by Sarah Rees Brennan
For as long as she can remember, Kami Glass has known and conversed with a boy named Jared-- but he's only been a voice in her head. This has made her an outsider in the sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale, but she has learned ways to turn that to her advantage. Her life seems to be in order, until disturbing events begin to occur. There has been screaming in the woods and the manor overlooking the town has lit up for the first time in 10 years. . . . The Lynburn family, who ruled the town a generation ago and who all left without warning, have returned. Now Kami can see that the town she has known and loved all her life is hiding a multitude of secrets—and a murderer. The key to it all just might be the boy in her head. The boy she thought was imaginary is real, and definitely and deliciously dangerous.
First-- Again, I've felt it necessary to modify the publisher's blurb, because it gave away too much in the very first words. (Not that the reader doesn't know it right away, anyway, but still! Good grief, blurb-writers! Exercise a little self-restraint!)
Good news: I found the story entertaining and am looking forward to reading the second book in the trilogy.
Bad news: This book definitely has one of those "setting up for the next book"/"Warning: Cliff(hanger)s ahead" endings. If you're at all interested in the story, you'll want to read the next book right away-- and that's not always possible. Such as, for instance, when the second book hasn't been published yet. As luck would have it, I happened to time this reading so that I don't have too terribly long of a wait for Untold, the sequel. But it makes me wonder if that one will have just as much of a cliffhanger ending-- and how long I'll have to wait for the third book in the trilogy (Unbroken, I think...) to come out. In the meantime, there are two prequel short stories to read. I'll probably read them while the story is still fresh in my mind.
Random Specific Thoughts (Possibly of a SPOILERy Nature):
-- The bit about "Ring Around the Rosy" being "a happy children's rhyme about the plague"... I thought that theory had been discredited. (But maybe not? Ah, who knows anything for sure?!)
-- Some of Jared and Kami's exchanges are legitimately funny, but at other times, they seem to find each other much more amusing than I do, at least. Like when Jared tells Kami, while she's kissing Ash, that Ash wet the bed until he was five-- and it's so thigh-slappin' high-larious that she splutters out a laugh. ...Maybe you had to be there? Maybe it's a teen thing? ...Or a not-me thing?
-- By my standards, this was not a scary book, though it does have a fair amount of violence and disturbing images-- which is why I wouldn't suggest it for the youngest readers, even if it is YA-- but there were a couple of creepy moments, such as the bit with the hyakume-- "creature with a hundred eyes".
-- Toward the end of the book, something odd seemed to happen to the passage of time. I couldn't get a good fix on what time it was supposed to be. At first, I thought it was late night... but then it seemed to be early morning/dawn in very short order... and then what could only have been a couple of hours later (if that), there was something about dust motes shining "in the red light of the sinking sun"...
-- It's only natural-- because parents/authority figures prevent the young main characters from taking risks, and who wants to read about going to class, doing homework, babysitting, etc.?-- but it's funny how characters in these types of books and movies and TV shows never seem to have any normal, real life obligations. Well, maybe a little in the beginning. But by the end, nope. And the parents, who are so concerned earlier in the book, are magically out of the picture by the end. No frantic phone calls when she doesn't come home. No going from door to door in search of a missing child. I guess we're supposed to assume that they're distracted by something else... or that a plausible excuse (such as the classic sleepover at the best friend's house) has been supplied.
-- This was written by one of the co-authors of Team Human, and there are some similarities between the two. Both heroines are "sassy", no-nonsense kinds of girls-- though I liked Kami better than Mel. Also, both heroines are of Asian descent (Chinese heritage for one, Japanese for the other). And third, in both books, there is a secondary character who is eventually revealed to be "LGBT". Which... is clearly done "on purpose", as a show of support. It's just-- personal opinions and religious beliefs as much aside as possible-- the recent sudden proliferation of LGBT characters in media (fiction, TV shows, movies) is so disproportionate to their actual statistical representation in "real life" that it's... well, silly. (It feels almost "trendy".) It feels like if you don't have a gay character in your YA novel, you'll be thought somehow backward and possibly even morally suspect.
-- Angela's interest in Holly is obvious so early-on that it seems strange that Kami doesn't notice. Yes, we sometimes think we know those we're closest to so well that we can be blinded by what we "know", but...
-- In the afterword/acknowledgments/whatever, the author thanked someone for coining the term "Sassy Gothic". That does seem like a good descriptor for this genre.
-- From the same "note from the author": "Thank you to all the Gothics I now love-- among others, all three Brontë sisters, Daphne du Maurier, Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Stewart, Barbara Michaels, Victoria Holt, Madeleine Brent, and Jennifer Cruise." A few new names to investigate! (The last three, to be exact, since I just finished making the acquaintance of Mary Stewart.)