The Midnight Lie
I feel like I've been waiting for the release of 'Unwritten' by Alicia J. Novo for ages. The beautifully intricate cover design caught my eye late last year and I fell in love with the synopsis.
The story follows sixteen-year-old Beatrix Alba, who has secrets. For one, books talk to her. Sometimes in whispers.. sometimes in shouts, they're a constant companion in a world she doesn't seem to belong in.
Bullied both at home and in school, she could put a stop to it all.. but she doesn't. Taught to keep her dangerous hidden power bound tightly within her, that hard-won control starts to slip with the loss of her beloved grandfather.
When the spell that keeps her and her magic hidden fails, one decision thrusts her into the midst of Zweeshen, a world seemingly made of stories like those tucked safely on the library shelves back home. But that realm isn't the whimsical escape from her own that Beatrix wishes it to be. A character is burning bookworlds in pursuit of a weapon to rule both stories and storytellers.. and Beatrix holds the key.
Even now, just sharing the premise with you.. I get a little swept up in the concepts. Cursed conjurers, Egyptian gods, Regency heroines, there are so many fascinating elements that the very idea of it excites me.
Unfortunately, though the technical aspect of the writing is very smooth, it's just not executed in a very interesting way and it really slowed the reading for me because I kept putting it down. William was intriguing from the get-go with his dark, broody visage and his standoffish nature. He's brusque, but magnetic.. and possibly the character I was most invested in. Beatrix, the main character, has a lot of unique attributes to draw from.. but she just didn't draw me in.
Novo does an excellent job crafting backstory and developing her characters, but the journey itself feels inconsistent in depth. I love the whole 'books as portals to other worlds' trope and there's a test Beatrix goes through which could be really stunning imagery, but that was kind of glossed over for quantity instead.
Early on.. when I found myself facing what was ultimately a Monsters Inc door scene, I became disillusioned by the construction of some of the ideas utilized in this tale. In actuality, it's these last two things that for me are good examples of what didn't work for me with this book.
From a writing standpoint, Novo excels at scene writing. The strength of them still varies dramatically, but as this is her debut, I'm completely willing to give her time. Nonetheless, possibly because she can be so good at them.. it becomes much more obvious when they're weaker, and the paths in between them rather dull.
At this point, I'd think she'd do well with screenwriting, but her approach to the novel just needs more practice. The writing is still intelligent and elegant, she just needs to focus on managing the gap in her skills. That being said, though that lack of consistency made it difficult for me to stay invested, I think she has a ton of potential and I'm eager to see what her future holds as she learns and grows.
'Hurricane Summer' by Asha Bromfield is the story of a girl named Tilla coming of age during a tumultuous visit with her extended family in Jamaica.
Along with her sister.. Mia, Tilla lives in Canada with their mother, while every six months their father returns home to the island. The result of all those fatherly disappearances, is a pretty big disconnect between them.
Though it's supposed to be a safe, happy place for the girls.. the visit is not what's expected. While Tilla's life takes a dark turn, the impending summer storm turns out to be a hurricane to be reckoned with.. but the swell of personal drama she's dealing with might be even more destructive.
This book is Bromfield's debut as an author, but some may know her from her acting roles in Locke and Key, Riverdale, and Josie and the Pussycats. Like her lead character, she lives in Canada and used to spend her summers in Jamaica.. and it's easy to see her love of the island in her writing.
Honestly, I think I expected a little light-hearted familial drama. I blame the beautiful cover that seems to be filled with.. an unabashed longing.. and there is some of that present, just not entirely in the way I thought there would be.
They say that fathers are especially important to daughters. They say that in an ideal situation, the love between the two.. gives daughters confidence and high self-esteem.. and without that, they have a tendency to undersell themselves. Personally, in my experience.. I find this more applicable to relationships than life paths and it's really apparent in Tilla's story.
She seems to spend the majority of her energy trying to please those around her. Don't get me wrong, it's always more pleasant when those around you like you.. but she really fights hard to be liked. There is not a lot of time for love and understanding amongst those she finds herself staying with. Just a ton of judgement, bitterness, and jealousy.. manifesting in some of the nastiest ways.
I really felt for Tilla throughout her journey. She's a good person, still carrying a bit of optimism even when it's difficult to maintain, but those around her seem determined to crush it into dust. Moments of astonishing beauty and tenderness make it even worse when they're ripped away by the harsh realities of her situation.
Frankly, I wasn't expecting to be so affected by this story emotionally.. but it really shook me. Though I might make little tweaks here and there to the way Tilla sometimes almost rewrites reality based on what others have said, I get what the author was trying to do.. and ultimately, it moved me all the same. What a heart-wrenching read.. well done.