**spoiler alert** I have to split this review into two sections.
First, I have to say that I actually really enjoyed the premise of the bo...more**spoiler alert** I have to split this review into two sections.
First, I have to say that I actually really enjoyed the premise of the book a lot, once the author bothered to actually GET to the ACTUAL premise. We spend a long time dealing with Janelle and her whining and Ben and his ability to bring her back from the dead, blah blah blah, but once we find out how and why he has that ability, then things finally get interesting.
I've seen a number of other reviews compare this book to the show Fringe, and I can totally see that but the idea of alternate universes is not unique to Fringe. Star Trek is famous for its "Mirror, Mirror" episode (evil!Spock, in the sash, in case you weren't familiar)- this is a standard sci-fi trope.
For the most part, I felt like it was handled pretty well here. There were a few callbacks to Fringe- Elijah's insistence that his father was coming for him made me think of the Walter/Peter storyline for sure. I liked the idea of these young boys playing around with things they didn't understand and getting stuck in another world, desperate to get home and not sure how to do that, exactly.
The abilities they ended up with were just a random side effect, and not something that they were born with or even had to deal with back home- that was a fun twist as well. As a side note, this is another moment where I'm sad that this was a first person book, because I really would have liked to have spent time with the three boys from the other world, to see how they were dealing with their abilities, how they spent their time together, how they spent time in their foster families, etc. Instead, we were stuck with friggin' Janelle and we missed out on all of that. I also would have liked to have seen how they discovered those abilities, how they experimented over time, etc. That's the stuff that I found interesting.
I appreciated, more than I can really express here, that it wasn't a cliffhanger ending and that the story did have an end. I liked how it ended, that it wasn't a "Happily Ever After", mostly because I didn't think Janelle deserved one, but that at least some of the characters got what they were after.
That Janelle rescued Ben in the ocean the moment that he initially crossed over was a bit much for me, although it did have a nice circular element to it. It just felt very clean and a bit too neat, especially when so many other elements in this story had the same clean and neat feel to them, as well. It was nice to know that the reason he was there to save her was because he created the wormhole that brought the truck through in the first place- it was his fault.
I liked the science, although WOW, was there a giant info dump there at the end. The sci-fi element of this was not paced very well at all. It was almost as if the author didn't decide that she wanted to make it a sci-fi novel until about 60% into the book and THEN we get everything all at once, in giant chunks. It's like the romance and the sci-fi couldn't be mixed in together smoothly, it ends up like a tub of Neapolitan ice cream- a slice of vanilla, a slice of chocolate, a slice of strawberry, touching but not swirled.
I wish there had been more about the IA and that part of the story, but again, I think that was a side effect of it being a first person story. Janelle didn't get that info, so we didn't get that info. This had a lot of potential as a sci-fi story had it been in third person, with the possibility of multiple person perspectives.
I'll get to Janelle momentarily, but I wanted to touch on the investigation a bit here and my problems with how it was presented. We're told (and boy, how we're told A LOT) that we've got this brilliant girl. She's a math genius, she's got a photographic memory (that is forgotten about by the author almost immediately), yadda, yadda, yadda. And yet she misses so many clues.
When the boys tell her their story, Janelle never figures out that it was what they drank that protected them when they went through the portal- you'd think someone as smart as she's purported to be would have figured that out.
Over and over and over again she assumes things about clues she's given, things she sees/reads/etc.. She makes a list of what chlorine does without doing ANY actual research, either on the internet or with a book, assuming that her personal knowledge would be sufficient. She's the worst kind of investigator- the kind that fails to actually RESEARCH before drawing conclusions that she acts upon, and people end up dead because of it. Horrible.
Janelle is horrid. She's a horrible person and a horrible character. We're told many things about her, how wonderful she is, how smart, how brave, how strong she is, and yet when she acts, we can only see how selfish she is, how unable she is to see past appearances, how easily fooled she is by the surface of people.
I think I would have preferred if this book would have been in third person, if only to give some distance to Janelle. If I didn't know what she was thinking, I might have been able to convince myself that she was a better person than she came across as on the page.
Janelle seems incapable of making good choices. She makes a big deal about reading through her father's files, about working cases, but while she might have the facts, she doesn't have the experience to deal with them appropriately. She knows there is a LITERAL ticking clock and yet she goes out on dates instead of sharing information with her father. She wastes days dithering over boys and "romance" instead of trying to help her father save the world.
Janelle knows early on that the stakes are very high and yet she wastes time and lots of it. And from a storytelling perspective, solving the case with days left on the clock isn't nearly as interesting as waiting until there is less than a day on the clock, so setting the clock with so many days on it means that there should be much time to waste for a romance.
But if you approach this plot with any kind of realism, Janelle's behavior is atrocious- how many lives hang in the balance and she's risking it all for puppy love? Really? And she's always ABOUT to tell her father, or Struz, what's going on, maybe, but something IMPORTANT comes up, and she just doesn't get the chance… but why worry, I mean, there's still time, right? I mean, what's a few days in the grand scheme of things, right?
I wanted to feel sorry for her, because of her mother's issues and her father's work schedule but I never quite could work up enough give a shit to really care that much.
I wanted nothing more than for Ben to get back home to his family and was very upset at the prospect that he might, in fact decide to stay with Janelle at the end of the book. That is never a good sign, when you are upset at the idea that the two leads of the book might actually end up together. He's too good for her, and I hope that he finds someone else more worthy of him as a person in the other universe.
You can tell me all you want that a character is a thing- strong, brave, smart- but you have to SHOW me that they are that thing and I never saw Janelle really be any of those things. I saw her be selfish and smug, judgmental and hypocritical- all of those things more than anything else, to the point that even when she did exhibit any positive behaviors, it was still, at least to me, off-putting.
We're given numerous examples of what I assume are supposed to be reasons why she's the way she is, things that have shaped her, and for other characters I think I might have felt sympathy and in fact, HAVE felt sympathy. Veronica Mars is a great example and it's pretty clear that the author is trying to mold Janelle after Veronica. But there is something in Veronica that draws my empathy that Janelle doesn't seem to have and never is able to achieve. Veronica I always wanted to give a hug, Janelle I just wanted to punch in the face.
I found the storytelling to be inconsistent (she has a photographic memory and then she doesn't- the author apparently forgot about that part) and the character work to be shaky. The plot was fun, but every time the urgency of the plot would start to get rolling, it would get derailed by the stupid romance. I was glad to see Ben go, because he was far, far too good for Janelle, and he deserved to get back to his family. I would enjoy reading more in this universe, but only if it had NOTHING to do with Janelle, at all. (less)
I liked this one much better than the first, and I think that's because Katniss is much more tolerable as a character in this book. I couldn't stand h...moreI liked this one much better than the first, and I think that's because Katniss is much more tolerable as a character in this book. I couldn't stand her in the first book. I wish that the POV wasn't hers, to be honest. People argue that it needs to be, but after watching the movie, I think it would have been a much more effective book had it offered more POVs than just Katniss.
Loving Peeta, find Gale to be totally cardboard (he reminds me SO MUCH of Riley from Buffy!), can't wait to see who they cast as Finnick in the movie.
I hate that once again, she ended on a cliffhanger, without any real resolution. Yes, this is the Empire Strikes Back of the Hunger Games universe but I don't like it. Maybe after I've finished Mockingjay I can look back and feel better about the whole thing.
I read this book in four hours. I guess I liked it. ;)
Some of the stories were pretty great and creepy, some of the others were a bit on the weak side. I was glad that we finally got an explanation for wh...moreSome of the stories were pretty great and creepy, some of the others were a bit on the weak side. I was glad that we finally got an explanation for what was going on at the Uncle's house but it didn't have the impact that I was hoping for.
Yes, this is a YA book and it did feel aimed at slightly younger YA readers but some of the stories were pretty dark so I was expectant a bit more for the grand finale.
Still, it was an enjoyable read and one that I had, at times, trouble setting aside. Would rec. to anyone starting out with horror stories.(less)
**spoiler alert** I read this book recently while working with a tutoring student. She picked up the book, she said, because she was told someone died...more**spoiler alert** I read this book recently while working with a tutoring student. She picked up the book, she said, because she was told someone died in it. A bit morbid but it got her reading.
I think this book is a conversation starter. The story ends before the real consequences of Joel and Tony's actions can be felt. Yes, we know that Tony is dead but there is no body yet. We don't know if the teenagers that tried to help find Tony have made reports of their own to the police. We haven't seen Joel have to face his peers after this event.
The question that was on my mind was really about what does Joel do now? He was a part of an event that was the result of two people making bad choices. One of those individuals is now dead, the other left behind to face the music by himself. What is that like? What will that look like for Joel?
I wondered, after the book was finished, how Joel turned out as an adult.
I think that's a great testament to this novel- I've thought about it after I was done reading. It left an impression on me and told me a tragic story that I could see actually happening in the small town where I was raised.
There were a few moments where the writing and the language choices felt very blunt, which makes sense for a YA novel and yet I've read other books that were a lot more florid in their prose and a lot more subtle with their point and yet were still powerful and moving books.
This felt very much like an After School Special without the moralizing that those movies often had. It felt like that lesson was still in Joel's future.
The ending was very sad to me and yet hopeful that this boy who was so worried about losing his father's love was shown that his father still loved him, despite his bad choices. (less)
**spoiler alert** On the one hand, I liked the two main characters. I felt that Shelby started out the story lost in her life. Things had not gone wel...more**spoiler alert** On the one hand, I liked the two main characters. I felt that Shelby started out the story lost in her life. Things had not gone well for her and she found herself getting into trouble as she made choices that started with good, if not well thought out, intentions but turned into trouble.
She gets sent to a "Brat Camp" for the summer to help her "shape up." She is not happy about this decision, especially because her step-mother, whom she does not care for, seems to be pushing the decision.
What we see in her as the story starts is that she wants to take care of people- protect them. She's genuinely upset when Charles, Mr. Winters and then Austin disappear into the woods and it seems as though they are going to be left there when the replacement bus arrives. Her impulse to follow them into the woods because she has some knowledge and wants to help is a real thing- a true part of who Shelby is. She's not trying to be anyone else at that moment and we get to see who she is.
I liked that she was active- she made choices, even if they weren't the best. She was not constantly reacting to actions happening TO her.
I was frustrated with her choice to not voice her real feelings to her father. She never tried to get him alone, tried to sit down and talk about where her life was. On the one hand, I understand that many young adults don't feel that they can communicate with their parents in that way but watching her try to fight parental controls without ever really expressing why was frustrating.
Austin was a pretty great character. He was what I wish Edward Cullen could have been. I like that he's not hundreds of years old, that he knows and understands who and what he is, and that he does have a family where he belongs.
His issues with his father felt big, in the sense that to be disconnected from your remaining parent must be like, but it was a normal type of issue that any kid could relate to.
I like that he was a good person and he let it show. Helping Ariel when she was freaking out on the rock climbing wall was a pretty great scene and if I didn't already like the character, that would have sealed the deal for me.
There were wolf stuff seemed a bit tacked on- he needed to be supernatural and the vampire thing is just so over done- but really, I'm glad it wasn't the focus of ever interaction that they had. I liked that Shelby was skeptical but was willing to believe when she was able to see it with her own eyes.
However, there were some plot problems that keep me from truly loving this book. There are a ton of plot lines that are left hanging and not even in a good, "to be continued" way.
The scratch on her arm at the end with puncture wounds- are we to assume that he bit her? That she was bitten by someone/something else? It felt out of place and tacked on that late in the book. That there was no real hook to make me think that there is going to be another book only made it worse. It felt unfinished.
I didn't like the lack of resolution regarding her parents. There was interesting set up with the phone call from the office, esp. with how happy Pricilla sounded when she heard that it was Shelby. Also, the letter to Shelby's father- all we get is a postcard that says they'll talk?
What it really boils down to is this feels like the first half of a much longer book. My guess is that it is a longer book that was split into smaller sections to be sold over a longer period of time. Do they think that young adult (esp. young adult women) won't read a longer book? Twilight (ugh) is proof positive that they will not only buy the long books but they will DEVOUR them.
My guess is that this a profit issue- they knew they had a pretty good book on their hands with characters that a reader could really connect with but they wanted to get the most bang for their buck. The fact that the book retails at $14.99 for just over 200 pages seems like overkill.
I will read the next book- I do want to know if she's going to become a werewolf or something else. I want to see Austin and Shelby on an adventure together, out in the real world. I liked them both as characters and would love to spend more time with them. I just wish it had been in THIS book instead of additional volumes.
To sum up: Loved the characters. Great story set-ups but the payoffs felt rushed. Wish there had been more here. (less)
On the one hand, I liked looking back at Spencer's life when he was a kid. His father and uncles were really gr...moreI'm pretty disappointed with this book.
On the one hand, I liked looking back at Spencer's life when he was a kid. His father and uncles were really great and made complete sense, in terms of who they were based on who Spencer came to be.
However, I felt that the story itself was somewhat lacking. I didn’t like the bumpers with Spencer and Susan. I didn’t like the picking apart of Spencer's motives and the psychobabble nature of Susan's comments felt trite to me.
What I really wished the book would have been was a complete dive into Spencer's life with a bit more of an adult take on the story. We know that Parker can write a tense story of a man in the woods being hunted- what would that have been like with Spencer as a boy? We know that Parker (and Spencer) deals with kids pretty well- look at Paul and his relationship with Spencer.
I was hoping for something along those lines but did not get it.
I felt that the incident with the Mexican boy in Spencer's class felt tacked on and not structured in such a way to be really believable.
I recently read Parker's "The Boxer and the Spy" and found that his take in that book on high school politics and teenage behavior to be much more believable and entertaining.
I have loved the Spencer character for a very long time and have always felt that if Parker was going to touch on Spencer's past and really dig into it, that I wanted a thick novel, a mystery of some kind and Spencer being Spencer. That idea is not this novel.
**spoiler alert** I really liked this book. A lot. My only issue (and the reason for 4 stars instead of 5) is that I didn't feel that the house situat...more**spoiler alert** I really liked this book. A lot. My only issue (and the reason for 4 stars instead of 5) is that I didn't feel that the house situation was resolved well enough for me as a reader. Yes, I understand that from the perspective of the protagonist, he may never have that information. But as a reader, I really wanted to know how many houses, how did they think they were going to get away with it, how many had they sold, etc.
I loved Terry and Abby. LOVED THEM. I felt that their conversations and their dialogue had a very real feel to them. They weren't on the nose about anything, really, and I could believe them as kids. They were smart, they were more grown up then most adults give kids that age credit for and yet, they WEREN'T adults.
The choices that they made were incredible. I liked that Terry got involved because he just didn't believe that Jason would kill himself. So he starts asking questions and as he runs into more and more road blocks, he becomes more and more determined. He wasn't a kid who had dreams of being a detective. He didn't pretend to be a cop. He is simply a kid who needs to find the answers, including what it means to be a man and an adult.
Abby was great. She feels the same way re: Jason's death and offers up what she could- a network of people who were willing to help, for whatever reason. I felt that she and Terry were a good team and I can see them together in the future, even as they mature even more in adulthood.
The very gentle love story aspect really rang true for me. The balance of physical needs and wants with the understanding that the emotional may be more important- that was fantastic.
I felt that the villains were actually scary in a very real sense. There was a sense of danger, that there wasn't anything that could really protect these kids if Mr. Ballard really wanted them dead- even if they weren't fully aware of the real danger, the reader WAS.
I liked George. He had a touch of the "Magical Negro" character to him but I felt that he was actually sketched out a bit more than, say, Bagger Vance. He had some really great lessons that Terry needed to learn and it didn't feel a preachy as it could have.
The drug information did feel a bit info dumpy, although that made sense in the context of the scenes that it was presented in.
This did feel a bit "Spencer Lite" but that was okay. I really love Spencer as a character and the idea of exploring a character with similar belief systems who is following a similar path but BEFORE he gets to the point in his life like where we met Spencer- that's really intriguing.
I love Parker's style. I think he has such a way with dialogue, with people and with story that I'll pick up any book that he wants to write. There are flaws here- it's not perfect- but it's a fun, fast read that does have depth and heart. I'd love to read more about Terry and Abby. (less)
**spoiler alert** I liked Shiver a lot. I thought that the mythology behind the wolves was very well done and an interesting twist.
There was a sparse...more**spoiler alert** I liked Shiver a lot. I thought that the mythology behind the wolves was very well done and an interesting twist.
There was a sparseness to the writing that made it feel like it was cold and wintery. It felt lonely and bleak, like the harsh winters of Minnesota.
There were a number of what I felt were plot holes. My assumption is this- the story is written for young adults who have an idea (a fairy tale ideal?) of what young love could be or should be and the pesky rules and real world just get in the way. By removing some of the authority that should be in the lives of all of these teenagers, the author is able to let her teenagers run wild (literally) and the story can unfold as the author likes.
Where did the Culpepers' go? I have a hard time believing that Sam could be in the house for all that time and Grace's parents didn't notice. Sure, there were a few places in the story where the author made a point to show us how careful Sam and Grace were to not get caught and yet there were other times where that carefulness seemed to go by the wayside.
The extremely close third person POV was at times nice but at others, very limiting. We didn't get a lot of time with Olivia or Jack or Isabel and it would have been a much richer story if we had been able to see things from their perspective as well.
Don't get me wrong- I liked this book a lot. I liked Sam and I liked Grace. Despite other reviewers, I did not see her at all like Bella from Twilight. Grace had something about her that felt real to me. She was proactive- her entire life was not about things happening to her but Grace was able to make decisions and create change for herself.
The fact that Grace has some abilities but not all of them is interesting and I'm wondering if Sam will be the same way in the second book. The idea of fever burning out the "disease" so that you were different but you wouldn't change works for me- adds some science to the fantasy of the whole thing. I liked that the author didn't pick a side- it could be science, it could be magic but what is magic but science that we don't understand yet.
Sam made me think of Ryan from the OC with a bit of Seth thrown in, in the looks department. Quiet soul, deep spirit, smart guy but caught in a bad situation. I wanted Grace and Sam to be together but I'm not sure if it was because of their personalities or if it was their "tragic" love story.
I found myself liking Isabel, event though I didn't really want to. Not enough Rachel to have an opinion on her- she felt like a character put in the story to be the subject of a sequel, which I guess is fine but I wish that she would have had more story time. I mean, there were a few lines about Grace and Isabel going over to Rachel's to bake cookies- why didn't we see any of that? If I were Rachel, I would have thought that was weird, esp. since grace wasn't friends with Isabel before hand.
And Shelby- she tries to kill Grace and fails, gets hurt but survives and then…. Nothing? Where did she go? Why did she stop trying? She didn’t seem to be the kind of creature that thought about it logically- Sam would turn eventually and Shelby would have him again to try to make him hers. So why did she just give up?
Lots of questions that you could bring up about this story but none of them were deal breakers for me. The story was beautifully written, sexy and sweet and gentle, despite the violence inherent in the story. I did feel like there could be a true love there, between Grace and Sam, the various clues about how often they watched each other made it seem more plausible. I did think that it was a bit uneven, in that Sam knew so much about Grace and she knew so little about Sam but that's not a major quibble.
I was totally taken in by the ending. I loved it and was so sad to read that the sequel isn't coming out until next year. GAH! (less)