Saturday, December 26, 2009

Need Some Fresh Twilightesque Goodness? Look No Further Than Carrie Jones.

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

If Stephen King hasn't convinced you yet, maybe Carrie Jones will: Maine is one spooky state. King introduced us to a car that came to life, pets that return from the dead, a psycho fan who holds her favorite author hostage, and all kinds of other freaky residents of The Pinetree State. In the grand tradition of her fellow state mate, Jones gives us a chilling tale about even more strange creatures.Need, Jones' YA tale of the supernatural, convinced me what King already had me suspecting: the bitter cold just does something weird to those people up north.

In Jones' Need, Zara White figures this out almost as soon as she steps off the plane in Bangor. Still grieving the death of her beloved stepfather, Zara knows she's not exactly herself - which is the whole reason her mother shipped her off to her grandmother's in the first place - but she's pretty sure a freaky, pale guy is stalking her. She sees him standing in the middle of the road to her grandma's house, on the campus of her high school and in the woods around the small town of Bedford. Her new friends seem as creeped out as she is, but their theory is about as whacked as the idea of some random guy following her around. Still, as Zara settles into her new life in Maine, she can't deny that something is very wrong in Bedford. Even her stunningly gorgeous boyfriend seems a little ... unworldly. What exactly is going on in the sleepy little town? Why are young boys disappearing? What's with the trails of gold dust everywhere? And why is Zara being threatened? The questions are bizarre enough, but the answers will challenge everything Zara has ever known about herself, her family and her destiny.

Despite obvious Twilight comparisons, I think Need adds some freshness to a genre that's fast becoming a big, old copycat fest. It steps away from vampires - thank goodness - to flesh out some less-explored beings. Jones turns popular notions on their heads by villainizing a creature most people find about as sinister as a butterfly. Likewise, it spins the peaceful beauty of a Maine winter into something appropriately eerie. Above all else, it's this shivery sense of place that stands out. The novel's plot is less original, but the story definitely speeds along fast enough to keep the reader's attention from flagging. Need's cast could use some developing, as could its "otherworldly" elements. Without any real foreshadowing, the whole magical thing almost comes out of nowhere, making it all a little confusing. Other than that, the book's got a little bit of everything - an engaging heroine, a sweet romance, family secrets, a spectral landscape and a shivery mystery. Need didn't blow me away, but I still flew through its pages, anxious to discover Zara's fate. News of a sequel coming in January might have even made me squeal a little bit. Need doesn't go as deep as Twilight, but it's a fast, entertaining read that will appeal to Stephenie Meyer groupies and other fans of the genre. The Maine Tourism Board? Um, not so much.

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for mild language and some violence

To the FTC, with love: I checked this one out from the library, and I've got the overdue fines to prove it.

4 comments:

  1. I have been missing your beautifully written and balanced reviews. This book sounds like a lot of fun!

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  2. Merry 2 days after Christmas!!
    I enjoyed this book when I read it back in the summer. I remember posting that it was nice to read about a Maine blizzard when it was 116 degrees outside!! As usual, your posts and reviews put me to shame. It was fun to get your take on the book and find that we felt much the same way.
    Hope your holidays were fun....Hope you can find some time to carve out a reading moment or two.

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  3. Okay, so I read it. Did you notice all the inconsistencies? Man alive! The big "plan" was discussed at home, after the hospital--but later they keep talking about the plan they made at the hospital (p.269, 290). I went back and checked. It was at home (p.260-262). Gran even says "glad to have you home" before she goes into the kitchen from which she returns in time to say "let's hear it." "It" being The Plan. So frustrating!

    Even more rediculous was when Nick, obviously and recently in wolf form, wore a leather glove so Devyn-the-hawk could land on his arm (p. 297-298). Even little things like when Zara was "searching" Nick's face... and a couple lines later, without mentioning closing her eyes, opens them "for just a second" to look at him again (p. 258) jerk me right out of the story.

    Overall, I liked the book and want to read the sequel, but, seriously, she needs a continuity expert on her staff. I get that things change during rewrites... does she?

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  4. Stephanie - Thanks so much :) It's nice to be missed.

    Gaye - My holidays were good. Hope yours were, too.

    Robin - Ouch! And I thought I was picky. I didn't notice any of that stuff, although I did think it was loosely-plotted. I read it really fast. I feel the same way you do - NEED's got some awkwardness to it, but I'll be reading the sequl.

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