posted at Friday, October 17th, 2014 at 8:00 AM | Reviews, Young Adult
Series: Beware the Wild #1
Published by HarperTeen on October 21, 2014
Genres: Horror, Mystery, Paranormal, Romance, Thriller, Gothic
Amazon • The Book Depository
It's an oppressively hot and sticky morning in June when Sterling and her brother, Phin, have an argument that compels him to run into the town swamp -- the one that strikes fear in all the residents of Sticks, Louisiana. Phin doesn't return. Instead, a girl named Lenora May climbs out, and now Sterling is the only person in Sticks who remembers her brother ever existed.
Sterling needs to figure out what the swamp's done with her beloved brother and how Lenora May is connected to his disappearance -- and loner boy Heath Durham might be the only one who can help her.
This debut novel is full of atmosphere, twists and turns, and a swoon-worthy romance.
Despite the beautiful cover, Beware the Wild wasn’t really on my radar. The names Sterling and Phin would have been enough to scare me off, but the addition of a southern setting sealed the deal. I may have grown up, ostensibly, in the south, but southern fiction doesn’t tend to work well for me. Because of two people, I decided to read this book now and I’m glad I did. Perhaps most importantly, Gillian (Writer of Wrongs) read and loved it. Then Meg (Cuddlebuggery) sent me her ARC, planning to read her egalley instead, since I had neither. Beware the Wild turned out to be a surprisingly eerie delight, one that differs from my usual reads and that made for a lovely change of pace.
Parker’s writing achieves both the gothic and southern atmosphere all without going over the top. There’s not much dialect at all. Just a light smattering of words to remind your brain to think in a southern accent. The heavy-handed way slows me down, but this allows me the freedom to hear it in my head and read at my usual speed. The writing isn’t what I would call ornate, but there’s an intricacy to it. I highlighted several lines that struck me with their deceptively simple beauty. The writing is exactly what it needs to be for the tale. Well, one quibble here: Heath says “jezuz,” which did throw me out of the book every single time. Other than that, I thought it was fantastic.
The other part of Beware the Wild that shined for me was the swamp. Obviously, the Wasting Shine literally shines, but that’s not what I mean.Parker imbues the swamp with so much local legend and menace even before the reader gets an eye into the swamp. Every time Sterling entered, my heart was pounding, nervous about what she might find. The swamp’s magic and darkness came alive very strongly.
Sterling’s brother disappears into the swamp and everyone forgets he ever existed, replaced by the girl who stumbles out of the swamp. Lenora May was unknown to everyone until that moment, but everyone but Sterling has no idea. The psychological implications of this make me shiver with fear and the delight of a well crafted story. Everyone, of course, thinks that Sterling is insane, rambling about some brother she never had. It’s a completely horrifying prospect to imagine that someone could be so easily replaced, and to think that the one person with true vision could be decried much like Cassandra in Troy.
The romance that develops between Heath and Sterling is cute. The speed of their courtship makes sense, since they have such good reasons to bond. Also, it made a big difference for me that the two had been into each other in the past and were just rekindling the romance that almost was back then. It comes on fast, but it didn’t come out of nowehere and they had really good reasons to trust one another.
Parts of the story were, I think, a bit simple and predictable, but the atmosphere and character development pulled me through those feeling satisfied overall. Oddly, in some places, I actually liked the simplicity. Throughout Beware the Wild, Sterling comes up with a bunch of ill thought out plans and they pretty much all fail. In this case, though, I didn’t come out of it feeling like she’s an idiot. She’s a teenager dealing with things beyond her ken and she does the best she can, which often isn’t that great. It really upped the realism and was especially refreshing after a novel where the heroine always magically knew what to do. However, two issues still bother me a bit: View Spoiler » 1) Candy’s power feels really convenient and is explained solely by her stubborn nature. That’s not really enough for me. Actually, I think the attempts to explain it away like that just drew my attention to it and made it bother me. I do want to say, however, that I love that her name is Candy and she’s not an airhead; she’s smart, serious and dependable. 2) Where Lenora May turns out to be a villain but also a victim, Fisher is plain villain. It would have been nice to see more depth to him, perhaps through more of Lenora May’s back story. Also, they’re in love like Lannister siblings, right? As Gillian said so perfectly, “Flowers in the Swamp.” « Hide Spoiler
In this case, the beautiful cover is not leading you into a gross swamp of bad prose. Follow the Wasting Shine and you won’t regret the magic you find inside. If you like Brenna Yovanoff, I definitely think you’ll enjoy Natalie C. Parker.
Fear doesn’t protect anyone. Fear only makes us more vulnerable when we should be finding ways to be strong.
Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:
Gotta be careful in swamps, yo