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Confessions of a Bibliophile

An aspiring writer and bookstore employee with an incredibly bad book-buying habit... I'll read just about anything (so long as it will appeal to my interests in some way), but my main loves are YA and sci-fi/fantasy. I also like quirky history and science books and will book nerd. A lot. Currently in the process of weeding out my personal library. Find me on Twitter @princess_starr or check out my YA book, Snowfall, on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240027

The Shattering

The Shattering - Karen Healey Holy crap. I’ve been waiting on this book since Karen Healey announced it, and the wait was well worth it. The thing that you have to take note of is how different the plot is from most other paranormal YA books. For starters, the main characters are all normal teens thrust into an extraordinary situation—and they stay normal. They don’t have super special abilities (or they’re winging it), they’ve got real problems beyond the supernatural plot of the book, they’re insecure and doubt themselves and they fuck up. The antagonists aren’t EVIIIL; what they’re doing is wrong, but it’s out of misguided and warped intentions. Not to mention, some of them aren’t the slimeballs the teens immediately suspect (well, there are actual slimeballs)—a lot of people involved are the same adults whom Keri and Janna have grown up with and trust. Janna’s the most cocky of the three, the one who’s already figured everything out and says that she knows what to do. And that also makes her the most vulnerable of the main characters. I like the contrast between the weak, unsure Janna who doesn’t even know if her hunches are right and the confident, swaggering Stardust, bass goddess who can get any boy she wants. I like Janna’s determination to get justice for her brother Schuyler and all of the others, to the point where she’s willing to sacrifice her own goals to do so. She’s a bit thick at times, but she doesn’t need to have things constantly explained or spelled out for her. And although Janna’s the most selfish of the group, it made her feel more realistic and flawed. Yes, her stalking and leading on Takeshi wasn’t good (especially because she never explains why she’s so interested in him), but she’s able to recognize that it’s a bad thing and beat herself up for it later on. Sione’s got a lot more on his plate—not only is he still recovering mentally from his brother’s suicide, but Matthew still manages to overshadow Sione, even in death. A lot of this is tied into Sione’s identity crisis and insecurity about being Samoan—he’s not as athletic or strong or big as Matthew was. Sione gets insults hurled at him, and questions whether or not try to avenge Matthew’s death would be a good thing for himself. If there’s one thing about Sione I wanted to get expanded on, it’s his religious side. It’s mentioned that he’s very involved in his church, but aside from one culture shock scene and a couple of mentions, it’s never really brought into the story proper. It would have made a nice foil to Janna, and even the little bit that got mentioned in-story gave a little more to his character. And I loved his growing relationship with Aroha.And Keri- oh, Keri, Keri, Keri. I loved that her sections were all done in the first-person, because it made her grief more raw and added so much to her determination to find out who really killed her brother. There’s much more of a feel for her methodical, crazy-preparedness for almost everything and how she’s been dealing with her family after the tragedy. The flashbacks to where Keri discovers her brother’s body were gut-wrenching and her rage is just so strong, it really works so much better from her own perspective. And then when you find out that Jake wasn’t affected by the Summerton sacrifice, her eventual depression in the end is so much more heartbreaking. (Although I loved the epilogue on Karen Healey’s blog.) The revelation that Keri’s gay was also handled really well. It doesn’t overshadow her storyline, and it really helps illustrate how small and close-minded Summerton is. The relationship between the three was also handled admirably. Aside from the fact that they’ve all got personal issues with one another, they’re not automatically portrayed as besties. They all don’t really trust one another—Sione and Keri barely believe Janna when she first tells them about the sacrifices—and when the antagonists try to force them apart, they still have to deal with the ugly things they’ve admitted about their feelings. (Also, when Keri figures out that they’re under the influence of a spell, it’s not automatically broken and they all have to still deal with their negative feelings.) The three are thrown together by unfortunate circumstances, but I like the sense of distance between them all.If there’s one place where Healey shines is her secondary characters. While Takeshi and Aroha start off as potential love interests, they don’t just sit around and wonder why Janna, Sione and Keri are being dodgy and mysterious with them. Well, they do, but once things get rougher, neither one take being mysterious for an answer and they get in there and kick ass. (Especially Aroha.) I liked that they’re fully defined characters in their own right. Even the side characters, like the other members of Vikings to the Left, feel rounded and real, not just random characters to fill up the space.Now, before I continue fangirling, I actually do have an issue with the book; namely, the plot and the pacing of the mystery. We find out very early on who’s behind the murders, how the sacrifices are chosen, and why it’s done. There’s very few red herrings – mostly the people involved in the conspiracy (although there’s a nice “Oh crap” moment near the climax involving that)—but there’s really not that many mistakes or misapprehensions that the main characters make. (Save for the big huge spoiler, see above if you dare.) A lot of the tension of the book revolves around “We have to save Takeshi before the ritual happens on New Year’s Eve!” and the main trio trying to keep one step ahead of the murderers. It’s still done very well, but I would have liked some more mystery toward the climax.In spite of the plot problems, if you haven’t read Karen Healey before, I highly recommend starting with The Shattering. It still manages to have great characters, tension, and interesting plot that doesn’t dance around aimlessly to create ~mystery~ for three-quarters of the book. The hard topics (sexuality, suicide, depression, identity) are handled extremely well, without being too overbearing for the reader. In the meantime, I’ll be waiting impatiently for Karen Healey’s next book. (Unless if I get my hands on a TARDIS, but I hear those are hard to come by. Blast.)