you!
In the darkest places, even love is deadly.
Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father's gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.
Accompanied by her father's handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father's madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island's inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father's dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it's too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father's genius—and madness—in her own blood.
Inspired by H. G. Wells's classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman's Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we'll do anything to know and the truths we'll go to any lengths to protect. -------------------Goodreads summary
Montgomery might already have a bullet in his skull. Maybe Father would kill me, too. Then again, maybe not. There were worse things on the island than dying.
Prior to reading The Madman's Daughter, I would never have said I like Gothic Horror/Thriller. Or that I read it. Or that I would consider reading it (I'm easily scared). But now? Oh hell yes. I am DOWN with this genre if it's all like Megan Shepherd's book!
There were so many fantastic elements to this book I have no idea where to start! I picked it up because I'd always wanted to read The Island of Dr. Moreau, and I figured a YA version had to be pretty awesome - plus, I'll admit that I'm buying into the hype. So many people had this book on their WoWs, or were talking about how badly they wanted to read it, and then so many people signed up for the ARC Tour, and I was like "What is up with this book?! What makes it so awesome?"
The answer: EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING, I TELL YOU.
It really is a creepy tale. The idea of experimenting on animals and vivisection (live dissection) to make them talk, act and think like docile humans is enough to make my squirm; and then the details that are given just make it that much more gruesome. Megan can reeeaaally paint a picture, guys - guts and body parts and heartbeats while a scalpel is cleanly slicing through. It is terrifying and heart-pumping and awesome all at once. Like I said, I scare easy, but there's something so captivating about the writing and how each scene is described as well as how it plays into the entire story that had me absolutely riveted.
I'm not sure what it is, but female MCs are a bit of a struggle with me most times - I'm very critical of them simply because I compare them to myself and I am quite self-criticizing, no matter how often we are told not to do it. That said, I was surprised at how much I liked Juliet! She's got a fantastic personality mixed with a great heaping of strength and realism and intelligence. At the same time, I found her completely relatable in how much she doubted and yearned for love from her father and how scared she was of this madness that might be within her. She's well-rounded and well-developed and I can't wait to get to know her more through the rest of the trilogy.
Who else do I want to get to know? MONTGOMERY. In an entiiiiiiiiirely different way than I want to know Juliet though, and a whole lot less ladylike. I am so in love with this character, it is ridiculous. It's something to do with how smart and hopeless and broken he is, how he hates himself but is proud and how compassionate and caring he is towards everyone - animals and humans and the unfortunate inbetweens. Every scene between him and Juliet was crackling with delicious tension, and I can't even formulate how jealous I was of her for having his intentions. Even though he's blonde (ech...not my kind of man!) and arguably as intelligently mad as the father sometimes, I love him. All of him. Every bit. Yes.
Anyway. What was I saying? Right.
This was a phenomenal story. I haven't read the original tale, so I don't know what is taken from there or what is original or added, but I was totally taken for a ride. Things I thought would happen either didn't at all, or did in a way I never expected. Every time I thought I had something figured out, I was thrown through a loop and reminded that I am just a pawn in Megan's writing game. The pacing and tone is unreal, and I was completely, totally lost in the story. I found myself immersed with no hope of getting out until I'd read the very last word, and I have absolutely no regrets.
Here's what the magic is in this book: yes, it's creepy. It's weird to think of hybrid animals and humans, especially when there are characters who are spelled out exactly what they are (one character is a sheep + 3 rabbits and completely resembled a human. Yeah. Dwell on that). Kinda makes the skin crawl, actually. Juliet's father really is a madman, and you have no idea the extent of it (I barely believe it and I read it!). But through all this violence and weirdness, you also immensely care about everyone involved. You completely understand how the Father would think he's not mad and how he believes his experiments will improve humanity. You don't blame Montgomery for assisting the father all these years, through all the horrors. You fall in love with him, in an all-encompassing way. You want to hug Juliet to you and help her struggle her way through figuring out her Father and the island. And even though Edward is...well, I can't quite say what his placement in the story is (I had a hunch about mid-way through, but it still shocked me how everything played out!), but you still love him a little bit and want to run after him to the jungle.
Read this book, guys. I can't recommend it enough. If you're like me and think nah, I'm not into Gothic Horror - GET OVER IT. THIS IS WORTH IT.
The Archived (Archived #1) by Victoria Schwab Disney-Hyperion, 336 pages US Release Date: January 22, 2013 (go buy it!) Format: Print ARC Source: ALA Annual 2012 - thank you Hyperion!
Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.
Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.
Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.
Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous-it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da's death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.
In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption. ------------------------Goodreads summary
Ignorance may be bliss, but only if it outweighs curiosity. Curiosity is a gateway drug to sympathy...
The Archived is unlike anything I've ever read before. The concept itself was fascinating and immediately drew me in - mostly because I couldn't help but think of drone-like shells of people sitting on shelves, heads drooped in sleep mode - and I have to say, it did not disappoint!
It baffles me that people refer to this book as a Dystopian, because I just don't see that anywhere. It's hard to pin down, actually - a little bit fantasy, a little bit science fiction and paranormal, a little bit thriller and mystery. Whatever way you want to try and categorize it, just know that you will find something you like within it. My favourite part was the concept of The Archived itself and how Histories can be woken to the point of escape. It's such a clever, unique idea, and I can't wait to see what the rest of the series will bring to us.
I'll admit that it took me a little bit of time to get into the story - while the beginning is necessary by ways of explanation, there was something just a little too slow for me. But past the first 50 pages, I was absolutely, totally in. I highly suspect that Victoria meant it to be that way, actually - it made getting caught up in the story that much more of a whirlwind. Suddenly, your heart is pounding as she's in the narrows and hunting Histories, and you're screaming at the book for her to turn around, he's got a knife!
If I told you that I actually got scared by this book, would you believe me? Because you should. And it's not like it's an exceptionally scary book, or made to be terrifying or horror. Because it's not! But there was something about the writing and the scenery, the Narrows and how I imagined them to be the stuff of horror movies (dim hallways, fog drifting and lighting up only certain white chalk marks and vague doors that lead to God-Knows-What...), how it's about dying people who have been disturbed and are now trying to figure out where they are. Add in the idea of Keepers being able to read people and their pasts through a simple touch, and my imagination just goes wild. It is thrilling, in a disturbingly awesome way.
And...ok, we have to talk about the boys. Wesley first, since OMG I WANT HIM. Guyliner and all (actually sometimes it can be hot...but we'll pretend I never said that). He's so hilarious and witty and surprising - sometimes a little too perfect, but I can accept it here because it works so well off Mackenzie. I'm not going to give away what part he plays with the whole thing, but...I believe in him. I believe in his abilities and his personality and his support and what he can do and omg can I just have him in my life, PLEASE?!
Moving on to Owen. Who I'm not going to say what he is or does either, but...I knew it. I KNEW IT. How dare Victoria toy with me in regards to him! I was so on the fence, and then I was so certain, but then it was all ripped away, but then I doubted the ripping...he's a fantastic character for getting me all riled up and invested. He's such a mystery, and then when I finally learned what he was doing, I wished so hard it could go back to the mystery. I hate him as much as I love his role.
But this story isn't just about boys, no matter how much I'm making it seem so. It's about love and family and how that can transcend the planes of existence into the Archived and what that bond can do. It's about friendship and coworkers and teams and just what is done to maintain that. It's about the belief in yourself and what you can do, and what you need to do to maintain who you are to those around you and who are you to yourself. It's about strength, and weakness, and how often one of those needs the other.
I am so excited for the rest of the series. I'm glad that Victoria says she doesn't do cliffhanger endings, because I seriously think a little bit of me would have died if she'd ended The Archived any other way. But how she does is a perfect setup for what's to come, too. There are still so many questions I have, and I love how much we learn about The Archived and its "employees" towards the end. Definitely whet my appetite, and I am going to be anticipated Book 2 like crazy now!
Roaring Book Press (an imprint of Macmilllan), 272 Pages Expected US Release Date: February 5, 2013 Format: Print ARC Source: from publisher, for review (thanks Ksenia!)
Seven stories of passion and love separated by centuries but mysteriously intertwined—this is a tale of horror and beauty, tenderness and sacrifice.
An archaeologist who unearths a mysterious artifact, an airman who finds himself far from home, a painter, a ghost, a vampire, and a Viking: the seven stories in this compelling novel all take place on the remote Scandinavian island of Blessed where a curiously powerful plant that resembles a dragon grows. What binds these stories together? What secrets lurk beneath the surface of this idyllic countryside? And what might be powerful enough to break the cycle of midwinterblood? From award-winning author Marcus Sedgwick comes a book about passion and preservation and ultimately an exploration of the bounds of love. ------------Goodreads summary
Eric thinks about his life, something he usually avoids, because it has not always been an easy one. He wonders if a few moments of utter and total joy can be worth a lifetime of struggle.
Maybe, he thinks. Maybe, if they're the right moments.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I went into this book. The blurb is intriguing, and the book trailer even more so. I had some ideas, and I kind of like the idea of multiple stories intertwining into one larger one. I love movies that are like that (Love, Actually anyone?), so I figured a book could be fun, too! There were so many questions, too: what is this plant? How are all these stories related? Is this like reincarnation, or karma? No idea!
Now, after reading it...I'm still a little confused, and a whole lot puzzled, and I can't answer if someone were to ask me what to expect heading into this book.
Even weirder? I dont think that's really a bad thing.
Midwinterblood is captivating in a way I can't really pin down or explain why. The stories are simple and a bit ethereal. I really enjoyed the time period of each one, and I felt very much involved in the story while I was reading. As expected, there were some I enjoyed much more than others; and some I'm still a little puzzled by. But as a whole, they work really well together.
I also enjoyed getting to piece together the arching storyline, figuring out what the little details of a previous story really mean. It makes you really remember and consider all the stories, and there's a fantastic sense of "oh!" as everything falls into place. There are a few things I'm still a little unsure if they were resolved, and some of the things I think I put together could be entirely misguided - but that's kind of the fun of it. This story is given to us, and we get to make it make sense.
Even though there was a lot I liked about reading this, there's still something that's very...dull to me. I didn't really attach to any of the characters, or the love between Eric and Merle. Perhaps because it was shown in so many different ways that I couldn't really find something for me to really fall in love with myself. While I believed in the love that could transcend lifetimes and moons, I still wasn't really convinced of its power. The stories are nice, but nothing absolutely blew me away.
I'm also not entirely sure of the function of this dragon plant. I mean...ok, that was the wrong way to put it. I do get it - I just don't think it's as important as it's painted to be. I get how it influences the characters or scenes, but I actually don't think it to be a big part. This story could exist without it, in my opinion, and it bothered me that it was supposed to be the link between everything. I understand how it is, I just wasn't impressed with it. Truthfully, I didn't even figure out what it did/functions as until after I finished the entire book and thought about it more. I read it, I processed it, but it just slipped through for me.
Even though there are some elements that fell flat to me, I'm still glad to have witnessed Eric and Merle's story. Midwinterblood is a great book about the endurance of love and the many manifests it can take.
Because I suck at timing and getting this up, but I still wanted to highlight the books I've received! So forgive me for the mid-week Wrap Up, but it's totally worth it for the awesome below - swear :)
Can I tell you a happy story? I enjoy being at work. Not because of the work itself, but because of the people. I have some brilliant, amazing coworkers, and I'm grateful every day they make me smile and pull me out of my perpetual funks and bad moods.
They also make fun of me for reading so often. Not everyone, of course, and no one means it in a terrible or cruel way. But I'm called a nerd, bookworm, geek, etc...on a fairly regular basis. It's not new, and my feelings are never hurt - it's just one of those things that always happens. So imagine my surprise when we're in the breakroom one day, and suddenly - they're talking books! And not just any books - YA/MG/Kidlit books! It started with Percy Jackson and ended at Beautiful Creatures, and it was fabulous. I have never felt so happy.
Moving along! I'm also super happy because this happened:
And yep, that's me. DEAD. CENTER. YOU KNOW IT.
(the placement was just by chance, but I kind of love it anyway.)
A review of Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick, The Archived by Victoria Schwab, and The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd. I've also got a fantastic Waiting on Wednesday pick, and will finally declare all the Challenges I'm partaking in for 2013!
The Namesake by Steven Parlato Merit Press, 256 pages While he may be the smartest boy at St. Sebatian's Academy, Evan has no idea why the father he's named for committed suicide. A searching story of a boy's too-early coming of age
The Namesake begins when Evan is asked to "write about what he knows" for college essays, by teachers sure that such a gifted artist will get a full scholarship. What Evan knows is not as much as what he doesn't know, however. He doesn't know why his father chose to hang himself on Easter morning while he and his mother were at church, and what the secrets of a small town can tell him about his father . . . and himself. Hoping to finally uncover the truth, Evan and his best friend, Alexis, dig into the town's past only to discover it's dark roots . . . and that some secrets are best kept hidden. -------------------summary provided by the Publisher
Happy Release Day to The Namesake and Steven Parlato!
Released by the new YA imprint Merit Press, trust me when I say The Namesake is intense and mysterious and you will not want to sent it down the moment you realize what Evan is uncovering. Please enjoy the guest post below from the author, and make sure to check out The Namesake!
As a poet, I tend to be leery of explanations; often that perfect last line is my desperate attempt to guarantee the reader gets it, that the message is clear. In such cases, I hear the voice of my dear friend and teacher, Edwina Trentham, advising me to "Trust the poem." Almost always, that perfect last line gets cut. So discussing the life lessons of my novel, The Namesake, is a challenge. I'll mostly leave it up to my characters to dole out the lessons, trusting my readers to find those they need most, learning them alongside the main character, Evan Galloway.
Still, without dictating meaning, I can say The Namesake, to me anyway, is a novel of faith, forgiveness, and love. While religion, Catholicism specifically, plays an important role in the story, faith takes a broader meaning. Faith -- in self and in relationships, as well as in God -- drives the plot. Ultimately, although he questions, Evan realizes that, without faith, life at its core is empty.
Another colossal lesson Evan learns from his doomed father is that forgiveness, that most precious gift, is supremely difficult to grant oneself. The scene where Father Brendan discusses forgiveness and love was a very poignant one for me to write. It's probably the closest I get to an overt message, and it still has the power to make me emotional when I read it. Maybe that's because it's a hard-won lesson for me as well.
Without seeming like I'm channeling Celine Dion, I have to say The Namesake is also about the power of love. Evan finds, through its loss and through what remains, just how essential love is to existence. He also recognizes that where there is love, there is, inevitably, unimaginable pain. Significantly, he comes to realize that this coexistence of love and loss is symbiotic. As Evan puts it toward the end of the book, ". . . the bad stuff seems important in a new way. Like part of the recipe: the bitter lemon that makes the coconut sweeter." One of my working titles for the novel was actually The Sweet Bitter, but perhaps I was being both too vague and too obvious.
Personally, writing The Namesake has taught me lessons of faith, of persistence, and of trust. There were many stumbling blocks along the road to publication, yet I knew I owed it to these characters to tell their story. There were moments of great doubt that I could do justice to the book, and I often battled that loud inner voice telling me this story didn't matter. I found affirmation in the faith of others: my wife, Janet; supportive family members; good, honest friends. They believed when I didn't. And I found strength in Evan -- he's just so freaking persistent -- to continue, even at the lowest points. I came to trust that the story was there, that it needed to be told, and that I was, in fact, the only one who could tell it. The Namesake took me to some pretty dark and unexpected places, but with faith, I uncovered truly important lessons about writing, about life -- and about myself. Now it's time for you, reader, to find lessons of your own. Feel free to share them with me.
Steven Parlato, author of The Namesake, is a writer, illustrator, and an English professor. His poetry has been featured in Borderlands, Freshwater, Connecticut River Review, Peregrine, and Pirene's Fountain, and he is the winner of the 2011 Tassy Walden Award for New Voices in Children's Literature. He lives with his family, and is at work on his next novel.
Nobody But Us by Kristin Halbrook HarperTeen, 304 pages Expected US Release Date: January 29, 2013 Format: print ARC Source: DAC ARC Tours - thank you so much! Challenges: 2013 Debut Author Challenge, Contemporary Challenge
Bonnie and Clyde meets IF I STAY in this addictively heart-wrenching story of two desperate teenagers on the run from their pasts.
They’re young. They’re in love. They’re on the run.
Zoe wants to save Will as much as Will wants to save Zoe. When Will turns eighteen, they decide to run away together. But they never expected their escape to be so fraught with danger....
When the whole world is after you, sometimes it seems like you can’t run fast enough.
Nobody But Us, told in alternating perspectives from Will and Zoe, is an unflinching novel, in turns heartbreaking and hopeful, about survival, choices, and love...and how having love doesn’t always mean that you get a happy ending. Described as “beautiful, heartbreaking, and exhilarating” by Kody Keplinger, author of The DUFF, Nobody But Us will prove irresistible to fans of Nina Lacour, Jenny Han, and Sara Zarr. --------------------Goodreads summary
My body feels urgent. The chaos we've created makes me need her more. The things we been doing, the distractions, they make me forget how right we feel when it's just us. When the world ain't creeping in. This is the perfect we been aiming for.
Can I make a quick note on the cover? While I do like it and the pose and it actually really does fit the tone of the novel itself - the two models? Definitely not how I picture Will and Zoe. Maaaaybe Zoe, but Will? Not at all. I wouldn't really put Will in a picnic checkerboard shirt. He's definitely more...leather jacket, aviators and hair he's got to flick out of his face. To me, anyway.
You guys, this book is absolutely heartbreaking. And completely filled with a devotional love that truly fits the situation. Usually this kind of love between two characters is tinged by an obsessiveness that's disturbing, or seems so fragile - but not so with Nobody But Us. The love between Will and Zoe is true and real and I never once doubted it. They are a couple I utterly believe in. Perhaps my favourite thing about this novel was watching this love that already existed really mature and change and shape itself into something stronger and filled with a depth that I don't think I've found in many YA books before. It's marvelous to read about, truly.
I also really enjoyed the dual narrative - which doesn't say much really, since I'm all about the dual narratives - but this is done really well. Both Zoe and Will have a very distinct tone to them, and the writing is fantastic. In some books, I have to read the chapter headings to know whose head I'm in, but definitely not with this one - every word is very clear to whom it belongs.
Quite obviously, there are some really strong elements to this book. I adored those. Absolutely. Unfortunately, there were a few things I wasn't entirely too crazy about, too. For one, the general movement of the book is very...slow. I think I just didn't have enough outside details to their road trip to really anchor me in time, but a lot of the book was just them driving. And thinking, or having small conversations, or lots of thoughts about how much they love the other...which is cute, yes, but doesn't really help much in terms of a plotline. There are certain scenes of action and tension (oh, some very tense scenes!), but they were very few and farbetween.
And while I loved Will and Zoe together, I'm not certain I love them individually. I never really connected with either of them, and I actually felt like they were a bit...underdeveloped. We know so little about them, other than why they're in this situation and running away together, and that bothers me. I love getting to know characters, and I wish they had gotten to know a little more about the other so I could have, too.
Still, this was a fantastic read. I was so invested in their journey and what would happen to them, and it just broke my heart at how fast it goes out of control. They've already had such crummy lives, and then when it seems to take a turn for the worse...I just couldn't. I wanted to hug them both to my chest and protect them forever. And the ending?! I mean...I can't...but I just...*sigh*
Uses For Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt St. Martin's Press, 240 pages Expected US Release Date: January 14, 2013 Format: e-ARC Source: NetGalley - thanks St. Martin's Press!
Anna remembers a time before boys, when she was little and everything made sense. When she and her mom were a family, just the two of them against the world. But now her mom is gone most of the time, chasing the next marriage, bringing home the next stepfather. Anna is left on her own—until she discovers that she can make boys her family. From Desmond to Joey, Todd to Sam, Anna learns that if you give boys what they want, you can get what you need. But the price is high—the other kids make fun of her; the girls call her a slut. Anna's new friend, Toy, seems to have found a way around the loneliness, but Toy has her own secrets that even Anna can't know.
Then comes Sam. When Anna actually meets a boy who is more than just useful, whose family eats dinner together, laughs, and tells stories, the truth about love becomes clear. And she finally learns how it feels to have something to lose—and something to offer. Real, shocking, uplifting, and stunningly lyrical, Uses for Boys is a story of breaking down and growing up. --------------Goodreads summary
"I love you," I say. But I don't need him anymore and he knows that.
"I've always loved you," he says. but it doesn't sound so romantic anymore.
I know for a fact I wasn't the only one who was fooled, but I'll state it again: that pretty, ethereal cover that seems to spell out a wonderful romance? NOT. TRUE. DON'T FALL FOR IT. LOOK AWAY FROM THE GORGEOUS LIGHTS.
But really. Heather said in her review that the word for this would be "unexpected," and it really is that. I had absolutely no idea what this book would turn out to be; not even after reading the summary. I knew some of the elements (you can't have "slut" in the summary without all the connotations and insinuations of that), and suspected some - but the reality? SO far from what I was thinking.
Let's get this out of the way: this book is raw and gritty. And I've used those words before in reviews, but I mean them in the most emotionally literal ways I can. This book doesn't hold back. There's mental abuse and sexual abuse and sexual discovery and a lot of uncomfortable moments - and I am no prude. There's family troubles, being lost, manipulation and using people and taking advantage of a girl who doesn't know better. There's relationships and all the bases and it tells you them. In a surprising amount of detail.
So be prepared for all that, if you read this book.
But here's what's also in store for you: a heartbreaking, sometimes disturbing, and surprisingly hopeful story of a girl forced to grow up in crummy situations and how she learns to deal with it. Sure, there's a loooot of detail, but there's also a lot of tenderness, and real feelings. Even though a lot of the time I wanted to shake Anna and tell her to snap out of her thoughts and woman up, I also wanted to protect her pretty fast. I just wanted to make things better for her and teach her what real love means and that no, a hand on your knee does not mean affection.
Watching Anna grow up and make mistakes was pretty tough, I won't lie - there are certain things I just wanted to push her out of the way of and steer her clear. I wanted to yell at her sometimes. But the moments when she really feels happy, when she feels like she's making sense of all the mixed messages her crap mother has sent her? It made my heart so full for her. There are moments of revelation and real love here, and I think they were made better because it was surrounded by such darker moments.
The main downfall for me were the characters. I couldn't stand Toy from the moment she and Anna met, and I thought she was so flimsy and see-through. It was never a surprise to me of what she was or who she turned out to be. I'm not a fan of Anna, though I admit that my frustration with her is probably what clouds that judgment. And each of the boys...yes, they had redeeming parts (especially Sam), but there were so many flaws in each one and very little for me to find something to love.
I have to comment on the writing, though: it's fabulous. It's got such a unique tone to it, and it presents the subject matter so perfectly. It fits Anna and her situation so well, and I think how it's written is the thing that ultimately saved this book and made it completely worth the read. If nothing else, read this book to understand how the writing itself can convey the story.
Safekeeping by Karen Hesse
Feiwel and Friends (an imprint of Macmillan), 304 pages
US Release Date: September 18, 2012
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher, for review. Thank you!
Radley just wants to get home to her parents in Vermont. While she was volunteering abroad, the American People's Party took power; the new president was assassinated; and the government cracked down on citizens. Travel restrictions are worse than ever, and when her plane finally lands in New Hampshire, Radley’s parents aren’t there.
Exhausted; her phone dead; her credit cards worthless: Radley starts walking.
I expect to chafe with jealousy.
But if there is any, it's unable to take root.
How remarkably fast our friendships shift and form and reform.
I'm going to start this review saying something, and it will sound bad - but I swear I don't actually mean it that way. Ok? Ok. Here we go:
This book is overwhelmingly, heartbreakingly, heavily sad.
Maybe it was simply the mood I was in while reading it, but even though there is probably an equal amount of hope (fulfilled and unfulfilled) within these pages, I was just overwhelmed by a sense of loss and being lost. That's an emotion I hold with me through a lot of my real life, and I was not happy to have it in my reading. I don't mind it when it's there - it is a part of life and I welcome it as a real part of stories - but for it to be so present, all the time? It was a little tough.
But at the same time, there's a strange sort of comfort in the sadness of this novel. It is supposed to be sad. This world is terrifying and falling apart and there are too many questions without even the thought of answers. Sad is how we are supposed to feel when we know about Radley and her story. If it were anything else, this book would be terrible. The sadness makes a lot of sense, and you appreciate it that way.
The world is crumbling, and its fascinating in a really terrible way. I couldn't look away, kind of like that cliche of a bad car crash: it's so horrible and you just can't not look. But truthfully, it really wasn't developed enough. I craved to understand Radley's world a little more. I know of destruction and oppression and the APP ruining the US - but there are so many holes. While I feel like it might have been intentional to not detail more of the world, I didn't have enough to connect with. I wanted more, and I was so curious for more. It left me feeling very unfulfilled in that sense.
I did really enjoy when Radley and Celia were on their own at the abandoned schoolhouse in Canada, but I probably enjoyed it for all he wrong reasons haha. It was a great adventure and felt very Walden-esque to me. I know it was supposed to be a hideout, just a camp until they could resume their life, but I still had a ton of fun going through that part of their lives. I really enjoyed Jerry Lee, the dog, because he was a great element of balance to Celia and her story.
Even though I've complained clearly about the sadness of the story, please don't think that's all there is to this - there actually is hope in this book, and a lot of it. Radley is hopeful about her parents, she is hopeful about survival and returning to the US. Celia is hopeful of a life leaving behind all that was wrong. The mostly-anonymous woman who helps them in Canada was a beacon of hope, and I loved every time she would pop into the story. There are true lifelines in this, and even though my heart was heavy, it was also happy to know that was there.
If I were to really, deeply analyse this book, I would say it is actually a very political stance on the US and the world in general. There are too many things too close to the real world for me to consider otherwise. Maybe I'm reading too far into things, or being oversensitive, but I avoid world-issues in my reading. It's so present in my real life that I don't like it to be in the things I choose to let in, and I found it slightly offputting. However, how it is written into the story is done really, really well, and I didn't ever really find myself offended by any of it. I don't know if that's because it's written fantastically or if maybe I agree with some of the things I could find between the lines - but nonetheless, even if I don't necessarily want it there, I appreciate it and how it's done.
The overall story is a bit bland to me. I didn't find much in the photos - some were beautiful, but most didn't make an impression on me or really enhance my reading. I really did want more to the plot, and when Radley does finally go back home...it wasn't very satisfying for me. I don't know what I wanted her to come back to, but what she does...it makes sense. It does. I don't think it could have been written any other way. But I just can't get on board with it, because it's just so sad. I want to hug Radley, and rock her and tell her she'll be ok. And even though she is ok, there's a heaviness that just makes me feel otherwise.
But the ending. I'm not sure I've ever read an ending that is the perfect fitting for the novel. It is shrouded in sadness still and filled with the hope I insist to be there, but with a fantastic threading of love and friendship and rebuilding. There is a continuation off the page, and though I don't know it for certain, what I think it to be is absolutely perfect, too.