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Saturday, October 29, 2011

I Love The Smell of Plot in the Morning

Or late last night, if you want to be specific. Finally, finally, finally getting over that blasted hump I was stuck at! Now I can go on with the regular schedule of fluff and UST (because we all know how much I love UST). Sydney and Ayden were kind of balky at first, but I think we're over it now. And Violet is just hanging out in the wings, waiting for her chance to pounce and in an terrible awful author kind of way, I'm sort of looking forward to the havoc she's going to wreak. Drama's always fun...*evil grin*.

And even better, I got three more new songs on my iPod! Jackson by Johnny Cash and June Carter, because you all know I had that one playing on a loop in my head for over a month. I'm singing it all over the place now.  Rolling in the Deep by Adele, which drives my brother Adam nuts, but that's just him. I like her. She sounds like Carole King to me, strong and soulful. Lastly, A Thousand Years by Christina Perri. I have no other reason for this song except that's it's pretty. It really is a lovely song. It's one of my few "I'm feeling unabashedly romantic at the moment" songs. Mostly those consist of Taylor Swift and some Paramore, but this song feels like a nice addition to the list.

Hmm...what else can I blather on about?

Oh, wait, I know. A book review! Because that's always good fun. I get to put on my critic hat for a bit.

Today's victim...ahem, candidate is The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff. It is much darker than my usual fare and I think I just want to talk about it. The Replacement is about a young man Mackie Doyle living in the dark and mysterious town of Gentry, where children go missing every seven years and no one talks about the inhuman things that live underneath the slag heap. People still use charms, amulets and spread salt across window sills to protect themselves from the Other Ones.

Mackie himself is what old folklore would call a changeling--a Faery baby left in the place of a human one. He's allergic to iron, blood and consecrated ground and slowly dying in the human world. His father is the town pastor, trying his hardest to do what's right and protect his son from questions and stares.  His mother is withdrawn and quiet, trying to overcome her own Faery-related traumas and his older sister Emma does her best to treat Mackie as normally as possible.

The oldest trick in the book is "Put an extraordinary or unusual character in an ordinary high school and see what happens."  Ms. Yovanoff does that here with darkly fascinating results. Mackie just wants to be normal--play his bass guitar, hang out with friends and maybe go out with Tate Sawyer, the angry, defiant girl who's just lost a sister and refuses to keep quiet about the circumstances surrounding it. But normality eludes Mackie, who knows every trip into the outside world, even being inside his own home is dangerous to him--iron and steel are everywhere and slowly killing him. Mackie is eventually drawn into the Faery Court of Mayhem, home of the Morrigan and her living dead girls. Mostly with the promises that they can temporarily relieve him of his pain.

It's a dark, scary place, populated with rotting princesses and sadistic Faery executioners. Namely, Cutter, who straps his own body with cold iron just to cause those around him (and himself) pain. He's one of the scariest characters I've encountered in recent young adult literature. Mackie is a decent young man trying to live normally--he loves his sister and tries to obey his father and Tate's loss  pains him sincerely. It takes a while for him to finally pull himself up by his bootstraps and become the hero, but I couldn't help but cheer for him when he did. I loved Tate, who drives Mackie to finally accept his abnormalities and goes toe to toe in armed combat with Cutter--and wins. She's hard-core, this girl. I love it.

This is not a light, happy story--it's dark and intense and there's use of strong language, but at least sparingly in times of stress. One of my pet peeves is authors who make their characters drop swear words like adjectives or metaphors. I don't care if it's "real," "intense," or "gritty," it's lazy language skills, plain and simple. But back to the book--if you want a scary, hypnotic read just in time for Halloween, read this one. One of the best things about it, to my mind, is Mackie finally accepting that, replacement or not, he is loved by his family. He has friends. And that drives him to be brave.

Taking Off My Critic Hat, I am Over & Out,

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