Friday, May 23, 2014

Catching A Blackbird

Tootling around the internet, sometimes you find free copies of books that have been out for a few years.  Often, this happens when there's a new book in the series.  The publisher wants to hook you, so they offer the first book(s) in the series as e-copies as well.

While browsing Edelweiss for review copies, I found a book called Blackbird.  Without, you know, actually looking at any of the info, my brain said, "Hey, that funny dude on Twitter, Chuck Wendig?  He has a book called Blackbirds."

 So I requested it.  Turns out, this is not the first book in the Miriam Black series (which has a plural title anyway); it is a YA thriller by Anna Carey (whose other books I have not read).
 Librarian fail.  I could also say I hadn't had enough coffee for the day.  Yep.  Let's go with that.  Plus, the covers are both black and white with red text.  Since I'm a visual person, my brain made a feeble (very feeble) connection there.

But!  As I have said so many times before, the serendipitous discovery of books is one of my very favorite things.  I'm a creature of habit.  I'm not proud of it, but I harbor certain prejudices against certain types of books.  Because I am a professional, I don't let that influence what I recommend titles to others, but it also means that I don't have to read romances because I don't like them.  I also generally don't like teen paranormal romance, sports books, or thrillers.  The last one is mostly because I'd simply prefer to read an "adult" thriller.

The Blackbird that fluttered into my life and nested in my Kindle is a YA thriller.  Told in the second person.

Whoa.  Gutsy.

And yet ... it worked.  Using the second person POV (I swear, I just typed "yousing" in some sort of neuron fritz) really engages the reader and makes the narrative feel a bit like a choose your own adventure-type of story.  Plus, since Blackbird also explores the theme of identity, we aren't explicitly told about the narrator (third person), nor does the narrator reveal him or herself (first person).  You, as a reader, project some of your own experiences onto the narrator.

Earlier this year, I read an ARC of an adult thriller called Runner by Patrick Lee, and Blackbird reminds me a bit of Runner, only without the psychic bits (oops, spoiler?).  A girl wakes up on the subway tracks.  Literally on top of them.  She has no idea who she is--no name, no sense of place, nothing.  After escaping the train and the curious (and concerned) onlookers, she runs into a grocery store to use the bathroom to clean up and accidentally witnesses a bit of pot selling going on.  By a kid.

Awkward.

Ben--the dealer-kid--needs the girl as a cover to get out of the grocery store without being questioned by the cop who's staking him out.  She needs Ben for a ride.  Turns out Ben is a poor little rich kid whose mom is in therapy and who makes cash selling joints on the side.  He's nice enough--trusting and pretty sweet.  So, the opposite of her/you.

The narrator adopts the name Sunny, which is cute because she's pretty much anything but.  She's intense and a bit scary.  I liked her a lot!  She has abilities she doesn't remember acquiring--and I'm not talking about playing the piano or whistling through your teeth.  Think hand-to-hand combat, cliff diving, and that sixth sense that you're being followed.Sunny starts having flashbacks to being in a jungle with a boy.  They're running and they're scared and HOLY COW THERE'S WILD ANIMALS.    Deep in her core, Sunny knows this boy, but she can't remember anything about him.

Meanwhile, she's being followed by a man in a suit, then she's attacked by a very well-put-together woman, and then a blue-eyed man with a scar down his face (I gotta admit, the scar is a bit much, but it fits).  I like my thriller villains scarred and dangerous, thank you.  A fluffy cat would have been an even better accessory, but I'll take what I can get.

Sunny tries getting help from the police, but the LAPD doesn't exactly think that a sixteen-year-old kid is the center of some sort of conspiracy where someone's taken away her memory and then gone to great lengths to a) try to kill her and b) barring killing her, setting her up for various crimes.  I'll take neither of those, thank you very much.

Up until this point, I don't think I've read a YA contemporary thriller that's been as good as Blackbird. Carey does an excellent job of stringing both you and Sunny along while simultaneously making you care about her characters.  I have to say that I completely did not see the twist at the end coming, so kudos!  It's classic misdirection--I was so focused on this part of the story that I didn't see that as a possibility.

There's no instalove here, either.  Sunny's attraction to Ben seems purely physical, although she does care about his well-being.  She's practical, and she knows that she can never have a committed relationship as long as she's in this crazy, messed-up situation where she doesn't know her own name and, oh yeah, people are trying to kill her.

The only regret I have about reading an ARC of this book is that I now have to wait far too long to read the conclusion to this duology.  Zounds, blast, and phooey!

This is bite-your-nails twisty fun head stuff, and I need more.

An e-ARC of this title was graciously provided by Edelweiss and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.


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