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By Singing Light

Pretty much everything here originally appeared at my actual blog: By Singing Light. I particularly focus on upper middle-grade and young adult books. I also enjoy adult genre books, especially speculative fiction.

Currently reading

The Lost Tools of Learning and the Mind of the Maker
Dorothy L. Sayers
The Seventh Bride
T. Kingfisher
Hope in the Dark
Rebecca Solnit
Outrun the Moon
Stacey Lee
Midnight Thief
Livia Blackburne
The White Hart
Nancy Springer
The Great Wall Of Lucy Wu
Wendy Wan-Long Shang
Libriomancer
Jim C. Hines
Elizabeth & Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics
Sarah Gristwood
The Replacement - Brenna Yovanoff by Brenna Yovanoff

Opening line: "I don't remember any of the true, important parts, but there's this dream I have."

Despite appearances, the town of Gentry has something wrong with it. Oh, sure, its inhabitants are unnaturally lucky. There are still things that happen, children who disappear, children who turn strange and then die, places you don't go. And then there's Mackie Doyle, our narrator.

I think this book has been generating a fair amount of buzz, and let me tell you, it's getting it for a reason. Think fairy tales--the creepy kind--and Tam Lin, in some weird inverted way, and Sarah Rees Brennan, and awesomeness, all mixed up in one chilling, beautiful story. I was caught in from the very first page, and when I had to go out for the afternoon it felt like I was literally ripping myself away.

Mackie is a fabulous narrator. I realized pretty quickly that no one else could tell this story--not Emma, not Roswell, not even Tate. Of course, when I think about recent books centering on Mackie-type characters, they're almost always the narrator (White Cat, Demon's Lexicon). They need to be, because otherwise they're too distant. And the whole point is that they can't be distant--we have to care about them. Despite ourselves maybe, but we have to care about the nonetheless. Mackie is easier to care about than, say, Nick. Even when he's trying really, really hard not to care, he does. (Of course, his declarations of affection carry a tad less weight than Nick's, which always reduce me to the verge of tears.)

I loved the fact that Yovanoff didn't play around with the question of who or what Mackie is. It's fairly apparent early on, and knowing early means not having to devote a lot of energy to what isn't really a mystery. It means the rest of the story has a chance to happen without a ton of angst over questions of identity and so on. I mean, of course there's angst about questions of identity. They're all in high school. But they happen in a different way than if Mackie, and by extension the readers, were in doubt about his origins. I think this quote sums it up quite well:
"'This is the defining event of my life and you'e treating it like it's normal. Like it's nothing.'
[Roswell] leaned back, looking up at the sky. 'Well, maybe it should stop being the defining event. There's a whole lot more to an average life than something that happened before you were a year old.'"

It's a refreshing attitude, both on the part of the author and the characters.

And parts of this book are genuinely creepy. I don't get creeped out all that easily, but I shivered. There's something about this depiction of the fair folk that reminded me of The Perilous Gard. There are some specific similarities, but even more than that, there's a more vague similarity in the tone of the depictions. They're scary and sinister and not really human, but they're also tragic. The Morrigan certainly is, and even the Lady has her moments.

So, yes. It's sinister and creepy and it's also beautiful and oddly heartwarming. It's an incredible first novel--I can't wait to read more by Yovanoff, whether about Gentry or not.

Book source: public library
Book information: Razor Bill (Penguin), 2010; YA