When ordinary high-school junior Joy Sumner visits a graveyard at midnight on a dare, she doesn't expect to end up sharing a kiss with brooding teen model Tanner Lindsey. And she definitely doesn't expect to make an enemy of Tanner's seductive, sinister mentor, the ageless supermodel Melisande--who may not be entirely human--or to find that her sleepy little corner of North Carolina is buzzing with supernatural energy.
Joy Sumner, a junior attending Ash Grove, an extremely competitive performing arts high school, ventures out to a graveyard at midnight because of a dare. What she doesn't expect to find is teen model Tanner Lindsey, an old student at Ash Grove. She finds herself at odds with the new big celebrity in town, the beautiful Melisande, and works through her year to survive high school and uncover the mystery behind Melisande and Ash Grove.
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Given how common the 'supernatural romance' genre is, I was really expecting this to be kind of trite and predictable. However, I think this might be the first book I have read to review that I feel like raving about.
The plot begins a bit cliched. Girl meets boy. In a graveyard, sure, we have to set the right tone for a dark fantasy romance, but still. However, the interactions between Joy and Tanner are very organic, and while things can be laid on a little thick, you never feel like they're being strangled with the red string, but rather that their relationship grows pretty realistically after that first kiss.
I'll admit, I didn't read the blurb before trying out this book (or, if I had, I had long forgotten it when I got to reading this book), so I didn't actually know there would be supernatural elements to this book. But, it was fun. The explanations we do get about the paranormal activity happening seemed unique but believable enough, if that makes sense. I didn't quite understand why we never heard of the 'time slip' experiences from anyone but Joy, especially considering that it's pretty much stated that the powers coursing through the school grounds had a much smaller effect on Joy than most of her classmates, so it would only make sense that at least a few of them would experience some of the things that Joy did, but I digress.
I did like definite condemnation of Melisande's sexual and exploitative relationship with Tanner; unfortunately, there's such a large stigma in sexually abused men that 'they weren't really taken advantage of' or 'they definitely wanted it anyway' so to see a big issue like that tackled with grace was really nice.
The representation in the book, while not perfect, is definitely a step up from the books that I've been going through, so I must applaud the author for that. It's stated that the main character is 'plump', and her weight is often commented on by one of her classmates (and her six month pregnancy is still concealable), so it's really nice that there's a positive portrayal of a bigger girl that doesn't culminate in some dramatic weight loss. Wish the girl on the cover of the book might represent that, but I suppose you can't have everything. The black girl, Tasha, is not written stereotypically, though I do wish that she had more time 'on screen' and could have taken control of a subplot. (And of course, I always roll my eyes a bit when POC are described using food - coffee-colored skin, for example.) While the main gay man, Clarke is 'sassy', it really doesn't try to overdo it or go "hahaha look at this sassy gay man, he's so funny and gay". Like all of the other characters, he's a realistic portrayal of the people around us. And I liked that. I only hope that in the next installments she has added more people of color and possibly lesbians.
I don't really know what to think of about William, Joy's best male friend. I mean, he has a crush on Maddie, Joy's roommate, and gets angry that she only seems to date jerks and acts like being the 'nice guy' is a curse, but other than one outburst from him, we never hear him trying to police who Maddie decides to date, or try to make her feel obligated to date her because he's decent to her. Is he a Nice Guy or a guy who is genuinely nice? I couldn't quite get a grasp to figure it out.
But anyway. I loved the characters. Loved them, especially our protag. She has her own issues, her own angst, but she doesn't dwell on those things enough to keep her from focusing on the mysteries at hand. That, and I just love this line:
"If you’re such a waste of space, I’d have to be pretty stupid to care about you, and I am not stupid; I am goddamned awesome."
Yes. Yes! I need girls who have a high esteem of themselves, who don't need their love interest to save them, who see the good aspects of themselves, and aren't afraid to say it. God, when that happened I was cheering.
This book was a refreshing find. I hope that you all will give it the chance it deserves. (And, as of right now, the ebook on Kindle is free! So, it's a good opportunity)