Format: Kindle edition
Hello! I am so, so pleased to help out the ladies of I Love YA Fiction, and very grateful they invited me to be the summer guest blogger for reviews. So here we go, kids! I heard about this novel through a teaser on another blog that quoted the first line of the book, which hooked me even more than the cover did, although the cover its quite pretty: ‘My small Southern hometown is beautiful in the haunting way an aging debutante is beautiful. The bones are exquisite, but the skin could use a lift.’ I was pretty much sold. And I read this sucker in one day, y’all. I sacrificed sleep to finish it, and that is a huge deal for someone who naps with alarming regularity.
Plot: Emerson can see phantoms of lives already lived; people long dead appear to her at anytime, anywhere, a ‘gift’ that has nearly ruined her life as she struggles to try and find a way to cope with it on top of her parents’ tragic death four years ago. After trying countless different ways to find a cure or some answers for Emerson, her well meaning brother seeks out a little known organization called the Hourglass, and Emerson reluctantly agrees to give it a try. Michael Weaver, the young man brought in to help her, proves to be quite different from anything she’s encountered; he can see the ghosts, too. What Emerson thinks she knows about her ability, the Hourglass, and the mysterious Michael, doesn’t hold a candle to the revelations to come as she is hurled down the rabbit hole faster than her best friend Lily can whip up a Cubano. Now if only she had an explanation for why light bulbs pop and the air crackles whenever she gets near Michael…
Review: I enjoyed this novel, even with its flaws. Emerson’s struggle to try and maintain a normal life while coping with her odd gift is fascinating and sad. There are neat little touches, mechanisms she uses to establish who the real people are and who are remnants of the past; Emerson forced herself to study fashion, to pick out the ghosts based on the style and era of clothing. Her unspoken personal rule – don’t touch people, don’t approach them unless they’ve been studied thoroughly to see if they interact with their surroundings – struck me as lonely and difficult and made me feel sorry for her. She lives in constant fear of talking to the wrong person – the last thing she needs is the kind of incident that took her out of school in the first place. I also adore solid, realistic sibling relationships, and Emerson and her brother are so sweet. I could easily empathize with her, trying her very best not to be a burden to her successful older brother, feeling guilty that she’s screwing up his life with her mental problems. I really appreciated how Emerson’s grief over her parents’ death is handled. It’s painful and moving to read, and sprinkled throughout at the right moments, never forgotten about as the single most traumatic thing that has happened in her life. There are a handful of poignant, beautiful scenes when she’s remembering them and what happened (among one other thing not involving them) that almost put me in tears.
Okay, the love thing. So Michael was charming and a little shady and temperamental at times, which kind of gets explained later, but he took a bit to grow on me. He doesn’t appear to actually help Emerson all that much. He has a hidden agenda that Emerson all but finds out about herself because she moonlights as Nancy Drew and will not sit around and wait for him to come clean (I kind of loved that). When she does discover what she can actually do, no one bothers to coach her in how to use it effectively, and then they want her to use it to save someone’s life and not screw it up even though the training wheels haven’t come off – okay, not even training wheels, this is the first time she’s sat down on the flipping bicycle, people. But – the charged…uh…tension between Michael and Emerson is awesome. She’s drawn to him immediately, but it’s not the insta-love plot device I am starting to hate in romances; it’s allowed to build throughout the novel.
Then a love triangle shows up, and I didn’t find it believable at all. In fact, I hated it a little. Kaleb is Michael’s best friend, smoking hot, and a total ladies’ man. So he’s a natural flirt, and hits on Emerson all the time, but I really didn’t expect Emerson to suddenly develop a thing for Kaleb, or for him to reciprocate. Yes, Michael kind of kept Emerson at a distance for his own reasons and she didn’t understand it and there’s a miscommunication thing involving another girl, but would Emerson’s feelings for him be so shallow that she’d seriously consider dating his best friend? Is Kaleb such a terrible friend that, knowing how Michael feels about Emerson, he would pursue her as aggressively as he did? It made me dislike them both for a stretch of time. Up until that point in the book, Emerson didn’t strike me as that fickle, and I couldn’t tell if it was maybe some kind of desperate attempt to force Michael to make a move, so the whole thing just kind of threw me.
I had a few other quibbles involving the characters. Some minor characters fell completely flat for me; they were a bit one dimensional and I never got a feel for what kind of people they were. Lily, at first, was a marvelous side character as Emerson’s best friend, but halfway to the end of the book, she kind of gets forgotten about. There’s a huge reveal concerning her, and it’s left dangling and unanswered when the book finishes. I know it’s something that will be addressed later in the series, but it didn’t have to end on such an unsatisfying note where I’m all, “So…Lily? Did we leave her stranded somewhere? Has anyone checked on her?”
But, I still liked this one. It went in a direction I didn’t foresee, but it’s interesting enough that I plan on reading the next book in the series, if only to find answers to all the questions left by the end of the book.
Based on the following criteria:
How much did I like the heroine: 7. I really enjoyed Emerson for the most part. She used her wry sense of humor to cope with the gift she has, and genuinely loves her brother and sister-in-law. She stood up for herself when she felt she was being treated unfairly or bullied, and it’s refreshing. She becomes an idiot concerning Kaleb, but mixed in with the bad decisions is courage, a willingness to act and help others, and a great deal of wit.
How much did I like the love interest: 7. Michael…Michael. I didn’t know how I felt about him at first. I kept forgetting he’s only supposed to be a few years older than Emerson, around 20, because he certainly doesn’t speak like it. The way he responds and reacts to her made me picture a much older, more confident man. His behavior doesn’t make any kind of sense until much later in the book. But I did enjoy his clear interest in Emerson and his concern for her. And Kaleb I have a hard time considering as another love interest, because this aspect of the love triangle irritated me, and it felt kind of contrived for the sake of drama. I like Kaleb as a character tremendously; I didn’t like some of the choices he made. I think his presence in the book would’ve worked just fine as someone who flirted with Emerson in a not so serious way, because he flirts with everyone, and not because he wanted to move in on his best friend’s crush. Or heck, keep it in, but downplay it; subtle that puppy down and it would’ve had that much more meaning for a certain future happenstance involving Michael.
How believable is the plot: 7. This is tricky. The tone of the novel shifts halfway through, when Emerson discovers what Hourglass really is, hurling the story into X-Men territory. It could have completely missed the mark and weighed the story down, but somehow it worked. I found the revelation behind the ‘ghosts’ Emerson sees intriguing. However. A few characters at the end of the story reveal themselves to not be who they seem, and for one in particular, it was borderline unbelievable for me. I guess the signs were there, but the motive behind the person’s actions was as fragile as a house of cards, and I couldn’t really take it seriously. The end, though, pitches a fast ball involving Emerson’s past that all but hits you in the face, and it was a twist I did not see coming and I loved it. I actually gasped out loud. What it does to Emerson’s psyche is delicious, in a character development/reveal sort of way.
How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 9. The writing is superb. McEntire uses fresh metaphors and analogies, amusing and fresh and unique. She remembers to use all five senses to create a scene, and Emerson’s hometown comes to life and is a vivid backdrop to the story. The characters were always in motion, always interacting with their environment and each other as they spoke. McEntire gives Emerson a very funny, entertaining voice.
How much did I want to keep reading: 10. Unbelievable love triangle aside, I was definitely invested in Emerson’s journey to discover more about her ability and the task she’s given to aide Hourglass. Her past was touched on and talked about, but never in depth, and when I got the sense that there was much more than what was being shown, I had to finish.
Final Score: 8/10. Because Emerson is still pretty cool and messed up, Michael does romantic tension like nobody’s business, and Kaleb is…Kaleb is hot. Also, time travel and mustache twirling villains with unclear motives.