The Cover: It's gorgeous. I love the yellow background, which is quite unusual, and the sepia toning used for the photo of Daire. The way her hair evo...moreThe Cover: It's gorgeous. I love the yellow background, which is quite unusual, and the sepia toning used for the photo of Daire. The way her hair evolves into the flock of ravens is graphically attractive and a great hint at the novel's content. I'm loving the font, as well.
The Protagonist: I liked Daire, even if I have no idea how to pronounce her name. (Then again, this is the same for most of the characters in Fated. What is it about paranormal YA and names I've never heard of?) I think that Noël did a good job of giving reason for Daire's independence and flexibility. Most teenagers would be completely thrown by the revelations that Daire has to quickly take on board, but her background travelling the world means that she is used to change and instability. I also appreciate the fact that Daire is the character whose powers form the focus of Fated. So often with paranormal romance, it's all about the boy being special, and it's always nice to have a protagonist who is powerful in her own right.
The Antagonist: I get the impression that we'll be seeing a lot more of Cade in further novels. In Fated, he's a little two dimensional. We know he's dangerous, because everyone tells Daire that he is, but we don't really see much of his power. I did, however, appreciate that there was no hint of a love triangle involving Cade and his twin, Dace – at least from Daire's point of view.
The Love Interest: Fated falls into the instalove category of paranormals, unfortunately. Daire and Dace's attraction is fated before they even meet, and so there is no slow build-up to romance in the novel, or even to friendship. Dace himself is a likeable character, however, and I think he'll be a big hit with young readers. There's a slight Jacob Black feel to him, with his Native American heritage and long black hair, which I'm sure will go down well! I appreciate the fact that he's nothing but kind to Daire and her loved ones – no creepy YA boyfriend syndrome here. In this first novel, his and Daire's connection is largely physical, which meant that I found it a little wanting in the depth department. I did, however, appreciate the fact that there was no moral judgement attached to Daire's sexual urges.
The Supporting Cast: I enjoyed Paloma, but my favourite minor character was definitely Chay. I'd love to see more discussion of their relationship in future novels. Xotichl was likeable, although I don't understand including a character name that you know people won't be able to pronounce, and I was intrigued by Lita. I think Jennika, Daire's mother, would have bothered me more if I didn't know her backstory and a little about the place she comes from with her decisions, but as it was, I actually thought she was a well-crafted character.
The Plot: Fated is the first book in a series, which means that there is a lot of setting up to be found in the first couple of hundred pages. I've read other reviews from people who haven't been able to make it past this section of the book to the action, and I can understand why. It felt like there was an awful lot of waiting around before things actually started to happen. That said, Noël has come up with an interesting concept, and it will be interesting to see where she goes with it. By the end of the novel, the reader is still left with a lot of questions about what Daire is and how she will have to use her new-found powers. When it comes to a series, I think it's generally unfair to judge the first book too harshly for having a slow start, because all of that exposition has to happen somewhere. I did find myself wishing, however, that there had been a little more of a pay off for the long introduction when the meat of the story finally began.
The Writing: Noël's writing style was actually the thing I struggled most with while reading Fated. She uses sentence fragments. A lot of fragments. Building on previous sentences. Adding information. Rarely using grammar as it was intended.
See what I did there? Look, I'm a big fan of learning the rules of grammar and then using this knowledge to break the rules here and there in order to add interest to your writing. I think there comes a point, though, where this kind of thing can become distracting and, with Fated, I was constantly pulled out of the story by the lack of proper sentence structure. I enjoy an occasional sentence fragment, and use them for pacing and emphasis myself. When it reaches the point, however, where a half-page paragraph consists of one initial sentence followed solely by fragments, it just doesn't work for me. Others may well consider it stylistically brilliant.
The Verdict: Fated is sure to find its place in the current YA paranormal market. I think there's still a large demand for this kind of story and, while there is nothing very new about Fated, it is this that is likely to ensure it becomes a hit with its intended demographic. I personally struggled with Noël's writing style and a plot that failed to ignite a spark of excitement in me, but I believe that Fated will do well and will amass many fans – not all of whom will be in it solely for Dace!
With Never Have I Ever, her second instalment in her The Lying Game series, Sara Shepard keeps the positives of the first book and cuts many of the ne...moreWith Never Have I Ever, her second instalment in her The Lying Game series, Sara Shepard keeps the positives of the first book and cuts many of the negatives, leaving us with a better book overall. While I enjoyed The Lying Game, its sequel really drew me in and I think I'd now have to call myself a fan of the series.
All of the characters from the first book return for the second, but the big difference here is that the Twitter Twins, Lili and Gabby, play a much bigger role. Initially very annoying, they slowly become more likeable as the novel progresses, much as Laurel and Madeline continue to develop and become more-rounded characters. (Charlotte, in contrast, seems to slip into the background.) Most of all, however, Sutton seems to come into her own in Never Have I Ever. With the back-story out of the way, her strong voice is able to take over, so we find her cheering Emma on and groaning at her mistakes and truly feeling like a real character. Although it's interesting to see Emma becoming a little more like her twin as the series progresses, it's Sutton who seems to have the most room for character growth.
Once again, the mystery is at the forefront of the novel, and much of the plot is concerned with the identification of new suspects, along with a few new threatening situations that Emma finds herself in. While there's certainly a formula to these books, that doesn't mean that it isn't fun to watch it play out, even if we do work out the truth long before Emma and Sutton do! Shepard manages to keep the suspense high throughout the novel, which makes this a page turner and a surprisingly quick read.
My only real criticism of Never Have I Ever is that there were a couple of inconsistencies with the continuity. For instance, Emma uses Sutton's iPhone at a point where it was still confiscated by her parents and, towards the end of the book, Sutton looks at Emma despite earlier stating that she can only see the world through Emma's eyes. While such mistakes tend to draw the reader out of the action temporarily, however, they don't detract from one's overall enjoyment of the book.
Never Have I Ever was a lot of fun and its mystery well and truly has me hooked by this point. I'm definitely looking forward to reading Two Truths and a Lie.
The Lying Game has an extremely interesting premise, in that it's narrated by a dead girl who is watching the action through the eyes of the identical...moreThe Lying Game has an extremely interesting premise, in that it's narrated by a dead girl who is watching the action through the eyes of the identical twin sister that she hadn't known existed. Therefore, while it is essentially told in the first person, it usually reads like a third person perspective, with the ghostly Sutton relating Emma's experiences as she tries to fit into Sutton's life and work out what has happened to her sister. It sounds a little confusing when described and it took me a while to adapt to the concept but, once I did, I found it a very clever take on the whodunnit format.
The plot of the novel is very engaging, and I quickly found myself guessing at who might turn out to be Sutton's murderer. I found Sara Shepard's mystery writing to be quite reminiscent of Agatha Christie, in that she is very good at ensuring that there are numerous suspects, all with very good reason to want Sutton out of their lives. I certainly have my own strong suspicions about the murderer, but I will most likely be proven wrong!
While Emma is a likeable character, the twin she is pretending to be is very much not, which is one of the most interesting things about The Lying Game. Ghost!Sutton has very little memory of her life, meaning that she discovers just how unpleasant she was at the same time as Emma and the novel's readers do. I think this helps the character to be a lot more sympathetic than she otherwise would be, which is important in a book that is populated largely by people who aren't very nice.
There are a few things that aren't very believable here – like Emma being able to bluff her way as a tennis captain despite only having played the sport on a Wii – but it's not so bad that it detracts from the plot. And it's the mystery here that's the book's biggest strength. In the end, the characters and Emma's charade are secondary to the question of who killed Sutton. Unfortunately, the answer to that question is not revealed in this first book of the Lying Game series. Indeed, The Lying Game does not exist very well as a stand-alone novel, lacking as it is in any real conclusions. Luckily, the story is interesting enough that I'm happy to read on to get the answers I need.