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Wednesday, March 30, 2011


By Sophie Littlefield
   Let me preface my review with a confession- I haven't actually read the first book in this series, nor am I familiar with the author's other works. Since her other works are adult crime fiction, I haven't yet felt the urge to delve into her other writing, and since the cover of the galley copy explicitly stated "A Companion to Banished", I assumed it was OK  to simply jump to this one. I was right, coincidentally, but I think that was more a result of the shoddy writing style than any real separation between the two plots. I was able to gather enough information both to cover the gaps in my knowledge and to make any future reading of Banished unnecessary and unappealing.
  I'll start with a play-by-play of the first few pages to give you an idea of the writing style:

  "Eleven's like... the new ten," Jess said, cracking herself up and spitting Coke on Gojo's coffee table. It had a glass top that showed every mark-- fingerprints, smudges of guacamole, and the crumbs from the chips, which were made of blue corn but tasted like every other chip I'd ever had. Still, it was a first, and out of habit I said the words in my head. Blue corn chips. When I got home--which had better be soon--I'd write it in my journal. It would be number 62.
  But that was for later. Right now I had to focus.
  "That makes no sense," Charlotte said, licking salt off her fingers. She was sitting on the floor between Gojo's legs. He leaned back on the couch with a beer dangling loose in one hand, the fingers of the other playing with Charlotte's wavy red hair.
  It was Gojo's fifth beer since we'd gotten here. I'd counted.
  "No, you know, really," Jess said, managing to stop giggling only to start up again. I was pretty sure she didn't actually drink as much as she had tonight. Not like Charlotte, who drank more than Jess and me put together and you couldn't tell. "Eleven o'clock isn't as late now that we're going to be juniors. It's like the new ten o'clock. You know, like black is the new... no, wait."
  "Olive," I said. "Olive green, it's the new black. You know, neutral? I read it in Vogue."

   Appealing, right? Don't worry, these few pages (ironically the "hook" of the book) don't have anything to do with the rest of the plotline, the prequel, the characters, or the conflict; in short, the author could have cut these completely irrelevant pages out and no one would have cared noticed.
  On the other hand, this does mean that the rest of the book was a lot better. There were a few cool characters: The main character, Hailey, is a Healer, which basically means she can repair most injuries. The injuries she can't repair, the ones that die being healed by her, they turn into zombies. Points for originality. There's her cousin (I think that's what he was... it wasn't very clear.) who is around five years old. The author does a fantastic job of following his stream of consciousness in the tense bits, and I think he might be my favorite character overall. He's psychic and, I think, the only one who knows what's going on at any point in the book.
  There are also a few not-so-cool characters. There's the quintessential warm-soft-lacrosse-insufferable-powerful boyfriend, who can seemingly deal with anything. There's a chauvinistic polygamist good-for-nothing varmint. He's my least favorite character. I wonder how the author felt when she was writing his chauvinistic drivel? It really wasn't necessary, my dear Ms. Littlefield, to include that little character quirk. Indeed, the book could have done without him in the first place. Why was he--oh, right. He had a big role in the 'companion' novel. There's a doctor the author was superbly and subtly setting up for the quintessential betraying-evil-and-joining-good character-flip. I think Ms. Littlefield forgot. It never happened. Silly.
  Another thing that struck a perhaps discordant tone when I read the book was its striking, striking similarity to the Maximum Ride series. A group of evil, morally-challenged scientists with a posse of weird guards chase down a group with awesome powers. Enough said on that.
  I hope I've been sufficiently cynical and sarcastic in this post. I was conflicted over this book- it has some seriously cool parts, like the zombies and the five year old psychic, but other parts fall flat like a soufflé left in a cupboard. In other words, a 3.5.

To quote the psychic:

  All day long the glasses lady had been trying to make him talk, but Chub knew about not talking and he was better at it than the lady was at making him talk, and he stayed quiet.
  He could tell that made the lady with the brown glasses kind of mad. But she didn't do anything about it  except try harder to play with him. But she wasn't very good at playing. ....On the table there was a hiding thing.... The lady with the brown glasses would take something out of the box and put it on the table, but it was behind the hiding thing so he couldn't see it. Then she would ask him which thing was on the table.
  He didn't know. He couldn't see behind the hiding thing. He could have told her that, but it would mean he would have to say words and today he wasn't saying words.

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