This review contains photos of mentioned locations as a gift to international readers.
My review is split in to five sections: Writing, Plot, Worldbuil...moreThis review contains photos of mentioned locations as a gift to international readers.
My review is split in to five sections: Writing, Plot, Worldbuilding, Characters, and X-Factor. Each section comprises of either half or one star, except X-Factor which can utilise two whole stars.
I’ve read some other reviews of this book, and like my friend Shirley Marr, I agree this book should probably be rated in two separate halves . The first half is pretty damned awesome: Tessa has amnesia, and the things she does remember suggests she’s from another time. The second half is much less awesome, where Tessa finally figures out what she is and embraces her true nature.
Writing 1 The writing in this is pretty good. It’s second person point of view, for the most part, although because it’s Tessa writing down her story the second often drifts away into first person. It’s not technically, purely second person because of this. It’s more like first person with references to a second person. I also really enjoyed Tessa’s ‘awakening’, I suppose. Her re-learning little things that she’s forgotten such as OMG WAFFLES ARE AMAZEBALLS. That was fun. Overall the writing was clean and elegant, with recurring motifs such as I am Tessa. I am brave. I do not cry. It’s a powerful message that recurs in the book as Tessa tries to gather her lost memories.
Editing errors: Call me pedantic, call me what you will, I really don’t give a flying. This is a book about my city with local characters written by a semi-local. I don’t know Gordon’s background, only that she grew up on the north-west coast and now lives on the east coast, but if she went to university she probably – like the majority of Tasmanians who stay in the state of a tertiary education – went to the south for her further education. There aren’t really many reasons why these errors should be in the book. The only reason I can think is that it was either changed to appeal to an American audience, or the editor made some changes that Gordon missed because I can’t imagine a local referring to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens as the ‘botanic gardens’.
See? It says it right there in the name, and I have never ever heard of them referred to as simply ‘botanic’. I may be obsessing over a tiny little ‘al’ but really, locals would never make that mistake.
The other error is one of the other students calling Scottsdale High School ‘Scottsdale Public’ like an American school. That’s not how we refer to our schools. This grated on me as well, as if it was trying to appeal to an American audience but the book’s not even for sale in America, so I couldn’t figure out WHY.
The final error is one of the students referring to her education achievement certificate as a ‘diploma’. In Tasmania, you don’t get diplomas at high school, you get them at University (they’re less intense than degrees). We get a Tasmanian Certificate of Education at the completion of college (two seniors years before university) and a Higher School Certificate at the completion of high school, which is four years previous to the college years. A diploma is a foreign concept. It shouldn’t be in this book.
The magical hat incident: Page 116:
“I pulled the hat out now and pushed it roughly on to my head, then strode towards the door.”
“I reached in my bag and pulled out Laurel’s woollen beanie, the beanie I never got to wear.”
I don’t even need to make a comment about that.
Plot .5 First half 1 Second half 0 The plot was decent and quite strong in the first half of the book. It followed the mystery of Tessa trying to figure out who she is and remember things after her ‘incident’ – her being found in the bush, unconscious, dirty, with hair in rat’s tails and mysterious stripey scars on her back.
In the second half, once Tessa figured out her secret (LONG after I had) I didn’t enjoy the story very much. Tessa turns into another character, not like the amnesia girl at all. She blurts her secret to her friend, whom she thinks might be an enemy, but does it anyway because she thinks her friend-maybe-enemy is ‘different’, like her. I didn’t like Tessa’s incessant need to eavesdrop info-dumping sessions and then not be able to put one and one together. I didn’t really like how her random memories would pop into her head and play back like a film, taking over her whole life at that point in time, because that’s not how memories actually work. Then the end was all kinds of cliffhangery which I didn’t like. I didn’t feel satisfied about the conclusion.
The blurb promised more of a mystery to do with Cat as well, which totally didn’t happen.
Worldbuilding 1 I loved the worldbuilding. It almost made perfect sense. Of course the Diemens would follow convict women halfway across the globe to a small town hardly anyone has heard of. The world was injected with enough real-life landmarks to make it almost believable. I didn’t like the idea of an all-girls’ school built next to the brewery, but I liked the idea of the school. I quite liked Tessa’s backstory, just not how it was revealed.
Characters .5 Overall, I generally liked Tessa, even when she exhibited very typical YA heroine empty-headed ‘sense’. She was curious, and although I think her actions pushed by patience I understand the need for her to react the way she did. The story needed conflict, and that was the best way to inject it. It doesn’t endear me to Tessa, but it does push the story along.
And also… Tessa does cry. On more than one occasion, tears come to her eyes. She just pushes it away. She’s not an unfeeling robot who never has tears come to her eyes. So the whole ‘I am Tessa, I am brave, I do not cry’ was weird. All the same, I liked the way Tessa was built and for the most part I enjoyed reading about her.
X Factor 0 This book should be getting at least one star for X Factor because it’s set in my home state with landmarks I totally squeed over. I dragged my photographer partner out to take photos for this review, to demonstrate some of the real landmarks mentioned:
Taroona High School
Yep, that’s ocean right outside the back door (well technically a river), and I fondly recall the time we convinced our maths teacher to let us go down to the beach to watch the dolphins and humpback whales swim up the river.
Mures Seafood Restaurant
Cascade Brewery, where the school is supposed to be built next to... but um… who would build a school next to a brewery?
The Female Factory
Also bonus! This is a quern-stone we found while exploring the Female Factory site. It’s used to grind grain. Isn’t that awesome?
Note – this photo was taken a few years ago when I lived at the base of the mountain, literally a two minute walk from the Female Factory. That’s snow, which is a rare occurrence in the city but quite common on the mountain from about May-September, although it has been known to snow in March (end of summer) and October (spring). I’m pretty sure it even freak snowed in December once.
This book didn’t have an X Factor for me. The emotional response was purely because I grew up in the same city as Tessa, and that’s extremely rare in not only YA literature but also literature of Australia. The second half of the book let me down too much for me to recall anything I may have been excited over in the first half.
Overall This is a strong paranormal novel consisting of several familiar tropes. Its strength is its location and the unique take on not only Australian wildlife but particularly those extinct or near extinct Tasmanian animals. Gordon is a clear and concise writer who utilises familiar themes and motifs to continue the narrative thread. The failure of the second half of this novel will not detract from readers who enjoy a good paranormal story utilising an amnesiac heroine.