Genre: YA, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance
Released on: October 21st, 2014
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It’s an oppressively hot and sticky morning in June when Sterling and her brother, Phin, have an argument that compels him to run into the town swamp — the one that strikes fear in all the residents of Sticks, Louisiana. Phin doesn’t return. Instead, a girl named Lenora May climbs out, and now Sterling is the only person in Sticks who remembers her brother ever existed.
Sterling needs to figure out what the swamp’s done with her beloved brother and how Lenora May is connected to his disappearance — and loner boy Heath Durham might be the only one who can help her. This debut novel is full of atmosphere, twists and turns, and a swoon-worthy romance.
Eery and creepy. Haunting and chilling, but also heart-warming and feel good? Yup. That’s the best way to describe Natalie Parker’s debut novel.
This is such a different take on YA than I’m used to reading. For one, we got a creepy and seemingly “supernatural” swamp? Can’t say there are many of those wondering around in the YA world (and if there are than I seriously need to find them).
But at the very heart of Parker’s novel, are her characters. Sterling reminded me so so much of my ranch-handling friend, Emily. Seriously. Right down to the boy problems. But besides that, Sterling as so much heart. She loves her brother and (since I didn’t have such a great relationship with my brother), it was really refreshing to read her devotion and love that she feels toward Phin. Sterling is a fighter, that’s for sure. But I think in this book we see her start from being a fighter in the sense that she’s mad at her brother for leaving to college, but then it becomes Sterling fighting to get her brother back. So definitely a journey that Sterling goes on. It’s about her realizing when to let go, and when to fight for herself. In that aspect, I loved that.
It’s hard to get a clear sense on Phin, but then again he’s gone for basically the entire book. However, we do learn a lot about him through Sterling and the memories they share. That was probably my absolute favorite thing in this book – the memories between Sterling and Phin. Heck, even Lenora May! Sterling knows things about Lenora May, and even though she hates that she does know those little things, she also finds comfort in them.
The relationship between Lenora May and Sterling was a frustrating, but adorable one. I’ll try to explain that as best I can. Bascially, we have this girl who essentially takes the place of Sterling’s brother. So, of course we have to hate her…right? Well, not exactly. The way Natalie Parker wrote Lenora’s character, I still kind of liked her? And I really liked the bits of memories and small details that Sterling knows about her. It made Lenora more relatable and real despite how she ended up in Sterling’s life.
The writing style was a new thing I had to get used to. It’s not bad, but it got a little confusing at times. I think at times there was too much going on and then the sentences would get choppy and the words used to describe the Shine or what’s happening with Sterling AND the Shine was just not enough to understand what was happening. Seriously I would read a paragraph and then ask “so what just happened? is she hurt? is she fine?” Other times it felt there wasn’t enough! Like I said, the sentences would get choppy. Well that usually meant that what would have been better read as a continous flow of thought and action wound up reading as short. anticlimactic. sentences. and. events. (see?) It’s a bit jarring. So there was that to deal with.
I do think that Ms. Parker knows how to end chapters though. Especially toward the end! The action was picking up and I was getting really into it (while also trying to piece out what the heck was going on) and then BAM, she would end a chapter and I’d be scrambling to turn the page. Nicely done, Natalie.
In regards to the ending, it felt a bit rushed to me. The action/battle happened and then the falling action (to get English class on all ya’ll) was maybe two pages. Um, no. For falling action, I need a little more. Like maybe ten pages at least. It seemed like the author was rushing to get this story done in a certain amount of pages. Not sure if that’s really what happened there but that’s definitely what it read as. I think a few more pages tagged on to the ending and I’d be fine. But other than that, the ending was nicely written and put a smile to my face 🙂
Overall, a good debut novel with an original plot. I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye on what else this author puts out!
MY RATING: 3.5/5