Very spoilers. Such spoiled.
I know I start a lot of my reviews this way and it’s probably getting kind of old, but . . . I really wanted to like this book.
For the first hundred pages it was really good, but after that it kind of just fell apart.
One of the things that really bothered me was the amount of drinking and smoking the main characters did. This could bother me because I’m straightedge and I just don’t understand why someone would find smoking and drinking at all appealing. I understand that I’m the exception and other teenagers drink and smoke and do drugs. Normally in books it doesn’t bother me when a teenager drinks a little bit, once, but in nearly every chapter there was something about one of them smoking or drinking. In my opinion, it didn’t add anything to the plot. I would have been okay with the drinking at the party, but Cara would just steal her mother’s alcohol and drink it because she felt like it. What is the author’s goal with this behavior? Is she trying to make them cool? More relatable? Because to me this made them less relatable and very average.
Another thing that bothered me was Cara’s relationship with Sam. Even though they’re not actually related, they were raised like siblings for a long time and… Yeah, falling in love with your step-sibling and then making out beside a river is kind of weird. That’s still incest. That’s still wrong. Also, the wording of the section was such that you could read a lot of activity into the text. After Bea kissed Cara I kind of hoped that they would end up together because I really liked Bea. She has red hair and reads tarot cards and seems to be kind of cool. I think this would have been a better pairing and worked better for the plot. And if not for the plot, then for my piece of mind and ships.
I felt like the author tried too hard to make the characters seem weird and different when they actually weren’t. It’s not the weird teen who drinks and sneaks out to parties, it’s the weird teen who doesn’t. Also, if you feel the need to repeatedly say that people are weird they probably aren’t. If they’re really weird their weirdness will speak for itself and it won’t be something that has to be pointed out constantly. The people I’ve met who insist on pointing out everything they do that isn’t normal are actually totally normal-they just want to be different and cool and think that pointing it out will make them seem more interesting. Perhaps the author was trying to do this. Perhaps she was trying to make them more relatable? I found it made them more average and annoying. What made them weird was the incest. Hard to shake that. But I doubt that was what she going for.
I also didn’t like how the characters talked about “brooding guitar players”. They seemed to use this as an insult and it really bothered me. Maybe this is because I AM a brooding guitar player and the kind of guy I would date would be a brooding guitar player. And here’s the thing, lots of brooding guitar players are kind of weird. They like strange music and they listen to it in ways no one else understands – they like some songs just because of the one short bass line that no one even hears. Not to mention that musicians are often the outcasts of high school cliques that idolize the cheerleaders and sports heros. In a book that really tried to make the point that the main characters were weird, it seems wrong to insult the characters who likely are weird.
Let’s talk about Elsie. I liked that there was a ghost girl, but I didn’t like how it was handled. I knew there was something weird about her after she disappeared and I knew she was dead as soon as they found that news article about the bridge. I kind of wish they figured out who she was by reading the whole news thing instead of their mom telling them at the end because I just feel like that would have been better. I also didn’t want Elsie to be their long dead sister and would rather have her just be a friendly dead girl who found this unlucky family and wanted to protect them. Random acts of ghostly kindness, or something. Paying forward the sort of kindness she didn’t get that might have saved her life. If she wasn’t related, there would be no reason for her to do it so it would make her actions even more powerful and meaningful.
Speaking of the end, I didn’t like the twist with Sam’s dad. I didn’t see it coming, even though looking back it was obvious but because I thought this book was a fantasy I didn’t expect there to be abusive step-fathers and murder. This could be my fault. I thought the book was something it wasn’t. I like fantasies and sci fi. If I wanted to read about abusive parents and murder, I would watch the news.
But if that didn’t happen maybe Alice wouldn’t have stayed in the burning house and almost died. And then maybe their mother wouldn’t have told them who Elsie was. But if Elsie wasn’t their sister and was just a nice dead girl they could have figured out by reading that old newspaper and Alice wouldn’t have had to almost die to get the plot to move.
In the end, I’m still left with some questions and I don’t feel like the author wrapped the book up well. If Elsie was protecting them and the accident season came when she was gone, is every season an accident season now that she has moved on? Where did she go when she left to explore? Why did she feel the need to go explore knowing that it would leave her family in peril? What happens between Alice and Bea?
Despite my high hopes for this book, I’m giving it two stars.
But I don’t want to leave you with only my irritating negative review so here’s a recommendation. If you want an interesting urban fantasy book try the Curseworker series by Holly Black.