Genre: Young Adult
Main characters: Alfrieda “Allie” Carlotta Emerson
Time and place: present day, Peacock Flats, Washington
First sentence: “I’ve been wondering… is there a normal way to become paranormal?”
Verdict: Just not my kind of book.
“One minute, I was on a ten-foot ladder adjusting the TV antenna on the twenty-four-foot trailer behind Uncle Sid’s house [...]. The next minute, I sailed off the ladder, grazed an electric fence and landed face down in a cow pie.”
Apparently a minor accident, no more. Allie is unharmed, and yet her life will never be the same: some part of what happened unleashed the paranormal abilities she never knew she had. What’s more, when she tells the story to Kizzy (her best friend, having Gypsy roots), the woman does not seem the least bit surprised. Later, she gives Allie a strange present: a pendant with a blue stone, called a moonstone, and she tells her about a prophecy that threatened death and disaster if Allie would misplace it.
Mere days later, Kizzy is found beaten almost to death. The message is clear, someone is after the pendant. Will Allie be able to protect it, and herself?
I am not sure how I feel about this book. I think it has some good parts, but somehow they are poorly tied up to one another. There were all sorts of jarring details that kept me from losing myself in it. The subject, while not a very original one — a prophecy, a Chosen One, secret societies — could have been the foundation for an interesting novel, but for some reason everything felt to me rather flat.
I have received this and the other three books in this series from NetGalley (thanks!), but at the moment I don’t think I will read the rest.
Growing up without a father and with a less-than-stellar mother, Allie has nonetheless turned out remarkably fine, given the circumstances. She’s a straight A student, and quick to intervene when someone is in need of help — and I liked her because of that. Her heart is in the right place (which is one of the things I like most in a character), and yet I couldn’t like her 100% because of her inner voice (the story is told in first person POV). Most of the time she’s okay, but sometimes her reactions were a bit odd — such as when she’s at Kizzy’s bedside, and Kizzy slips back into a coma. Allie’s inner monologue: “She closed her eyes and began to snore gently. Lights out! I continued to sit with Kizzy…“. It may be my not being a native speaker, but to me the exclamation did not make sense in the context (as an exclamation, I mean; as a normal sentence it would have been somewhat better).
It’s really a wonder that Allie has turned out to be a decent kid given her mother, Faye. She loves her daughter, but that is the one good thing I can say about her. Alas, we probably started out on the wrong foot, as the book opens with Faye trying to collect social security for a non-existing illness, and words cannot say how much I despise people who do that. At least her request was declined (yay!). Her reaction to that was kinda strange — she took a mail-order catalog with pictures of bulls (in her defense, that was the only catalog she had available), tore it to pieces, and wrote “I HATE BIG ED1” on each bull(!), then sent Big Ed the pieces. Was that reaction supposed to make any sense? Had she forgotten she had no actual right to social security, not being sick? In her defense, she does say that this was a wake-up call, yadda yadda, and then she promises she’ll stop pretending she’s sick and will get a job, but by now the harm was done and I couldn’t be bothered to like her.
There’s also a guy present in the story — Allie’s ‘love interest’ of sorts. Junior Martinez is quite interesting, a reformed gang member, and I liked how there was a sort of intensity to him, in some of the things he says or does. Unfortunately we only get to see him through Allie’s eyes, and she knows little about him (when the book starts rumor has it that Junior has a baby, and Allie thinks “apparently he’s already reproduced. Extremely uncool.“); the things don’t get much better later on, as Junior is not the type to talk about himself other than explaining the very basics2, and so I, the reader, had quite a limited view of him too.
While the two main characters are not in love by the end of the book3, they do end up a lot closer than they initially were. Which would have been nice for me, as I liked them both, only there’s little to no transition between their initial state (acquaintances, on speaking terms but not much more than that) and the state things are in near the end (close friends, most likely a bit more — they even talk about one dumping the other, despite their not being actually an item). The day Allie finds out about Kizzy’s accident Junior follows her in his car, having left classes for her (why? no explanation for his sudden interest in her is given) and gives her a lift to Kizzy’s house. After that it’s like he no longer has a life of his own — he’s either with Allie or doing some arrangements to help Allie. While of course I was happy to see Allie having someone to help her, the relationship between them did seem a bit… not optimal, and forced.
The world Allie lives in is pretty much our own world, so there is not much world-building involved. The difference is that some people have psychic abilities; magic is infused in some objects too. Some people are born with “a star located somewhere on their palms” — they’re part of a secret society called the Star Seekers, a society set on protecting the world from evil. For centuries their word of mouth tradition included the story of a prophecy, “the story of a powerful gemstone and the maid who is meant to have it“, and they are determined to see the prophecy fulfilled (although, funnily enough, the prophecy says nothing about what the maid is supposed to do with it, or anything at all that might give a clue why in the world is it so important for everybody that the moonstone stays with Allie). The ‘counterpart’ of the Star Seekers are the Trimarks, whose palms bear the sign of an inverted triangle. These Trimarks’ apparently want wealth above all (I cannot but wonder in what way their being present at the crucifixion of Christ helped their purposes), and they would stop at nothing to get it. What they want now is the moonstone4, and it is up to Allie to protect it (because, while the Star Seekers are so very determined to see the prophecy fulfilled, they are apparently not determined enough to actually care what happens with the stone or the maid).
The plot is more or less the classical good vs evil struggle. The good side has something (the moonstone) that evil wants, and, of course, the evil will stop at nothing to get its hands on it. The conflict felt somewhat artificial though. At one point, the bad guys have concocted a story according to which the reason they are after the moonstone is that it can make them rich — now that is a tangible motivation, that I can understand; I may or may not agree with it, but I can understand its appeal. However later on we’re told that no, it was all a lie, the real reason why the Trimarks want the moonstone is… for evil. “Hoping that they’ll profit from it“. That’s it. An idea that was so overly simplistic I could not resonate with it. And then, of course, Allie knows that, were she to lose the moonstone, there will be chaos, death, and destruction. A single person standing between the world and its destruction — so cliche, especially as the details, those that could have brought the idea to life, are almost completely missing. Which isn’t to say that the plot was completely boring — I liked Allie and as such I rooted for her and was curious to see how she will pull through –, it’s just that it was way less that it might have been, had the flesh of the story been filled in.
What I liked most
There have been a few nice touches, like Allie reading the mind of a boy she liked (actually, the mind reading parts in general were cool, my favorites, I was sorry to see so few of them), or the part where Trilby, the one who had the moonstone a few decades earlier, was punished to spend her time in the SeaTac airport for using the moonstone for selfish purposes * insert long discussion about free will, and was it really Trilby’s fault that she did what she did? either way, I thought the punishment quite funny and original :) *.
What I liked least
This is more of a minor squabble but it nagged at me all throughout. At one point Allie receives a mysterious package, containing a cell phone with a pre-programmed number that, when called, recited the story of the two secret societies (good vs bad) in existence. And I couldn’t for the life of me understand why had the author chosen to use a cellphone (with a pre-programmed number, no less), when a simple tape player/CD player/iPod would have done the job quite as well, or better. Especially as there is no mention of the said cellphone later on (and keep in mind that Allie is a poor kid, that has never had a cellphone of her own — yet she treated it like it was nothing out of the ordinary at all). A minor thing in itself, but it made the story feel… half baked, as if the author couldn’t be bothered to think everything through, jumping instead at the very first idea that crossed her mind.
Thoughts on the ending
The ending was, predictably enough since this is part of a series, the classic you-have-won-a-battle-but-you-have-not-won-the-war trope. Quite an okay one, if it weren’t for one thing.
Recommend it to?
People who like Young Adult books featuring prophecies and a Chosen One. There are many positive reviews out there so if the summary sounds to your taste by all means do give it a try.
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- Big Ed was the lawyer that was supposed to help with her case [↩]
- It wasn’t his kid. He left the gang. Nothing at all about his thoughts/feelings on matters. [↩]
- a good thing too, since Allie is only fifteen [↩]
- how come they didn’t want it until now? It’s been centuries since the prophecy has surfaced [↩]