Saturday, May 10, 2014

Feral Ice Storm of Death ... or Something

This started out very strongly, and then devolved into a hot mess of "Whaaaat?" very quickly. This saddened me. I was reading this on my Kindle, and one of the very great disadvantages of ebooks is that you can't properly skim a book to the end. You have to navigate to the very end and then work your way backwards. Humph.

The book opens with a murder. Serena, a budding journalist and high school student from Peculiar, Missouri, has been killed. Only she's not quite gone yet. She still feels, but her heart's not beating. She's aware of her body, but can't move it. She's trapped as her killer drags her through the woods and leaves her under a fallen tree during an ice storm. This passage was so gripping and visceral that I was really excited for the prose in the rest of the book.

And then I met Claire. Claire Cain is the "high school winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award--already, for an article she wrote her freshman year. She was destined for great things, every one of her teachers swore, and now, in her sophomore year, the journalism instructor eagerly approved when Claire wanted to write a piece on the incident with Rachelle ... Awe trailed behind her in the hallways, because stopping gossip was a power all her classmates wished they had."

This isn't an impersonal narrator telling us this, by the way. It's Claire.

We're treated to an exceptionally long flashback/dream wherein Claire's actions make me question her supposed genius. It's late. It's dark. She's at the University of Chicago Library and when her friend doesn't come to walk her home, she decides to walk herself. Then, when she realizes she's being followed, she goes down an alley because "in Chicago, alleys are as common as trees, after all; they've never been the sinister shadow to her that they might have been had she grown up in another city." 

I'm sorry. What? NO ALLEYS EVER. NO. This is a #NO. 
I live close to Chicago. I go down there relatively often. I never think to myself, "Hey, an alley! That's totally safe because it's a Chicago alley!" Does this author know how many people get shot in Chicago every night??? 

Actually, I'm thinking the author isn't super familiar with Chicago. As Claire tries to escape from her pursuers (IN THE ALLEY), there's an ice storm. I live about 60 miles north of Chicago. We sometimes get freezing rain, but not the kind of ice storms that happen in the south. We get blizzards and the dreaded Lake Effect Snow. This is Chicago's reaction to the ice storm: "It seems as though the entirety of Chicago has rushed inside, all of them shaking their heads in disbelief. 'An ice storm in April,' they're all saying, as they thunk saucepans onto stoves, boiling milk for hot cocoa. 'Who'd have ever thought?' "

It's really not uncommon for it to snow in April 'round these parts. We don't react in disbelief, just crankiness and anger. 
Also, this author seems to think that no one in the Chicagoland area owns a microwave. I don't think I've ever boiled milk on the stove for hot cocoa. Not even when I didn't own a microwave.

Anyway, during the ice storm, she's attacked and brutally beaten by a group of boys because of her muckraking journalist ways. After this, she feels that her best friend, Rachelle, has changed and is afraid she (Claire) will break. So, Claire doesn't mind that her supergenius Dad (like dad, like daughter) accepts a 6 month teaching assignment in Peculiar, Missouri.

Outside of town, they stop at a gas station, where Claire sees two teens pull up in a car, arguing. The girl is Becca, best friend of Serena (the girl who was killed, but no one knows that yet). Her friend is "a beautiful stranger, with the chiseled face of a TV star and blond hair gelled perfectly from a side part over the top of his head. He wore jeans so dark and crisp they seemed almost dressy, along with a dark turtleneck underneath a black wool coat--nothing at all like the puffy ski coats or the jackets emblazoned with team logos the boys wore back in Chicago."
Ugh. So, of course he's gorgeous. This whole thing made me gag. Plus, it's not like no one has style in Chicago. There are snazzy dudes down there. 

Inside, Becca and the boy, Owen, start arguing with Serena's ex-boyfriend Chas and his new ladylove, Ruthie. Ruthie has "voluptuous curves" and shyly "hugged her chest, forcing her cleavage to bulge out of the top of her tight sweater." Well, heaven forbid girls have curves. And you know those curvy girls are boyfriend stealers! I cannot believe I am reading this.

Then the dead girl starts sort of talking to Claire through feral cats and I gave up because this was so flat. As far as I could tell by skimming the story, everything is explained away by PTSD. Hooray. 

Maybe things got better as the story progressed. I was hampered by the main character's self-absorption. 

I received an ARC of this title from Edelweiss and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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