The Replacement

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

Released September 16, 2010.

First, I have to say that I love the cover of this book.  You can’t see it in the image above, but it has a silver sheen in the sky, making it even more eerie.  The cover suits the book, marking it as something quite special.

Mackie has always been different from the other people in his town.  He tries to fit in, not be noticed, but it’s hard when you can’t be near iron or blood.  It makes it even harder when as a pastor’s son you can’t step onto consecrated ground near the church.  Of course, Mackie isn’t really the pastor’s son. He’s a replacement, left in the crib in exchange for a human baby and expected to die.  But Mackie didn’t die, yet.  He is failing though, he aches all the time and feels ill constantly.  The only ones who can save him are the creatures who live in the underground, in Mayhem.  When another child is stolen and replaced, Mackie finds himself trying to find the little girl and rescue her.  Finally being different is something that can be helpful.  But figuring out where he belongs will not be simple or easy.

Yovanoff’s writing carries this story along at a breathless pace, pausing only to occasionally catch your breath and then racing on again towards a dark end.  She has created a setting that is not only unique but enticingly close to our own.  The town of Gentry is the perfect setting for a horror novel, isolated and secretive.  When Mackie goes below the surface, Yovanoff creates a new setting that is amazing and foreign, magical and creepy.  Beautifully rendered, the setting makes the book very concrete and horribly tangible.

Mackie is a fascinating character who learns about himself throughout the novel.  Some things he learns are wondrous, others horrific.  Mackie makes an unlikely but great hero.  He is a loner with friends, who sees himself as isolated but who is actually surrounded by friends who would do anything for him.  Nicely, the friends he has are as well written as he is.  The relationships with his sister and parents is complexly drawn as well, offering no easy answers.

Yovanoff writes with such creativity that I can’t wait to see what she writes next!  Get this book into the hands of fans of Holly Black who will enjoy its darkness and riveting action.  It will also appeal to fans of Joseph Delaney’s The Last Apprentice series.  Appropriate for ages 13-16.

Reviewed from ARC received from Penguin.

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Not That Kind of Girl

Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian

Natalie Sterling knows just what kind of girl she is.  She’s a girl who just won the election for Student Council President.  She’s a girl who doesn’t go out to the stupid parties on weekends.  She’s a girl who works hard to please her parents and her favorite teacher, Ms. Bee.  She’s a girl with big plans, lots of energy and plenty of intelligence to get what she wants.  But in her senior year, everything changes.  Her best friend doesn’t seem to appreciate her advice anymore.  A kid she used to babysit is now a freshman and seems determined to flaunt her sexuality for everyone even though Natalie is trying to stop her and show her what’s right.  And worst of all, Natalie may just have fallen for a boy.

Vivian’s newest book explores the complexities of being a teen girl with a lot of honesty.  The tension between the “good girls” and those who are sexually active is evident here.  It’s handled with a wonderful sense of humor, all seen through the lens of Natalie’s perspective.  The book delves into the experience of the teen girl and offers up the right of all girls to be exactly who they really are.

Natalie is a great character, who changes throughout the novel, becoming not only more self-aware but pleasantly less sure of herself.  Natalie is a tough girl (a moniker she herself enjoys) with a clear perspective on life, who excels and expects others around her to try too.  But at the heart of much of what she does is a mask that protects her from gossip, a shield she puts between herself and others, though she doesn’t realize it. 

Winningly written, the book reads as a light novel, but deals with issues that are serious and have depth.  This is a book with appeal to that kind of girl and many other kinds as well.  Highly recommended for ages 15-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Push.