Sunday, July 20, 2014

Review: The Stepsister's Tale by Tracy Barrett

What really happened after the clock struck midnight?

Jane Montjoy is tired of being a lady. She's tired of pretending to live up to the standards of her mother's noble family-especially now that the family's wealth is gone and their stately mansion has fallen to ruin. It's hard enough that she must tend to the animals and find a way to feed her mother and her little sister each day. Jane's burden only gets worse after her mother returns from a trip to town with a new stepfather and stepsister in tow. Despite the family's struggle to prepare for the long winter ahead, Jane's stepfather remains determined to give his beautiful but spoiled child her every desire.

When her stepfather suddenly dies, leaving nothing but debts and a bereaved daughter behind, it seems to Jane that her family is destined for eternal unhappiness. But a mysterious boy from the woods and an invitation to a royal ball are certain to change her fate...

From the handsome prince to the evil stepsister, nothing is quite as it seems in Tracy Barrett's stunning retelling of the classic Cinderella tale.

Hardcover, 272 pages

Published June 24th 2014 by Harlequin Teen  

The Stepsister's Tale was surprisingly delightful.  In the story, we get to follow the elder of the two "ugly stepsisters" from the classic tale of Cinderella.  Jane Montjoy is not what those of us who remember the Disney version would expect: she is hardworking, caring, and impoverished.  Jane constantly has to worry about how to feed herself, her sister, and her mother -- who is living in denial of losing their fortune.  The house they live in is in shambles.  In an attempt to relieve them of their trials, mother Montjoy remarries to a man who appears to have a wealth that could save them, and also a very spoiled daughter.  The plot is filled with little twists and perspective that completely changes the context of the classic tale.

Jane's perseverance and spunk make her a character worth rooting for.  She is the low maintenance counterpart of herself from the classic.  She doesn’t care about jewels or how she looks; she cares about not freezing at night and how the cow in the barn is starving.  She has practical dreams of farming with the manners of an aristocrat.  This combines into a very complex and likable girl who I genuinely hoped things would work out for.

There is uneasiness throughout the reading experience, however, from knowing things won’t work out for the ugly stepsisters.  They don’t get the prince or get out of poverty and we know this from the original tale.  Right?  I loved how perspective can change an ending that I thought I knew.  With this character with her practicality and spark, would she even want riches and formalities?

The other reason for this uneasiness, at least for me, was that Jane has a hard life.  I was on edge the whole time just waiting for an atrocity to befall her.  Reading a book like this always left me with a sour pit in my stomach, and I don’t like that.  It’s a personal thing, so if you like being afraid for characters, maybe that aspect will be more your thing.

While being a tad on the dry side of writing, the book is very enjoyable.  Anyone who loves fairy tale retellings could find some joy in The Stepsister’s Tale.  The small twists on the classic were smart -- they didn’t completely change the story.  It made me think that maybe we’ve had Cinderella wrong this whole time.  And that was the most enjoyable part of reading this tale; I loved doubting the childhood tale since this version just makes more sense.  Though maybe not my favorite book ever, The Stepsister’s Tale proved itself worth a read.

Final Thought: 15 out of 25 toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads

Friday, July 11, 2014

Review: Plus One by Elizabeth Fama

It takes guts to deliberately mutilate your hand while operating a blister-pack sealing machine, but all I had going for me was guts.

Sol Le Coeur is a Smudge—a night dweller in an America rigidly divided between people who wake, live, and work during the hours of darkness and those known as Rays who live and work during daylight. Impulsive, passionate, and brave, Sol deliberately injures herself in order to gain admission to a hospital, where she plans to kidnap her newborn niece—a Ray—in order to bring the baby to visit her dying grandfather. By violating the day-night curfew, Sol is committing a serious crime, and when the kidnap attempt goes awry it starts a chain of events that will put Sol in mortal danger, uncover a government conspiracy to manipulate the Smudge population, and throw her together with D'Arcy BenoĆ®t, the Ray medical apprentice who first treats her, then helps her outrun the authorities—and with whom she is fated to fall impossibly and irrevocably in love.

Set in a vivid alternate reality and peopled with complex, deeply human characters on both sides of the day-night divide, Plus One is a brilliantly imagined drama of individual liberty and civil rights—and a compelling, rapid-fire romantic adventure story.

Hardcover, 373 pages
Published April 8th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
(info grabbed from GoodReads)

This book started off real well, which a main character with a lot of personality and with an interesting concept for a dystopian.  It fell apart somewhere in the middle.  Plus One takes place in a dystopian Chicago where people are separated into Day and Night classes.  People are not allowed to mix between each or even be outside during hours not approved for them.  Sol is a Smudge, a night dweller, with a pension for trouble.  She lives with her kindly (and dying) grandfather and used to live with her older brother, Ciel. While Sol was in her younger teens, Ciel was transferred to Day class to never be seen from again. Since then Sol gets word that her brother had a baby.  The story begins with Sol setting off with plans to kidnap said baby so her grandfather can hold the child once before he dies.

With the cover and blurb, I was surprised that the romance was not more a part of the story.  For more than half of the book, it is non-existent.  For some readers, that may be more of what they are looking for.  With the cover and implications of the blurb, I was expecting a more emotional dystopian story like Delirium by Lauren Oliver.  That is not Plus One.  Plus One is more about half baked kidnapping plans and terrorist plottings than anything else.  What the blurb doesn't tell you is that Sol's plan goes awry and she gets swept up a conspiracy that could shake her world.  It's jarring to read a book that is completely outside of your expectations.  But really, that is all marketing's fault and the team did not do the book justice.

Even though the book was not what I was expecting, I did enjoy it at first.  I thought it read really well and that Sol was interesting, even if her plan was a little undeveloped in her mind.  But the story quickly spiraled into something else: a hot mess of family drama, escapades in Iowa, and more plans that shouldn't work but somehow do.

The back story of the system's origins came from hospitals having day/night shifts, and thus resulting in better work flow and producing power.  I thought the idea that economics and productivity could create a divided society such as this was profound.  Especially with the setting choice of Chicago, made to be one of America's biggest cities because of booming business, I thought it could be plausible.  For a minute.  While I thought the idea of this Day versus Night class system was cool, it seemed so weakly put together it was unbelievable it could have lasted so long.  Maybe in one city in one country, but it not the entire world.   

Everything felt about to collapse at any moment within the story -- and not just the system, but the whole book.  The world building was just so fragile, it might as well have been a house of cards and desperately needed to be elaborated on.  Hour Guards are mentioned, but not explained.  They do random checks on people to see if they are breaking curfew, but what power do they have?  Are they police or are they KGB?  Do they have any kind of enforcement power?  There is a Night Minister, but that role is not fully explained.  The dystopian aspect of this world was skimmed over; it's never clear what is holding this system together.  There’s very little tyranny in this supposedly oppressive society.

Even with less than stellar world building and story that came out of left field, I really liked Sol as a character.  She is smart, impulsive, and full of life.  Her snark is the sunlight of this novel.  However, that is the book's only saving grace.  D'Arcy, the day-dwelling love interest, had no spark to his personality, and the relationship between him and Sol was a fickle match that burned out before the plot even began.  His motivations are never clear or make sense, and he just wasn't enough to hold a candle with Sol. The myriad of other characters were just... I don't even know.  Blah.  They were a blah blur. It felt like random characters were being thrown at the reader in this whirlwind of story.  And not a good whirlwind of story; it's a backwards tornado with a bunch of things that don't belong together.

Without Sol's unrelenting personality, I would have given this book one star.  The story is a bit of mess, the world building was less than stellar, and I just didn't like it.  I was bored.  Plus One earns the stars it does with its good writing and interesting main character, but it wasn't enjoyable.  I read the entire book out of stubbornness, purely.  It really did nothing for this review, because as I kept reading I only got more upset at myself for continuing to read.  Just... ARGH.

Final Thought: 2 out of 5 toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Review: Dollhouse by Anya Allyn

Dress-up turns deadly. . .

When Cassie’s best friend, Aisha, disappears during a school hike, Cassie sets off with Aisha’s boyfriend Ethan and their best friend Lacey, determined to find her. But the mist-enshrouded mountains hold many secrets, and what the three teens discover is far more disturbing than any of them imagined: beneath a rundown mansion in the woods lies an underground cavern full of life-size toys and kidnapped girls forced to dress as dolls.

Even as Cassie desperately tries to escape the Dollhouse, she finds herself torn between her forbidden feelings for Ethan, and her intense, instinctive attraction to The Provider, a man Cassie swears she has known before…

Because Cassie’s capture wasn’t accidental, and the Dollhouse is more than just a prison where her deepest fears come true—it’s a portal for the powers of darkness. And Cassie may be the only one who can stop it.
Kindle Edition, 205 pages

Published May 20th 2014 by The Studio, a Paper Lantern Lit imprint
(info grabbed from GoodReads) 

The Dollhouse, a young adult horror set Down Under, begins with Ethan, Cassie's best friend's boyfriend, bursting through her bedroom window in the middle of the night.  This is an awkward dream come true for Cassie, as she has been pining over Ethan for over a year, but he is her best friend's boyfriend.  Her missing best friend's boyfriend.  Ethan has decided to pop in on Cassie to let her know the cops are after him and that he didn't do it even though there may be evidence that indicates otherwise.  He informs her that he is running into the woods to avoid being arrested.  Cassie and her friend Lacey decide to chase after Ethan, the boy who may or may not have murdered Aisha, and help find Aisha (their missing friend).  Cassie has lingering guilt over crushing on Aisha's boyfriend and feels that she is responsible for Aisha running off, which serves as her motivation to run into the forest that three other girls have disappeared without a trace into.  Mayhem ensues.

So, I think I made it clear in my synopsis that these teens don't make the brightest of decisions.  It felt like the author had to dumb her characters down to get them into a horrific situation.  Which isn't anything new, unless you missed the slasher flick bonanza of the 1990's.  I love horror and especially so when it's creepy.  The Dollhouse promises that and so much more in the blurb, but it doesn't really deliver.  It's hard to be horrified when you can't stop thinking about how all of this nonsense could have been prevented.  I mean, really, your friend just disappeared into the woods and you go breaking and entering into a creepy mansion?  That just screams, "Murder me."  Darwin award goes to Cassie.

The biggest problem for me, however, is the writing.  It is what I have decided to call green writing -- it needs to ripen on the vine a bit.  Or be breaded and deep fried.  Anyway, the pacing of the novel was all over the place.  It's fast, it's faster, it's normal; The Dollhouse was like being on a possessed treadmill with all it's stopping and going.  The story starts off in a rush with Ethan busting in through the window and promptly delivering an info dump.  Half the plot and all the build up between characters happens before the novel even begins.  While I appreciate the different approach, it really destroys any chance to get attached to the characters.  Along with the rushed beginning, there is an info dump every couple pages in the first couple chapters to make up for the lost beginning.  Where could have been build up, world building, and character development, we get a rush into a haphazard romp in a creepy house.

The ideas of The Dollhouse really stuck out to me as I love all things messed up and creepy.  I was hoping to be shocked and horrified, but that just didn't really happen.  Reading the Dollhouse is like watching a bad slasher flick in slow motion, but with a lot less blood and entertainment.  I really just wanted to shake the main character until she got some sense and went home, forgetting about her self-rightous journey into the woods to find her friend.

Final Thought: 1 out of 5 toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers. Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers. Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward Pete's nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she's falling hard for Pete. A radical reinvention of a classic, Second Star is an irresistible summer romance about two young men who have yet to grow up--and the troubled beauty trapped between them.

Hardcover, 248 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) 
(info grabbed from GoodReads)

I don't know why the idea of a love triangle between Peter Pan, Wendy, and Captain Hook made me so excited, but it did.  I was very excited to get my hands on this one, and Second Star started off with a bold and interesting take on Peter Pan, but it pittered out as it went on.  The book begins with Wendy going to her senior party on the beach and lamenting her lost-at-sea surfer brothers, John and Michael.  While there, she walks into the ocean and sees a surfer “flying” over the waves.  Wendy then seeks out this mysterious surfer, hoping to find some lead on her brothers, as she cannot accept their death.  This leads her to much mayhem and excitement, and all those other things books are made of.

I really liked the surfing twist of Second Star and thought it made the book original and into a whole new story.  Retellings are all over the YA market now, and it’s hard to find one that sticks out.  Second Star accomplishes this by changing the perspective a bit, adding different issues, and completely changing the setting to make Peter Pan into a whole new story.  The surfing element of the book was what made the book; the lifestyle was explored and it felt like a small but playful twist that worked with Peter Pan so well.

Unfortunately, that was about all that I liked.  I really did not enjoy Wendy as a character.  She is mopey, but beyond that has very little discernible personality.  She’s trying to find herself by shedding everything she knew before and running into the sunset after her brothers, but I couldn’t get behind her on her journey because I didn’t feel anything for her.  We find things about her: she is a good student, she loves her brothers, and she comes from money.  But her as a character felt wishy-washy; she’s not terribly consistent.  This makes sense for a character in such dilemma as Wendy - trying to find her brothers and losing track of herself in the process - however, it made it hard for me to be in her corner.  I couldn’t care for what was happening.  Her depressive state wasn’t done in a relatable way – for me at least.

Second Star really failed me in that the rest of the cast lacked depth.  I would have really liked some more character building of some of the key characters, but with a large cast like this book tried to pull off, it's hard.  Bestowing unique personality into each character is tough, and a lot of the characters came off as generic.  I feel like each of them, Pete (Peter), Belle (Tinkerbelle), and Jas (Captain Hook) were shallow and hollow.  Each was defined by a handful of personality traits.  Pete was mysterious, kind, and mischievous with the added twist of being a surfer… and that’s about it.  The complexity that could be there within and between each character is hinted at, but never explored.  Contemporary YA lit is all about the characters, and none really held much ground in this story.  It was like they’re about to wash away with the tide.

While having an interesting take on Peter Pan, Second Star is lacking in its character development something fierce.  If you like contemporaries that immerse you into a world that you’re more unfamiliar with (like surfing culture), you might find some enjoyment in Second Star.  If you’re looking for an exciting retelling of Peter Pan with a creative twist and intriguing versions of the characters you already love, you may want to look elsewhere.  If this was simply a contemporary, I may have given it three full stars.  Because it is a retelling of a beloved classic, I only give it two.  Second Star is enjoyable, but it fails and pales in any comparison to the original.

Final Thought: 2 out of 5 toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Review: The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world . . . if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

From Ann Brashares, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, The Here and Now is thrilling, exhilarating, haunting, and heartbreaking—and a must-read novel of the year.

Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: April 8th 2014 by Delacorte Press 
(info grabbed from GoodReads)

This book was written with only half baked ideas that needed to go back in the oven BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT DONE COOKING.  The science is deplorable, Prenna is an idiot, and no other character is even defined other than an outline of what could perhaps be a person.  THE HERE AND NOW is the story of Prenna, a time traveling girl from a future where most of the population has been wiped out by a plague.  The book then tries to be a dystopian, mystery, and love story all at once, but is fails at all three.  The story just skims the surface of a story; it's like reading an outline based on good ideas, but not a full, finished novel.

This is the worst thought out dystopian society I’ve ever read.  They are controlling, but they let people live their lives with little restrictions.  There are vague rules, but they give people freedom to break those rules and then follow through with inconsistent punishments.  It’s not the imposing society of a dystopian that we’re used to.  For example: Prenna’s friend is found to have been speaking with Prenna about things they shouldn’t be.  Her punishment is being sent away to boarding school.  Whatever.  However, another of the children of the time traveling society raises the suspicion of one of his teachers at school.  The teacher asks questions.  So what does the society do?  They kill the child and his family.


I actually had to read that section in the book a couple times to wrap my head around it.  First of all, if you’re trying to be all secretive, why was the kid in regular schooling?  And furthermore, after the issue happened, I would think that every other child a part of this society would be a prime candidate for home schooling.

But there’s more!  Prenna herself isn’t safe from the wrath of her society.  For catching pneumonia, they would let her die rather than let her get medical help.  After all the trouble of traveling through time, they are very willing to just let people die.  It makes no sense; travel all this way to escape a plague and then let your youngest citizens die of something there’s treatment for?

But Prenna’s pneumonia episode brings up other issues in the book: it’s complete lack of research.  If you’re going to have anything medical, one could at least check out webMD to see if something is plausible.  In the book, Prenna has asthma and gets pneumonia, but her mother is a doctor and insists all she would need is a ventilator. 

First of all, you don’t get pneumonia from asthma.  Asthma is chronic illness that is characterized by episodes of spasming of the bronchioles.  People are on lifelong medication oftentimes for this illness.  Pneumonia is an infection.  Asthma does not cause infections.  Bacteria (and viruses) cause infections.  Also, it’s never mentioned again if Prenna has an asthmatic issue, but she does have moments of being in and damp potentially moldy places and also moments of running.  No mention of so much as a wheeze.  Next, Prenna did not need a ventilator, she needed a nebulizer.  A ventilator is a device that breathes for you and puts you at higher risk for pneumonia.  A nebulizer delivers medication to expand your lungs.  But really, she needed to be hospitalized with an “as needed” order for suctioning, if you asked me.

But what’s really irritating is that this whole episode of Prenna’s illness is simply a plot device to show the society as being controlling and cold.  It could have been interesting to have a character with asthma or to see how the society adapted to unexpected situations the children cause, but it’s not explored.  These ideas are only half good, and it’s the other half of the idea that makes the story bad.

I can’t really complain about the time travel science too much because it was never addressed.  Physics are not mentioned, the potential of a paradox is skimmed over; just poof, naked and wet Prenna in a pond.  That’s how they arrive.  Why is she naked?  Never mentioned.  Other than that she had to be naked so Ethan can give her his hoodie.  Or whatever he gave her, it was kind of a big deal in comparison to everything else.

I could rant about the science for days, but it’s not that large a part of the book (which is funny since its science fiction).  So how was our main character, Prenna?  DUMB.  She makes one bad decision after another, but somehow everything works out.  She doesn’t figure a single thing out for herself and only has a brain when it’s convenient to the story.  There is one thing (that is a bit of a spoiler) that any person with half a brain would figure out or notice that Prenna doesn’t get until the last second.  It was just handled badly; the characters are being cryptic at time where it doesn’t make any sense to be cryptic.  Seriously, the fate of the world is at stake and the moment to change it is in less than 24 hours, and our protagonist is at the beach with her new beau. … WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THIS.  How could you relax enough to laugh?  …But on the bright side, she is the most fleshed out character in the book.

Oh, Katherine.  She is the only character other than Prenna and Ethan that has a significant role in the story and I cannot for the life of me think of a personality trait that describes her.  She is the Best Friend.  She is concerned for Prenna.  She wears glasses and is from a society from the future where everyone wears glasses.  Real exciting character building there.  When she is taken away, I should care, but there is no character to care about.  The only reason to care is because it’s causing problems for Prenna. 

What’s sad is that I barely touched half of the notes I wrote while reading this.  There is so much wrong with this book.  It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when an author didn’t do their research or didn’t think an idea out, and this book is guilty of that.  Super guilty.  There is nothing I thought redeeming in the story.  The ending is the best part of the book, but it’s not anywhere close to saving it.  I recommend THE HERE AND NOW to no one.


This review is also posted on GoodReads

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Review: Lost Voices by Sarah Porter

What happens to the girls nobody sees—the ones who are ignored, mistreated, hidden away? The girls nobody hears when they cry for help?

Fourteen-year-old Luce is one of those lost girls. After her father vanishes in a storm at sea, she is stuck in a grim, gray Alaskan fishing village with her alcoholic uncle. When her uncle crosses an unspeakable line, Luce reaches the depths of despair. Abandoned on the cliffs near her home, she expects to die when she tumbles to the icy, churning waves below. Instead, she undergoes an astonishing transformation and becomes a mermaid.

A tribe of mermaids finds Luce and welcomes her in—all of them, like her, lost girls who surrendered their humanity in the darkest moments of their lives. The mermaids are beautiful, free, and ageless, and Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: they feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks.

Luce’s own talent at singing captures the attention of the tribe’s queen, the fierce and elegant Catarina, and Luce soon finds herself pressured to join in committing mass murder. Luce’s struggle to retain her inner humanity puts her at odds with her friends; even worse, Catarina seems to regard Luce as a potential rival. But the appearance of a devious new mermaid brings a real threat to Catarina’s leadership and endangers the very existence of the tribe. Can Luce find the courage to challenge the newcomer, even at the risk of becoming rejected and alone once again?
Lost Voices is a captivating and wildly original tale about finding a voice, the healing power of friendship, and the strength it takes to forgive.

Hardcover, 291 pages
Published July 4th 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
(info grabbed from GoodReads)

Note: this is the most positive negative review I've ever written.  When I started writing it, it was filled with a bit more snark.  However, as I continued and really thought about it, this is a really thought provoking tale.  Bear with me and keep an open mind.

This book could be summed up as LORD OF THE FLIES, but with mermaids.  Some may read that and think, "Oh that sounds kind of interesting."

Well.  It's not.

But I hated LORD OF THE FLIES.  Anyway, I'm actually rather torn about how I feel about this book.  It's bad and great at the same time.  It's kind of good, but not solidly okay; it is a wavering on a balance beam kind of good.  Anyway, LOST VOICES is the story of Luce, a fourteen year old girl caught in a pretty rough situation.  Her parents have both passed on and now she is stuck in her parents home town living with her abusive uncle.  In the world of LOST VOICES though, there is a secret: unwanted and unloved girls become mermaids.  Such is the fate of Luce, and she joins the local mermaid tribe.

The mermaid tribe is where I draw parallels with LORD OF THE FLIES.  You stick a group of boys on an island and what happens?  Mayhem and murder.  You stick a bunch of girls in the ocean with fins and what happens?  Mayhem and murder, but more high strung and catty.  Instead of imploding inwardly as the boys did since they were stranded with nothing but each other, the girls in LOST VOICES turn there destructionn outward, destroying passing boats and drowning all aboard.  Catarina (the Queen mermaid) is a slightly off-kilter version of Ralph, leading the tribe under the laws of the timakh, which are undisputable mermaid rules.   While Anais is almost a perfect caricature of Jack from LOTF with her antagonizing the group and leading a revolution against Catarina.  Luce, our MC, would fit as Simon, the only "good" character, as she has morals and doesn't want to kill people.  And because she hides in a cave for a large portion of the book.  I don't agree with such a bleak outlook of humanity, which is I didn't particularly like LORD OF THE FLIES or LOST VOICES.

My biggest writing issue was that it was really hard to put my finger on what the plot was in this book.  For over half the book, we are observing Luce getting into the swing of being a mermaid: Luce has become a mermaid, Luce has met a tribe of mermaids, Luce has met more mermaids, Luce has swam like a mermaid, and Luce has sunk a few boats. That's about it.  Nothing really resembling an issue here other than she doesn't really want to sink boats and the queen is a little crazy.  It's good to keep an audience guessing, but you have to be going somewhere.  No real conflict arises, making it feels as if the story is standing still -- and standing still doesn't make for a very exciting read.

The other writing issue is that it was hard to read at times due to the prose.  The writing is somewhat poetic -- like the author is trying to be poetic, but it came off as haphazard purple prose at times.  Sometimes it was very pleasant to read, and sometimes I was utterly confused.  Not a good trait in a book.  I don't know why, but I was determined to read this book and got past the prose issues.  There are some parts that jump around and there isn't a clear picture as to what's going on, but that is mostly in the beginning.  Once Luce became a mermaid (which is real early), the imagery was a lot more clear.

LOST VOICES has a completely different tone than most YA because it does try to approach real life issues through a fantastical story.  It deals with tough issues (child abuse, neglect, group think, and the anger of children betrayed).  However, I think a lot of the message got lost in the catty drivel that went on for a lot of the book, but furthermore, I think the message that was there is incredibly negative.  Luce fails to have a meaningful and non-abusive relationship for the entire book.  There is the overt abuse by her uncle, the petty hate between some of the mermaids, but then there is the manipulative queen.  It is a very covert abuse that Luce doesn't even understand and the book ends with her still believing she is friends with this girl.  There is very little hope within the binding of this book, and that gave me a real sour taste for it.

LOST VOICES projects a very bleak outlook.  Especially when the story is YA and the target demographic includes girls potentially dealing with these issues.  I do appreciate that an author had the guts to try and approach a story openly involving child abuse and it's affect on the psyche of its victims, but I don't know that I can recommend this book to someone that's not an adult.  But while I didn't like LORD OF THE FLIES, it didn't have a sequel whereas LOST VOICES does.  I'm still very intrigued by this book and it may still prove to be the more uplifting tale I'm hoping it could be.  But I know there is a place in this world for unhappy endings, and that may prove to be the case with the trilogy.  I'm hoping for the best.

Final Thought: 25 out of 50 toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads