Buy 17 & Gone
Special Price: $13.71 (Regular price: $17.99)
Publisher: Dutton Books
Reviewer: Melissa on June 4, 2013
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Seventeen-year-old Lauren has visions of girls who have gone missing. Few common threads link them together other than that they were all seventeen – like Lauren – when they disappeared without a trace. In Nova Ren Suma’s 17 & Gone, Lauren tries to escape these haunting visions to no avail, leading to tough questions: Why did the girls choose to speak to Lauren? Can she help them, and if so, how? And, most importantly, is she cursed to follow in their place? While Lauren desperately searches for the answers to these questions, things begin to unravel in her life, and when an accident lands her in the hospital, the truth will change everything.
Ever since I read the description of 17 & Gone, I knew I had to read it. There is something about the dark, Gothic worlds that Suma creates that have always appealed to my reading sensibilities, but this novel about a girl, who is haunted by missing seventeen-year-old girls, struck a chord with me and my tween and teen years. (I grew up one town away from where Kristen French was abducted, and I still remember the fear that surrounded our community at the time.) Now, having read it, I can honestly say that this novel is a dark, twisty tale that readers won’t be able to turn away from and that Suma is a writer with the unique understanding of the Gothic tradition, literary fiction, and the fear and guilt a young girl feels when someone (or many girls) she knows disappear without a trace.
If I had to choose one word to define this novel, then it would be a toss up between “beautiful” and “layered.” Beautiful because Suma has a way with language that gives this prose novel a poetic feeling. At strategic points throughout the novel, she uses repetition of a single word or parallel sentence structure to draw connections between the content and people mentioned in a specific paragraph. Similarly, there were moments when Suma’s use of alliteration hooks the reader, making them care, even when they’ve just been introduced to the main and secondary characters or the concept of missing girls in general. Because even though this book is about how lost Lauren feels and the specific girls who begin to show themselves and their stories to her, I keep feeling as though this particular situation is, in part, meant to help readers connect with the missing girls and suspected runaways that they hear about or know in real life. To make us consider the same questions that plague Lauren, especially “Why this particular girl?” and “Am I or someone I know vulnerable to becoming lost or missing, too?,” and at the same time, to give us hope that someone will find them before it’s too late.
Perhaps the parallels that this novel presents and makes you ponder are part of the layered effect, but it goes much further than that alone. In 17 & Gone, Walt Whitman’s concept of the “multitudes” he and everyone else contains is in full form through both the structure of the novel as a whole and the characters Suma creates. From the missing posters written at strategic points in the novel to the foreshadowing that Suma builds into the text, there would be a lot going on, even if we just looked at the form of 17 & Gone, but of course, there is more. One of the things I was most amazed by is how well developed Lauren and the many secondary characters of missing girls there are. Readers are not only deeply immersed in the world as Lauren sees it, but also each of the missing girls have very specific back stories and mannerisms, likes and dislikes, giving them characters that are just as identifiable to the reader as a fingerprint would be to the police detective looking for them. And of course, the details aren’t written just as a means of making them unique and important to Lauren, but also they become important plot points later on in the novel. Even the hardcover image plays with the idea of layering by not only presenting the title, author name, and expected image, but also a subtle rendering of the missing poster of Abby Sinclair, the girl who started Lauren’s obsession with missing seventeen-year-old girls. While Suma probably had no say on the cover – as is typical in the book publishing industry – Dutton couldn’t have designed a better and more fitting one for this book.
If 17 & Gone has intrigued you since it was released or if my review has peaked your interest, then please pick up a copy of this beautifully written and fantastically plotted novel. You won’t regret your journey into this poignant and suspenseful world for a second.
Buy 17 & Gone today and save 23% off the regular price!
Buy Mind Gap
Regular price: $9.99
Publisher: Dundurn Press
Reviewer: Melissa on February 1, 2011
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Jake MacRae might be only 14 years old, but that doesn’t mean he’s too young to have his life spin beyond his control.Unfortunately, he doesn’t realize that the choices he makes everyday have a direct effect on the lives of those he loves. Late one night, he is invited to a flash party on the midnight subway via text message. Stepping off the platform, Jake is about to enter his worst nightmare. Can he escape from it before it’s too late or will he be stuck on this train forever? Read Marina Cohen‘s Mind Gap to find out for yourself!
On the one hand, this new novel offers a realistic portrayal of a young teen who has gotten in over his head with gambling, drinking, staying out late, and possibly making a special delivery for a local gang. And on the other, it has proven, once again, that Cohen has mastered the art of creating fast-paced Gothic thrillers for the YA audience. Whether you’ve already read her 2011 Red Maple nominated novel Ghost Ride or are checking out this author for the first time, the results will be the same…you won’t be able to wait until you can get your hands on another one of her other novels.
One of the things that I love about Cohen’s writing, as someone with an English degree and a love of Gothic narratives, is her ability to layer in allusions to other texts and concepts to the narrative structure. She may be writing for teens, but she doesn’t patronize her audience by assuming that they’re analysis of a novel won’t get any further than the main plot. Instead, MindGap implicitly alludes to two well-known holiday classics, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and Frank Capra’s film It’s A Wonderful Life to push the plot forward, and simultaneously, opens up the novel to ask bigger questions of her readers. It forces younger teen readers (and anyone else who happens to pick it up) to consider how their own decisions might influence that of the rest of their family members later in life as well as how they can change the course of their own life.
Like these two seminal works of fiction and film, the realistic narrative is consistently infused with uncanny moments. Often, there are shadowy figures, who come across as a little eccentric or just as easily dismissed as rather harmless. However, as the novel continues, Cohen further develops the significance of some of these characters and their motivations until they take on a more sinister role. Others look like one thing at first, but become increasingly creepy and a little bit frightening with their ghoulish faces. The events and characters might seem familiar to past situations, but are they really? And if they aren’t what doesn’t it mean to Jake and the reader.
If you read Ghost ride, then you’ll have a feeling that the image of the father is of importance to Cohen as a writer. In fact, in that book, the experiences Sam goes through are intimately tied to those of his father. In this novel, Jake’s father is also of pretty great significance for not only the type of teen he has become, but also where he could be heading. It also has allusions to one of the same Gothic principles that figured in her earlier novel — the sins of the father are revisited on the sons — but it is portrayed in a whole new way and even with alternate variations. If the relationship between a father and son is important to you as a reader, then you’ll want to read this book.
I don’t want to give anything away here, so I’ll just say that in this novel….appearances aren’t always as they seem to be. This quick little read might be a read-in-one-sitting novel for you, just as it was for me, but more importantly, you’ll be racing toward the end when you check out this fast-paced and tightly-written novel. Highly recommended for teens, especially boys, and adults who like a creepy little tale!
Buy Mind Gap today!
Special $7.99 (Regular price: $9.99)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Reviewer: Melissa on January 27, 2011
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
What wouldn’t your best friend do for you? Ever since they moved away from her best friend Zoe, Cara has known what it’s like to be a loner. When an embarrassing incident in the cafeteria gives the popular girls some new ammunition, Cara feels like she hit rock bottom. Her life changes over night, however, when she finds Zoe waiting for her at home one day: Zoe gives her a new look and helps build up her confidence, and Cara begins getting invited to parties and getting closer with popular Ethan Gray. When everything she wanted seems within reach, it all begins to unravel. A girl goes missing, Ethan is the prime suspect, and Zoe starts acting strangely. Trusting your best friend goes without saying, but what happens when you realize you don’t even know who she is anymore.
When I first received a copy of Choker by debut author Elizabeth Woods for review, I didn’t know much about it. I’d seen people talking about it on Twitter, but hadn’t investigated any further. At first, even the book jacket and interior design seemed interesting, but I didn’t quite get it. It took awhile for me recognize that the tree branches acting like a border on the front cover actually showed the perspective of someone laying in the grass, looking up through the trees. With the title, it was hard not to connect the image with the perspective of someone who was being choked to death — a thought that put a chill down my spine. When I wrote the What’s In My Mailbox? post in which this book was featured, it received an overwhelming number of “read this book first” votes, and after having read the book completely, I’m glad that I checked it out when I did.
When I was about 40 pages into the book, I was sure I knew where this YA Gothic novel was going. One of the most popular girls at Cara’s school ends up floating in the pool, and I was sure I knew who had helped get her there (if she, indeed, was helped there). No one wants to be able to guess how a thriller is going to turn out when they’re only about 1/5 of the way through the book, but I was so wrong. You’ll want to stick around for the huge plot twist! I started having an inkling that the ending was possible before the big reveal, but the truth of this novel and the characters is much bigger than I could have imagined.
Not only does this debut author have a good understanding of how to build up the suspense and build up a great plot twist, but also she has an amazing mastery of building up the elements of the setting to make them believable. She writes concise, visual descriptions of important scenes, complete with details like, a few bits of red peeling paint on an otherwise unpainted or stained building. Details like these permit the reader to have a clear picture of the events, and if Woods’ only did this, then it would be good. However, Woods is able to bring the world to life in a way that I haven’t seen very often with frequent references to smells of both places and characters. Whether it’s a pleasant scent like fresh air or fallen leaves or less than pleasant odors, like stale underarms, rotting food, or bad breath, the author allows readers to get right into the scene.
While Choker has all the elements of a thrilling suspense and Gothic novel, it also has key features of a chilling contemporary issue book. On the one hand, the image of a doppelganger, or an evil twin, is of key importance to the Gothic narrative. While on the other, at five years old, we’re told that Zoe used to come crying into Cara’s room because of her “horrible stepdad.” I’ll leave you to your own assumptions about what he was doing to her. These images and issues become further complicated the further into the novel you get, and they aren’t all fully resolved. I, for one, don’t think that this lack of resolution speaks against the author’s abilities as a writer. If anything, it makes you keep thinking about the novel late into the night, chilled to your very bones.
Buy Choker today!
Buy The Uninvited
Special $14.15 (Regular price: $16.99)
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Reviewer: Melissa on January 13, 2011
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Mimi Shapiro feels that her life in the Big Apple is crashing down all around her. So when her father presents her with the opportunity to spend her summer at a remote cottage he owns in Canada, she’s thrilled. Some relaxation and the chance to sort out her thoughts is exactly what she requires at the moment. On first glance, the quaint cottage peeks her imagination, and she finds the key exactly where he said it would be. However, she’s shocked by the gruff welcome she receives from Jay – a musician – who has been occupying the space. Imagine who she feels when he accuses her of leaving him some creepy and threatening tokens, including dead birds, since she’d only just arrived. Who is leaving these threatening messages and what do they want with Mimi and Jay?
Sound like the basis for a thoroughly suspenseful and chilling thriller? Tim Wynne-Jones‘ The Uninvited really is a great Gothic thriller set in a remote Canadian town. From the opening moments, Mimi is enchanted by the cottage and the snye (read the book to find out what this is) on which it is built. On the one hand, it brings to mind Snow White and gingerbread houses, but there is something else as well. Somewhere, below this fairytale-like surface, there lurks something a lot more chilling, someone who watches, listens, and leaves messages for both Jay and Mimi. Could what they don’t know hurt them?
Written from the perspective of three 20-somethings — Mimi, Jay, and Cramer — this novel offers a well-rounded view of the events and motivations of each of the main characters and shows what they’re willing to do to get what they want, even if it infringes on the desires and rights of the others. Of course, in addition to Cramer, Mimi, and Jay, there are other creepy characters lurking around the snye and the life that Mimi was running from in NYC hasn’t necessarily stayed put. TheUninvited is a great thriller, but it is also a lot more than that. It’s also a family drama, just not of the tearjerker variety. It’s more of the hold-your-breath and hope-for-the-best type.
I don’t want to give away any spoilers, because in this book in particular, having even a single spoiler might very well ruin the novel for you, and you wouldn’t want that, would you? What I will say, however, is that while some other people have stated that the book is really predictable, I personally didn’t know who was the ultimate baddie in this whole thing until nearly the end, and even then I wasn’t sure until the events played out entirely. Of course, your ability to discern the inner-workings of a plot might be better than mine, so just keep that in mind. For my part, however, this novel was a thrilling, page-turner of a novel, and I can’t wait to check out the author’s upcoming thriller, Blink & Caution, which is set to be released March 2011.
I, for one, hope that you enjoy The Uninvited as much as I did.
Buy The Uninvited today!
Special $10.54 (Regular price: $12.99)
Reviewer: Melissa on November 27, 2010
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
In Deborah Kerbel‘s follow up to Girl On The Other Side, she creates a suspenseful and at times, chilling ghost story aimed at the young adult audience. Max Green feels like nothing is going his way. Not only have his parents uprooted him from his friends in Vancouver to the suburbs of Toronto, but also everyone at his new school treats him like he’s, well, a ghost. Like the author of Lure herself, Max finds himself drawn to the local library, which is rumored to be haunted. While he doesn’t believe in ghosts, he begins to receive some strange messages from someone named John that get him questioning his own beliefs. Who was John? Why is he contacting Max? What does a fishing lure have to do with the mystery? I won’t give away all the answers here, but I can guarantee that Kerbel’s story will lure you along until you’ve pieced together all of the answers yourself. It certainly did for me.
Ghosts stories and any sort of well-put together Gothic tale has always been of great interest to me: whether I was a pre-teen, a teen or now as an adult, I still love a good scare. Some of these tales start with unexpected events that make you jump out of your seat right from the first page, but others, like Lure, begin differently and build up along the way. In the opening moments of this novel, Max very clearly doesn’t believe in ghosts, but he has a crush on slightly older girl who works at the local library, and since she believes in them, he feels the need to hold back his laughter. At first it’s just to win a point or two in her esteem, but as Max’s part of the story unfolds, he begins to smell and see things that couldn’t be there unless a ghost actually was haunting the library. In effect, this story pulls the potentially skeptical reader along until the more chilling aspects of this tale really seem to have a place in the narrative and thus, are more believable.
While I believe that this narrative structure is brilliant, Kerbel makes other important narrative decisions that make the events ring true with readers. First, she uses alternating POVs to narrative this tale in both the present, through Max, and a century before, through John, which helps to give a real life connection between the two times that are colliding in the present. If a reader believes that John was a real boy who lived in the library before it was converted to a house, then they’ll more likely believe that the John of the present could be a spectral presence from the past. Moreover, by making John a real live teen boy, just like Max, readers begin to care what happens to him and want Max to do what he can to help the spirit. Finally, the library of the book is real and many of the ghostly sightings mentioned in the book are based on real life sightings of librarians over the years at the Thornhill Village Library, which, for me at least, made the story all the more spooky. If a ghost story can ever be grounded in reality than this one surely is.
When it comes to positives, Lure certainly has a lot going for it. While it doesn’t have an obvious connection with the ghost story tradition from the beginning, I think that you’ll find some obvious parallels once you’ve read the entire book. Take a chance on this book, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
Buy Lure today!
Whether you’ve already read Erick Setiawan‘s debut novel, Of Bees And Mist, are excited to read it, or are hearing about it for the first time, I want to say one thing – it’s great. Today, I have the great pleasure of having him stop by with a great guest post about the differences in the supernatural as depicted in Eastern and Western mythology, which is fitting because his book is replete with ghosts of the Indonesian kind. I hope that you enjoy reading this post as much as I did.
Do you believe in ghosts? If you were like me, most of the time you’d probably say no, you’d probably even laugh and roll your eyes at the idea. But on some nights, after watching a particularly scary movie or hearing a “true horror story” that happened to somebody who knew somebody who talked to somebody, you’d probably go to bed with the light on, suspecting there is a demonic creature lurking under your bed or in your closet. You would jump at the slightest noise, even wonder if you’d make it to morning in one piece. Where in the name of God is that crucifix? Will a baseball bat work as a substitute? Death at the hand of a supernatural being, after all, is one of the leading causes of death around the world, isn’t it?
So far, I’ve had the privilege of being kept up by just such cheerful thoughts in two different countries. In America, many of these demons seem to have fangs and an insatiable appetite for blood. Some—Freddy Krugar comes to mind—aren’t much of a looker, while others are equipped with killer abs and smiles that could dim the sun. The idea of their eternal youth is irresistible to many, and they are often romanticized more than they should be. I’ve noticed that in America, how the supernatural should look or behave is very much dictated by popular culture. They cannot exist on their own without the internet, fiction writers, or Hollywood. It strikes me as ironic that they should depend on us, mere mortals, to ensure their immortality. This explains why zombies are in one year, leprechauns out the next.
In Indonesia, where I grew up, the ghosts are far more insidious. There is an entire system of traditions and ancient beliefs behind them, centuries of rituals and sacrifices designed to invoke fear and reverence. There are forbidden mountains and unholy rivers where the otherworldly dwell, and people go to worship at these places just as they might in a church or a temple. Black magic is prevlent. If you want to put a curse on that perky girl at school who stole your boyfriend, you can find someone to get this done. If you want to get wealthy fast, you can trade your first-born son for the ability to steel things without getting caught. Even parents are not exempt from enlisting the help of demons in disciplining their kids. It isn’t unheard of for a mother to say to her child, “Don’t play outside after dark or you’ll get kidnapped by a genderwo.” Or, “Michael, I swear to God, a kuntil anak will come get you if you’re not in bed by nine.”
Can you imagine your parents threatening you with Voldemort or the Vampire Lestat?
I spent the first five years of my life in an allegedly haunted house in Jakarta’s former jewelry district. To this day, my mother claims she saw a ghost once in our attic. I don’t recall seeing anything myself there, but i do remember the house as being old, sunless, and full of odd sighs. Across the street, my grandparents lived in a creepy house of their own. One time, my grandmother’s maid was possessed by a demon. I wasn’t allowed to witness the exorcism, but from downstairs, I could hear her screaming and thrashing about in her room. It took a witch doctor hours to expel the invading spirit from her body, and to my grandmother’s dismay, I don’t think the maid was fit to work for the rest of the day. It was serious business, neither romantic nor tongue-in-cheek. Many years later, when I finally saw The Exorcist when it was re-released, the whole thing looked to me like a shoddy rip-off of what that poor maid must have gone through.
Does this mean that I believe in ghosts? Well, I believe enough to write about them in my debut novel, but not entirely. But then again, I don’t have a sixth sense. I don’t see dead people. I don’t get visions whenever I walk into a room where somebody’s been murdered (thank God). That maid could have been faking it for all I know, and the thing my mother saw in the attic might have been my brother playing Casper.
But I can tell you this: I still won’t be reading any ghost stories after midnight.
Thanks so much for taking the time to write this interesting look at the supernatural in it’s Western and Eastern manifestations. Can’t wait to reveal our interview as well.
Ghost stories can be inspired by any number of things from dreams to stories that are currently part of the literary cannon. Every once in awhile, however, a ghost comes to life from the type of stories you usually find on TV shows, like Ghost Hunters or Paranormal State. Did you know that Deborah Kerbel‘s recent release, Lure was inspired by actual ghost sightings at her local library? I invited Deborah to write something about the real events, which happened at 10 Colborne Street in Thornhill Village to share with my readers. Today, I’m happy to get the opportunity to do just that!
Hi Melissa, thanks for inviting me to your blog today to talk about the true events that inspired my new YA novel, Lure. The inspiration to write Lure came over me like an avalanche one day in late August, 2009. On my way home from an errand, I had parked my car outside a little white clapboard house on a side street not far from where I live in Thornhill, Ontario. Three signs on the house immediately caught my attention. The first one was a small plaque designating the building as an historic home. The second one had a name and a date: ‘Mrs. Ellen Ramsden. 1851.’ The third sign read: Thornhill Village Public Library.
I took a second to connect all the dots in my head – this was an old home that was now being used as a library. Cool. But there was something else happening…a feeling like I was being pulled in my a force bigger than I understood. And just like that, I became absolutely certain that this little old building would be the subject of my next novel. The feeling was undeniable. Only problem was, I had absolutely no idea yet what the story was going to be about. Back at my computer, a quick Google search revealed the long documented history of paranormal activity associated with the library. Turns out the building was haunted. Brilliant! My book was going to be a ghost story.
I decided to construct the plot around the long list of real-life ghost sightings that had been reported by library staff and visitors over the past 60 years. The pungent smell of phantom smoke in the stairwell; an apparition of an old lady in a rocking chair, moaning the name ‘John’ over and over again; a little dog bristling and growling at the entrance to the front room of the library as it’s eyes followed something around the room…something no human eyes could see. I made a list of these sightings (along with many more) and set my imagination to work, dreaming up characters and a plot that would connect them all together. Within days, the story of Lure emerged and I started writing.
If you’re in the Toronto area and ever get a chance to visit the Thornhill Village Library, ask one of the staff there to take you on the ‘ghost tour’ and see if you can spot all the different stories that inspired Lure.
Thanks so much for creating this guest post for me and my readers, Deborah! For those of you who had the chance to read more about Lure, I hope you enjoyed this guest post as much as I did. What do you think is the creepiest ghost sighting that Deborah mentions in the post? Let me know in the comments section and maybe both Deborah and Dundurn Press will see your comments, too.
Buy The Night Wanderer
Regular price: $9.99
Publisher: Annick Press
Reviewer: Melissa on October 26, 2010
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Since the market for vampire novels has become so saturated since the Twilight Saga became popular, some readers have become sick of this type of Gothic novel. Others still devour vampire novels like Dracula and his kind sucks the blood of human beings, without satiation. No matter which camp you sit in, Drew Hayden Taylor‘s adept combination of Native literature with the Western tradition of vampire mythology proves that The Night Wanderer is not remotely like the typical vampire story.
Tiffany Hunter is a 16-year-old Native girl, who lives on a quiet reserve called Otter Lake. However, when her father rents out her room to Pierre L’Errant, things start to change for all of them. It’s not that Tiffany, her father or Granny Ruth suspect, who he is – a 350-year-old Native vampire, who has finally returned to Otter Lake after many lifetimes of wandering. Tiffany for one has other things on her mind: her white boyfriend’s behavior, her escalating conflicts with her dad, and her mom’s new life with another guy. When she feels like she can no longer take it though, it’s an odd encounter with Pierre that really changes everything…for both of them.
To say that you’ve never read a vampire novel like TheNightWanderer, unless you’ve read this novel before, is neither an understatement nor at all inaccurate. Most novels about the undead are violent and bloody, and while this one describes some moments from Pierre’s past that could be described in this way, the present is a much different affair. Most vampire stories are about the destruction of communities or the plotting of killing these monstrous creatures, but Taylor’s novel is about strengthening the ties between the elder members of the Native community at Otter Lake and the younger generations. It’s about the importance of the land, linking the present day community to their ancestors’ way of life. And more than anything, it’s about a dead, or rather undead, man and a young, troubled teen trying to bridge the gap between their extremely different lives and experiences.
Of course, there is more to this piece of YA fiction than it’s distinction from the typical vampire novel. Teen readers from outside the Native community will instantly recognize something distinct about Taylor’s use of the English language, something almost philosophical, which touches on issues as diverse as language, racism, and what it means to be Native in the present day. How does Taylor show the distinction between the past and present of Otter Lake? Pierre’s memories of being on this reserve as a youth flow freely in his mind when he returns after 350 years of wandering. The contrast between his memory of the reserve both before and after contact with white settlers to Tiffany’s present day experience helps readers understand both the distinctions and the continuity with the past. Not only does this novel demand respect for the Native community and its culture, but also the quality of Taylor’s writing and characterization deserves this respect and much more.
Walking the fine line between a Gothic novel and coming-of-age story, the author delves into poignant moments in not only the lives of the two main characters, but also offers brief glimpses into the thoughts of other community members. While we expect to see the world through Granny Ruth since she’s integral to the two main characters, Taylor’s novel goes far beyond the narration of this secondary character’s thoughts. Characters that are only mentioned once in the novel, such as an Irish woman flying to Canada and an owl who thinks he should be camouflaged by the night sky, are articulated in stunning immediacy by the author. Rather than the normal complaints, however, when we do here a minor character’s thoughts, it is always in relation to Pierre. Through their thoughts, The Night Wanderer demonstrates the subtle but unmistakable fear that Pierre invokes in others. It is will skilled precision that Taylor presents normal, everyday occurrences with an uncanny flavor that you won’t soon forget.
From one Gothic lover to the thousands of others out there, check out Drew Hayden Taylor’s approach to YA Gothic literature – you won’t be disappointed.
Until Halloween, The Night Wanderer will be available for only $3.29 (regular price $9.99) at KoboBooks.com!
Buy The Replacement
Special $11.99 (Regular price: $17.99)
Publisher: Razor Bill
Reviewer: Melissa on September 22, 2010
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Something is rotten under the town of Gentry, and Mackie Doyle IS one of the few connections between what exists underground and the human beings, who exist in Gentry proper. You see, Mackie Doyle is the replacement, who was left in the crib of the Doyle’s family home sixteen years ago. Unfortunately, now due to his fatal allergies to human blood, iron and consecrated ground, Mackie is slowly dying in the human world. He wishes he could just fit in, but when Tate Stewart’s little sister dies, he’ll be pulled into the darkest and scariest places of the underworld. Read Brenna Yovanoff‘s debut novel, The Replacement to learn whether Mackie belongs in our world or theirs.
When I first heard of and watched TheReplacement‘s book trailer, I had to read it. There was something so deliciously eerie about the imagery with it’s juxtaposition of a mobile made of deadly objects and a old-fashioned baby carriage that I was drawn right into it’s world without a moment’s hesitation. Unfortunately, when I actually got around to cracking the book open I wasn’t quite as enthused as I’d once been. It’s not to say that there aren’t good parts of this book because there are definitely some, but it took longer than I would have liked to get there (at least for me).
Even though I’d read the synopsis, I put it out of mind before I’d actually picked up the book, so I was about a third of the way through before a clear understanding of what the story and it’s world was about. If it was just a complex story, then reading as much as I had might have been required (and understandable). Instead, for me, it took more than a third of the book for me to say anything, but “I want to like it.” I think, in part, my academic experience with the Gothic made me extra critical of it.
I did, however, begin to see more when the tradition of changelings and fairies crystallized fully. Don’t get me wrong, I still wondered why Mackie’s family would actually know him for what he really was and yet continued to protect him from the outside, human world when it seemed like other families neglected those individuals who replaced their children. I also questioned how this somewhat normal and certainly attractive character (otherwise why would Alice Harms be interested in him) could have the appearance he has when by all accounts he began as a nasty creature in the real Malcolm Doyle’s crib. There were plot holes as well, like how was Mackie 16 when another child had just been taken from Gentry and that only happened every 7 years. While some of these answers were cleared up (others aren’t), you may find yourself needing to dig a little further into the narrative to get anywhere concrete.
As the novel continues though it becomes clear that Yovanoff understands the mythology of faeries, changelings and the Gothic tradition. While the dark creatures aren’t what many of us would automatically think of in a faerie story, there are a number of features in the novel that adhere to a Scandinavian interpretation of fae, including the superstition that hanging a pair or iron scissors or a knife on top of the child’s cradle will ensure that he isn’t snatched and replaced with a changeling. I’ve also read that the author drew on Celtic mythology when constructing the two sisters, The Morrigan and Lady. Finally, the novel also draws on the Gothic tradition of the Doppelganger, or the evil twin, who looks like you and often portends death. More than anything, however, I’d say that this novel is one about an outsider trying to find his place in the world.
While it took a bit of searching to get there, I did finally see the big picture. I did finally see how The Replacement connects with the traditional Gothic imagination and realize that the more I think about it, the more I’ve enjoyed it. Nevertheless, since getting into a horror story isn’t usually difficult for me, I can’t give it top marks.
Buy The Replacement today!
Just as local bookstores carry twenty or more copies of certain books, and one copy of others – if you’re lucky enough to find them at all. More often than not, book bloggers read and write about books that are already getting plenty of publicity and media coverage, rather than those that are slightly less present. I’ll admit that I do the same, but once in awhile, I think that we need to give recognition to books that haven’t and aren’t going to make the New York Times Bestseller list. Today, Book Blogger Appreciation Week wants us to recognize books or genres that are under represented, and since I’ve always loved Horror and Gothic novels, I wanted to highlight books should be on the reading lists of everyone who loves this genre too. Take a break from Stephen King or Clive Barker and gives these books a try!
During my university days, I read heavily within 18th and 19th century examples of Gothic literature from both the Classic Gothic period from 1764 to 1812 and those that were written from 1812 till the end of the 19th century with novel. Some of the latter were actually examples of the typical Bildungsroman, but had Gothic elements, while others were monster narratives outright. Today, I want to talk to you about two of my favorite novels from the Classic period as well as contemporary YA Gothic novel that deserves your attention. (However, if there is interest, then maybe I’ll make this a semi-regular post with tons more Gothic novels that you need to read – just let me know!)
Ever wonder where horror novelists got their ideas? Well, I’d say they were all influenced by Horace Walpole either directly or indirectly (when someone they were influence by was influenced by him). This statement might seem like a pretty big leap if you don’t know who he is or what he did, but his novel, The Castle of Otranto gave the English world the word “Gothic” in the first place when he subtitled it, “A Gothic Story.” In my opinion, this little tidbit alone makes it the place horror lovers need to start if they want to explore the roots of their favorite genre. Employing the Gothic theme that the sins of the father will be revisited on the sons, this novel is about a tyrant named Manfred, who tries to combat a prophecy that would see his family deposed from their current residence whenever they became “too large to inhabit it” by forcing his son to marry early and when that doesn’t work out attempting to get a new heir through unsavory means. If you aren’t a big fan of getting scared, then I think it’s pretty safe to say that this book won’t give you nightmares, though Walpole’s friend Thomas Gray said that after reading this book, him and his family were “afraid to go to bed o’ nights.” Our tastes have changed considerably over the years.
While Walpole’s are very one dimensional, the novel that Matthew Lewis wrote 32 years later called, The Monk is a much better thought out experimentation in the Gothic novel. The leading character is a monk named, Ambrosio, who has lived his entire life behind the walls of a monastery and thus has never been tempted my vice. Upon meeting a beautiful member of the congregation, this monk allows himself to be tempted through the influence of another figure to not only break his vows of celibacy, but also to use the most despicable ways imaginable to do so. Gruesome and shocking, this novel is certainly a page turner despite the fact that it was written over 200 years ago.
Finally, as promised, I want to draw your attention back to a novel that I reviewed a few months ago by Marina Cohen. You can check out my full review of Ghost Ride to get a complete look at my thoughts of it. If you have ever enjoyed a creepy ghost story, then I think that you should give this book a try. It’s about a boy who attempts a dangerous stunt with some friends and then starts seeing mysterious things and receiving strange messages. It’s one of the best examples of the Gothic genre that I’ve read in some time and has been known to give more than one adult reader trouble sleeping at night.
Let me know what you think about this post or these books if you’ve read any of them before. I might be able to give other periodic Gothic recommendations to my readers if there is interest!