Tuesday, May 1, 2012

[review] Brenna Yovanoff - The Replacement

Title: The Replacement
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin
Format read: Hardcover
Source: Local library
Buy from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookdepository
Summary (via Goodreads): 
Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.
Random paragraph: "According to Roswell, I had a shot at her. But even if that was true, having a shot was different from knowing how to take it. She was a bright spot at the center of things, while I was destined to spend house parties and school dances standing against the wall with the guys from the Latin club. Except even that wasn't the right way to describe what I was." (p. 61, hardcover edition)

Thoughts: I really, really wanted to like this book. It always caught my eye: a small town with a huge secret? Somebody who gets violently ill around metal and modern technology? Sign me up!

The horror aspect was well-done. However, the rest did not live up to my expectations.

I will say this now: if Mackie Doyle had been Mackenzie Doyle instead, she would be one of the most loathed protagonists in all of YA literature. Mackie is a Replacement, a changeling struggling to live in the human world around him. He's quiet, has an allergy to iron, and is generally considered by the rest of his school to be a bit weird. However, despite his self-loathing and sickness, he has close friends and later has problems choosing between two girls. The other characters are pretty flat -- Alice is a typical Promiscuous Popular Girl while Tate is a textbook Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Roswell and Emma were more fleshed-out, but not by much. And though I wanted to like what the author did with Celtic mythology, I couldn't get on with this book's version of the Morrigan at all. My annoyance with the characters culminated in Tate and Alice's fight, which was rife with cliché high school dialogue:

"All I'm saying is, you could make an effort. You don't have to go out and join cheerleading. Just be normal ... You're just so weird. It makes people uncomfortable, and yeah, maybe no one else is going to say anything, but it needed to be said."
"Okay," Tate said. "Okay, so you said it. Now can you go behind the bleachers and make out with someone?"
Alice laughed, and not in a nice way. "God, you're such a reject. How you ever thought you were going to wind up with Mackie, I have no idea, but you totally deserve each other."

Tate gave her a long, amazing look. The kind that burns people down. "You are massively unqualified to tell me what I deserve. I mean, Jesus, just because you choose to share details of your dating life with pretty much everyone does not make us dear, dear friends. In fact, it mostly just makes you sound like a huge bitch."
The world-building... really didn't make much sense. Gentry is a town with a Secret. Bad things happen, but nobody really talks about it; these child sacrifices are depressing, but they're supposedly necessary for the health of the town. However, the town really isn't all that healthy. Mackie and the Morrigan touch upon this later in the book, but it was never really elaborated why the people in the town stay. I never got the impression that there was some sort of magic entrapping them, or what attracted people. There was a bit of history thrown in, that the town got its bond to the Fair Folk during the Great Depression, but there's no specific mention of anybody arriving or leaving. I never understood how big Gentry was supposed to be -- I thought it was a small to medium-sized town, because of the focus on the church, but there is apparently a community college and a rock club, which seems more reminiscent of a small city instead.

Speaking of the club, I was kind of annoyed with the way it was used. It was another thing that was touched upon, but never really elaborated upon -- the citizens go see the band Rasputin at the rock club to pay their respects and feed the Fair Folk with worship and positive energy. Except they bring about 200 people a show? Does everybody in the town know about Rasputin -- have they noticed that the band hasn't aged in 50+ years? After Mackie performs with the band, the characters disappear for 100+ pages until one of them shows up briefly before the climax.

Mackie's allergy to iron and metal is really inconsistently written. He can't be around people who bleed, and he can't touch certain types of metal -- there's an awkward scene where he's driven violently ill by French-kissing a girl with a tongue piercing. However, he's able to be driven around in cars as long as he has the window down; he's able to drink from beer cans; and although he's super-sensitive to the smell of blood, there's no mention of how he reacts to girls who are menstruating. While I realize that last bit may be kind of gross, his sensitivity to blood is played up so much that it made me wonder (and kind of irritated me when it was never addressed).

The atmosphere in this book is gray and dreary. There are rainy days that are soothing and relaxing, with fog making the outside world look mysterious. Other times, you wake up, look out the window, and want to go back to sleep instead. This book is like the latter -- it's a weather pattern of Suck that sits over your house forever.

Would I recommend this? It depends on what you're looking for. This had a gritty-teenager quality to it that kind of reminded me of Holly Black's stuff (which I don't like for the same reason) -- I can see her fans enjoying this, especially since it deals with fae. There was also something about this that reminded me of the movie Donnie Darko, though I can't say exactly what reminded me of it. The pacing was slow throughout, and I can't say it was really for me, but I can definitely see some of the teenage demographic enjoying this. Although this particular book didn't work for me, The Space Between looks really interesting, and I hope that endears me to Yovanoff more than this.

Overall: 2 stars.

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