Kait Lenox has accepted her lack of high school social position, doing her best to blend into the background and avoid her ex-best friend turned super popular girl, Ariel. Unfortunately, Ariel knows that Kait has a tendency to crash funerals of people that she doesn’t even know. She’s able to keep this strange habit mostly under wraps until she runs into Ethan, the most popular boy in school and is forced to admit what she’s doing at the funeral of a stranger. Rather than outing her to the school, he draws her into a murder mystery where no one is who they seem, and if she and Ethan aren’t careful, Kait may be the next one to die.
In a sea of young adult novels with sassy female characters graced by one word titles, Adventures in Funeral Crashing was a dynamite way to catch my attention. Unfortunately, even though the story was a fast-paced read, it just didn’t quite deliver. My biggest problem was the author’s use of so many very current pop references – while this may be very engaging for today’s teens, in five years when these music and movie references are a fad of the past, the story will be outdated. By relying so heavily on these current pop fads, the book doesn’t have the goods for true longevity in the young adult genre.
In my opinion, the key when writing a teen melodrama with a sticky sweet happy ending is to provide lots of twists and turns along the way so the reader is constantly questioning what will happen next. This story follows a very predictable plot line and the characters, while engaging, are also incredibly predictable. Another challenge is the second person point of view, with the narrator talking to the reader throughout the story. While second person can be an engaging and casual way to reveal information, in this case it comes across as trite and cliché.
Overall, lovers of teen love stories who aren’t put off by the pop references and cliché storyline will find this a fun and fast-paced story, but I’m afraid it doesn’t have the full package to really stick in the young adult genre.
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Dafne is content with her reputation as the Ice Queen, and most people in the town of Berryford have learned to keep their distance. The unfortunate exception is her twin sister Buffy's infuriating boyfriend, Ian, who insists on pushing Dafne's temper to its limits. Even with this irritation, her life is continuing in a comfortably predictable pattern, until she starts noticing many of her fellow high school students developing a glassy-eyed stare. When scores of people start dropping into comas with no discernable cause, Dafne feels in her gut these events are somehow connected to the students' strange behavior and that something more than a freak outbreak is to blame. After Buffy succumbs to the coma, Dafne must battle her own demons and force herself into an uneasy truce with Ian so they can work together to save her sister. Faced with compromising and guilt-ridden situations, Dafne must embrace the unexplainable and open her mind to the paranormal in a race against time to save one of the few people she actually cares about - before it's too late.
Vila's story makes a compelling proposition - that there is a defined bond between creative works and the need for humans to use these works to journey away from our everyday lives to dream-like states of wonder. Break Away asks the reader to consider what might happen if we fervently held onto these travels away from our humdrum lives and were able to live in our imaginary fantasies - how (and indeed why) would we ever come back? I found this a fascinating proposal and particularly enjoyed Vila's skirting the boundaries of appropriate relationships by highlighting the tension between Dafne and Ian. It is easy to see how some of these relationships would play out in real life and for the reader to see herself in Dafne - however much she might not want to.
My biggest challenge with this novel is one that I see often in self-published works - the need for a professional editing eye. I found myself distracted by the frequent grammatical errors and awkwardly worded sentences, and some of the literary gems were almost lost. The exquisite wordplay and delicious descriptions in the narrative deserve utmost care so they are not overshadowed by grammatical mistakes. Vila certainly has talent and more comprehensive editing will help her bring that talent to the forefront.
Break Away story is compelling and engaging and worth a read for any lovers of young adult fiction. I'm excited to see what Vila has to offer in the future.
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Hank Mondale is a private investigator whose bad habits and trouble with the law blocked him from ever making it to his dream job as aNew York Citycop. Days filled with drinking too much and gambling away money he doesn’t have make the job offer from a wealthy client almost a life or death situation. When his new client reveals that a supernatural monster trying to kill his daughter, Mondale is not sure whether to stay for the money or run before it’s too late. Desperate for the paycheck and assuming real estate mogul Thomas Blake’s daughter, Mackenzie, is likely spinning a dope-induced tale, Mondale takes the case.
As Mondale dives deeper into Blake’s story, he discovers that people around Mackenzie keep disappearing without a trace and that she and her father are clearly hiding more than just the threats to her life. Has Mondale been hired to protect a clever murdering family or is there really someone – or something – to blame?
The early pages of the story made me think of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser – if he had continued on a self-destructive spiral into drunken debauchery – at least until things took a supernatural turn for the weird. As I progressed to the second section of the book and learned more about Mackenzie’s stalker, I found Pepper’s stark and disturbing narrative made me cringe in distaste.
While I found this to be an eminently readable story with compelling characters and engaging descriptions, I still can’t decide if I liked it or not. The protagonist of the story, Hank Mondale, has more bad habits than Charlie Sheen on a bad day. Just when I started to think I might like him, he would do something else to make me cringe and question his sanity. The only endearing character is Mondale’s childhood friend, Vic, who struggles to balance his loyalty to Hank with his dedication to his job as a cop with a heartfelt and genuine frustration.
For lovers of supernatural fiction who have a strong stomach for vivid depictions of gory situations, Pepper’s engaging dialogue and descriptions make for a good read, even if they don’t make for likeable characters.
Veal's Finding My Escape is an example of the supremely high quality young adult fiction available from self-published authors today. When I finished the book, I was still so intrigued I wanted to turn back to the first page and start reading again. There are many different twists in the novel and even when I was sure I knew what was coming, it turned out I was wrong. Veal created very likeable characters and pieced together their story in a way that keeps the reader engaged and wishing for more.