Saturday, June 2, 2012

Book Review: The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

My rating: 3.5/5

From Amazon: "Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement--left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.

"Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.

"Edward Scissorhands meets The Catcher in the Rye in this wildly imaginative and frighteningly beautiful horror novel about an unusual boy and his search for a place to belong."

Comparing this book to Edward Scissorhands makes it sound like the story might be somewhat humorous, and it's not; and comparing it to Catcher in the Rye is giving it way too much credit.  I enjoyed the general story of this book a lot, with the delicate balance between the underworld-ish-ness and the normal world and a protagonist figuring out which one he belongs to.  And it started out great with such an unassuming main character, already in a position where he's dying and only just now realizing it, as any child with a long-term illness would be: not noticing how bad it is until it gets even a little bit better. And it does get better, and Mackie joins a band, and the descriptions of the feeling he gets on stage, and of the atmosphere in Mayhem, are great. But the characters, even Mackie, never quite felt real; nothing ever felt urgent, even when it certainly should have (and though I'm not opposed to swearing when it fits, the book tries often to make the reader feel urgency by overusing the f-word); and the author seems to sometimes forget about her own characters, which may just be because there were too many. Several times I found myself wondering "where's so-and-so?" because Mackie suddenly wasn't thinking about or noticing them. For example, at one point his family is in danger, and he finds his sister and father but makes no mention of his mother. Mackie very well knows she's at work (as we find out later), but the reader doesn't know this, and it feels weird. He also doesn't ask obvious questions, or explain things to people when he should, which doesn't feel like character quirks so much as plot devices. Mackie's unassuming nature turns into martyrdom a few times too, which didn't seem to fit him, and the ending didn't entirely make sense. (No one's worried about the Cutter anymore...?)

Typos were a small problem too. I could put up with them, and they weren't overwhelming; but there were enough that I definitely noticed, which is disappointing. Sexual moments and swearing also make this a not-appropriate-for-under-high-school book.

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