Manifest (Mystyx, #1)
by Artist Arthur
When fifteen-year-old Krystal Bentley moves to Lincoln, Connecticut, her mom's hometown, she assumes her biggest drama will be adjusting to the burbs after living in New York City.
But Lincoln is nothing like Krystal imagined. The weirdness begins when Ricky Watson starts confiding in her. He's cute, funny, a good listener—and everything she'd ever want—except that he was killed nearly a year ago. Krystal's ghost-whispering talents soon lead other "freaks" to her door—Sasha, a rich girl who can literally disappear, and Jake, who moves objects with his mind. All three share a distinctive birthmark in the shape of an M and, fittingly, call themselves the Mystyx. They set out to learn what really happened to Ricky, only to realize that they aren't the only ones with mysterious powers. But if Krystal succeeds in finding out the truth about Ricky's death, will she lose him for good?
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There was a point in Manifest that things sort of clicked for me and I saw the potential for something pretty gripping and distrubing (without giving too much away, there is a serious creep (in the real world sense) preying on the girls of Lincoln, and MC Krystal may be the next on his list. There was a dark, gritty and realistic edge to this side of the story that I didn't see coming, and it added much needed authenticity and danger. But this one almost-stellar aspect aside, Manifest fell flat for me.
One of the biggest problems was the main character, Krystal. Krystal is very, very hard to like for a good chunk of the book. She's angsty in the worst way, pouty and insolent, she's kind of obtuse and frustrating, and it was sort of hard for me to root for her. This did get better as it went along, and I realize that it was an intended progression because of things that had gone on in her life, but it doesn't change the fact that I didn't want to read her; I didn't want to be in her head. Of the other bigger side characters, Ricky was cliched, contradictory and silly, Sasha is a princess who has yet to grow on me (bad sign, as she's the star of book 2), and Jake, who I liked and felt was more developed, was often brushed to the side.
Another problem I had (and this was partly the result of my own expectations) was the cliched aspect of the novel, coupled with attempts to make it a more POC slant. I was looking forward to getting a new perspective, something more like a melding of urban fantasy and paranormal romance. But it never felt authentic to me. Ricky, the ghost gangbanger, wears his pants low and his Timbalands untied, and he speaks in alternating urban teen slang and well-spoken prepster -- sometimes both in one sentence, like this:
"I'll admit, if circumstances were different, I might try to holla at you. But your foul attitude would probably turn me off."Really? What teen of any background talks in this weird mish-mash? And what teen says 'foul attitude', other than in a mocking way when they've just been written up for it? Overall, the way it was handled, I just felt like the author had to try to connect with an audience so she sprinkled some stuff in hoping it worked, or even worse, maybe thinking it rang true, and it didn't. For me, this was hard to get past, and I found myself rolling my eyes a lot. The same is true of the "Mystyx" powers (and the name Mystyx) -- it was sort of too grandiose and I rolled my eyes. A lot.
But even though this bothered me, and I've been fairly negative so far, but truth be told, I did see potential. As I said in the beginning, there was a darker, more raw undercurrent that really could have made something of the book, and as is, saved it from completely flopping for me. I feel like Arthur has given herself room to grow over the series, and I'm curious enough, and saw potential enough, to be willing to read book 2 and see what she makes of it. I wouldn't push Manifest on anyone, but I wouldn't completely dissuade them from reading it, either. Caution, maybe, but not dissuade.
In the end, I went into Manifest with hopes of a good POC take on paranormal YA, with maybe some romance. What I got was a letdown: a cliched story of a hard to like main character, with slang and skin color thrown in to mix it up. But I also caught glimpses of something better, and I'm hoping to see it expanded upon.