Narrated by Kevin T. Collins
Is falling in love the beginning . . . or the end?
In Ethan Wate’s hometown there lies the darkest of secrets . . .
There is a girl. Slowly, she pulled the hood from her head . . . Green eyes, black hair. Lena Duchannes.
There is a curse. On the Sixteenth Moon, the Sixteenth Year, the Book will take what it’s been promised. And no one can stop it.
In the end, there is a grave.
Lena and Ethan become bound together by a deep, powerful love. But Lena is cursed and on her sixteenth birthday, her fate will be decided. Ethan never even saw it coming.
Why did I pick up this book? It’s not one of my free-for-reviews. Well, it is YA-Supernatural, which is one of my favorite genres even if almost everything in the genre has been done to death and Twilight just about killed my faith in the target audience. It was also available from my library in an audio format which is the mostly likely to get finished these days. So don’t judge me for being late to the party. I haven’t even seen the movie yet. (I’m waiting ‘til the library or Netflix gets it. Have I mentioned how cheap I am sometimes?)
Going by my teenage son’s girlfriend, “Good book. Crappy movie,” (Literally all she said while flipping through my audio-library on a road trip.) I started listening that night in a tent in the middle of nowhere.
Now, after I’m finished, as I browse through the many reviews on GoodReads and Amazon, I’m chuckling just as much at the appalled responses from self-proclaimed southerners as I was at the descriptions of the people of Gatlin. Having lived in or near small towns (in a state I will not name) all of my life, having been in the middle of the garden parties and vacation Bible schools and various cliques found in the middle of those small towns…I can, with confidence say that those stereotypes do, in fact, exist. (Stereotypes exist for a reason, you know, because there is more than one small-minded, bigoted person out there who says it can’t be good to bury your nose in so many books instead of spending time with actual people. I’ve met them. I’ve been told this very thing. More than once.)
So, once more, I find myself enjoying a book that seems to be controversial in some small way.
The other critique is that the writing is horrendous. Having listened instead of reading (with my imagined red pen beside me), I managed to fall into the story rather than pick the grammar to death (which I tend to do.)
I have a rather interesting background. I’m an English major. I’ve studied and done well in every single English class since I could say my alphabet. Before college I was a grammar-Nazi from hell. Then, in college, I found linguistics and minored in anthropology. The study of linguistics is a study of the words, the evolution of the language rather than the traditional cannon of literary works that says “only these authors and works are great,” in that stodgy old way. Linguists take into account cultural value and instead of saying, “your grammar is wrong,” they say, “your grammar is not standard.” So look at this story from this point of view.
The narrator is a sixteen year old, somewhat well-read, southern boy with fantasies of getting the heck out of dodge. He’s been raised by a mother who had outside influences and could put the citizens of Gatlin into perspective and a father who’d left, and returned with a college education. He’s been raised to not only respect his elders, but actually help them out. (This type of guy also actually exists in the south.) He’s overheard the cattiness of gossips and learned to spot the causes without even realizing it. Thus, the eye for what the girls are wearing. (Notice he puts more detail into the feminine body than any of the masculine descriptions?) The language and grammar is perfectly suitable for this narrator. This isn’t a literary work that will be studied 30 years from now. This is a book written for entertainment.
We’ve covered the South and the language, so far, right? The last controversy I will touch on is the boy-meets-girl, loves-girl, but-can’t-be-with-her. Think about this: the Bible (even if this is mostly in the books that were removed) even tells about the angels coming down to Earth to protect humans, but were never allowed to love. Romeo and Juliet were not allowed to be together. Parents are just now learning that if you forbid teenagers to date a certain person or type of person, that’s just a prod to make them fight all the harder to be together. This is a story that exists throughout all time, and is never un-relatable.
So, I’ve touched on all the bits that people can’t agree on. Either this will make you desperately want to read it, or it will become one of those titles that will never grace your library. So be it. You can’t please everyone all of the time.
Now for my personal opinion:
- Refreshingly not in the head of the whiny teenage girl (Sure, she’s there, but, every other sentence is not, “No one understands!” It’s just once or twice a chapter.)
- Even though I’m a girl, I completely related to Ethan’s love of reading, desperate need to get out of a small town, and inner critique of the craziness surrounding him. The only difference I think I see is that at least I had a best friend to talk about that craziness with. Just like a guy, Ethan keeps it all inside, never letting his macho be tainted by letting such inner dialogue escape into public consumption lest he be judged.
- There were a bunch of passages that could have used a re-write. Even listening, the passivity could be much more dynamic by simply removing the passive voice (which apparently confuses some people into thinking the narrator is speaking in the past tense during a current event).
- Here’s an interesting thought point: I was not exceptionally bothered by the massive amounts of gush, why?
- It was a guy telling it matter-of-factly without all the mangling purple prose which is a tendency of us females?
- I was willing to overlook the sap in favor of falling headlong back into my hometown and high school with a nice sardonic understanding of how it is to live in the south, be proud of your heritage, but never, ever, feel as you belong?
- I did find the ending to be a bit hard to swallow. Had the foreshadowing mentioned the part about the moon and Ethan wondering or using that as a possibility even in his head, it might have gone down a bit better.
- I hate significant characters withholding necessary information from the teenager for over simplified reasons just to make the reveal in the last act a dramatic scene
- This is a character irritant for me: When will teenagers understand that by whining emotionally to the adult, they will not get what they want? (By the way, this is another stereotype, people, I wonder where it comes from? Right? Because no teenage girl ever does that.)
In the end, my recommendation is to listen to this. The audiobook includes the haunting song in a way few readers would be able to create in their own heads. Hearing the books allows your mind to process it in a different way than reading the words (where we might click our red pens and cluck disparagingly).