Monday, May 21, 2012

The Replacement

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
Publication Date: September 21, 2010
Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin Group
Pages: 343
Format Read: ARC from publisher (thank you!)

Summary: 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.

On the front cover, a quote from Maggie Stiefvater reads, "I loved this eerie and beautiful story of ugly things." I could not agree more. This was such a unique story about an ugly boy who didn't belong with humans and came from another race entirely. There were so many intriguing things about this whole world. 

The problem — I wanted to know more. I was saddened to learn that I wouldn't find out why the superstition that scissors above a baby bassinet would keep that child safe was true. I wanted to know more about the underbelly of Gentry, and how exactly the town worked. I wanted to know much more backstory than was given. But I suppose that was part of the whole mystery of the story. The unknown was what Gentry thrived on anyway, but I was so mad to learn that more of its history was never explained. 

Mackie himself was an interesting character. He wasn't particularly likeable, but he wasn't unlikeable. He angered me that he assumed everyone hated him. I wanted to slap him and get him out of that mindset. It seemed like he was in the middle of a coming-of-age scenario, but the town was so weird and manipulated that it was a lot more intense than the path of normal teens. There was just so much about him that was left in an unknown abyss that I wanted to reach out and find somewhere.

The story moved along, too, but not in the compelling way that makes you sit on the edge of your seat, yearning to know more, and then appalled when you discover something ridiculous and awesome. This one never answered anything. I felt like more mysteries and histories kept developing, but I never got answers or backgrounds on anything that I was truly wanting more information on.

I wanted relationships to develop, I wanted to know why Mackie and his people were allergic to iron and blood. There were just so many tiny details that I feel would have made the story so much greater than it was. Though it was a lovely little tale of ugly things, I felt that the ugly was emphasized too much, and the why behind the ugly was not emphasized enough. I had such high hopes for this book. In a way, they were met. But I wanted the book to soar beyond my expectations. But I was just longing for more from the story, so it fell short. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Queen of Kentucky

The Queen of Kentucky by Alecia Whitaker
Publication Date: January 2, 2012
Publisher: Poppy
Pages: 375
Keywords: friendship, Kentucky, horses
Format Read: paperback from author (thank you so much!)

Summary:Fourteen-year-old Kentucky girl Ricki Jo Winstead, who would prefer to be called Ericka, thank you very much, is eager to shed her farmer's daughter roots and become part of the popular crowd at her small town high school. She trades her Bible for Seventeen magazine, buys new "sophisticated" clothes and somehow manages to secure a tenuous spot at the cool kids table. She's on top of the world, even though her best friend and the boy next door Luke says he misses "plain old Ricki Jo."

Caught between being a country girl and wannabe country club girl, Ricki Jo begins to forget who she truly is: someone who doesn't care what people think and who wouldn't let a good-looking guy walk all over her. It takes a serious incident out on Luke's farm for Ricki Jo to realize that being a true friend is more important than being popular.

First of all, I would like to send a GIANT thank you to Alecia Whitaker for personally going to the trouble of getting me a review copy back in January. She was also at a signing in Louisville then, too, which is one of the first exciting signings happening there since the beginning of time, and I couldn't go because I was leaving for England (okay, I guess really not THAT sad since I was going to England and all). But, I'm back now and this was the first book I cracked open.

Because so much of it pertained to my own life, I fell right into this book with ease. The writing was light, but not so light that it sounded cliche or overdone. It was just the right amount to make it a great start-of-summer book, but the heavier issues that this book dealt with were done so expertly.

Before posting my own review, I browsed through a few that I found on Goodreads. I would like to counter several of the bad ones. Yes, the main character, Ericka, was annoying at times. She was 14, she was a girl, and she wanted to be popular. But to all those people out there that hated her all the time, this is life in Kentucky. My town is about 40 minutes away from where this book took place. I switched from a private Catholic middle school to the public high school, and people can be brutal. While I never tried to be popular like Ericka, I certainly know why she was annoying for most of the book and wanted to fit in. I thought it was a very well-done, realistic interpretation of life in Kentucky. On one end, people live on farms and work every day of their lives. Then, right down the road, are billionaire mansions with literally picture-perfect southern belles whose only aspirations are to marry and have the perfect man.

Then there's Luke, Ericka's best friend. He was by far my favorite character, and his real-world problems were also a realistic interpretation of life. Though scary, they put Ericka's problems to shame, and I understand why everyone was so upset with her character. But, people, that's kind of the point. It slaps you in the face to get the reader, not Ericka, to realize that whatever your own problems are, there are other people that probably have it worse than you. It was a subtle way to get that message across, and I fully believe it was done remarkably, using a young 14-year-old boy to stand up to his own problems.

As far as the general plot went, it was a very cute little story line. We follow Ericka through her first year of high school, managing boys, church, family, friends, trying to fit in, cheerleading, and eventually joining the newspaper committee. She backstabs people, makes new friends, discovers a little bit about herself, and all that good stuff you have in coming-of-age novels.

I really did enjoy this book, and spent about half the night reading it in one go. I haven't done that in so long, and I had so much fun with this. I was just shocked at how realistic the whole social situation was. The only reason I didn't try to fit in in high school was because I had already tried it in the 7th and 8th grade, when certain girls realized they were rich and beautiful. I tried for about a week, and then got to reading again and realized that I would rule the world one day! This was just insane how much of this kids in my area go through as they grow up.

I would definitely recommend, especially with Derby day being tomorrow and all! Great read about Kentucky!!