by Brenna Yovanoff
Months ago, someone on Goodreads posted this as to read and I went a little wild over this cover. I mean, come on. I was determined I was going to get my hands on it, but it's not all that often that I'll actively pursue a review copy of something. I figured I'd just have to wait until it's release to read it. So imagine my excitement when I got a copy of it at ALA. (*ooh, little frisson of excitement still*)
So that was a little too easy. And we all know what generally happens to me when I go gaga over a cover (*cough*Hush, Hush*cough*). Also, even though I like them lots, faerie stories tend to disappoint, too. So this was bound to let me down, right?
Didn't matter, I still wanted to read it. But I decided I was going to save it for Helluva Halloween, and that made me happy and gave me something to look forward to. I can't even count all the times I started to pick it up early, but I was trying to be good. (And I was successful. Point for me!)
Now it's Helluva Halloween, and I finally got to read it. And what can I say? Maybe, just maybe, the cover/faerie curse is broken. This has been one of my favorite reads this year, and I have no hesitation in saying that. When I went on vacation earlier in the month, when everyone else was gathered around a bonfire drinking and getting rowdy, I went upstairs to read this. Yeah... I've been hesitant to write this review because, as I've said before, it's sometimes just as hard to write about something you loved as it is something you hated. I don't even know where to start.
Mackie is a replacement, what would often be called a changeling, and he spends his life struggling to fit in and keep this very dangerous secret. But as hard as he's always tried to pretend -- and to be -- normal, Mackie can't hide who he is forever. The iron that fills the modern world is toxic to him, and he's slowly dying of it. This struggle was sort of enthralling to read. I felt bad for Mackie, partly because he's so very much an outsider (of the community's doing, yes, but more so of his own. Not w/o reason, but still...), and partly because he just doesn't realize how miserably he's failing. He's hurting, and he's scared and lonely, and he's so grateful for the people that love him -- it's like reading about yourself at your most raw and insecure. I don't think it's possible to not relate to Mackie or feel for him.
But I don't want to give them impression that this is some pathetic sob-story, because it's not. There's just this level of thought and insight, this depth that I wasn't expecting, but that heightened the whole experience for me. Mackie's story, and the town of Gentry, is really dark and unflinching. I've read a lot of reviews that call the book scary, and I don't think that it's ever really that. It's more that it can be so unsettlingly real and human in the best and worst ways that it gets under your skin. And that can be scary.
I don't want to go too into detail because I don't want to start giving things away, but I do want to talk a little bit about the Yovanoff's writing and the choices she made. On the former, the writing is lovely. It flows beautifully, and I always had a clear image of the characters, the town and the emotions behind it all. Which leads me to the latter -- Yovanoff did some really wonderful things with a straightforward story. It's a typical outsider tale, very appropriate for YA with its discovery and near-coming of age quality. But it's enriched with so much emotion and understanding that it's sort of transformative. Yovanoff does something really lovely with human connections in this book, with both romantic love and familial love, and (to be really repetitive) I loved that. Her depiction of love isn't sugary and sappy and over the top as it is in many YAs, and it's balanced with the dark and creepy that exists side-by-side in the book. All together it gives this great dimension*, these highs and lows that make it dynamic and unputdownable and delicious.
So read it. Preferably now, as the days are getting short and dark.
*originally read "demention" <-- ha! The Cutter may be demented, as is the Lady, assuredly, but the book is not.
[Please note: I read an ARC of this book, so the final version may differ.]