27 February 2012

The Shattering by Karen Healey


Seventeen-year-old Keri likes to plan for every possibility. She knows what to do if you break an arm, or get caught in an earthquake or fire. But she wasn't prepared for her brother's suicide, and his death has left her shattered with grief. When her childhood friend Janna tells her it was murder, not suicide, Keri wants to believe her. After all, Janna's brother died under similar circumstances years ago, and Janna insists a visiting tourist, Sione, who also lost a brother to apparent suicide that year, has helped her find some answers. As the three dig deeper, disturbing facts begin to pile up: one boy killed every year; all older brothers; all had spent New Year's Eve in the idyllic town of Summerton. But when their search for the serial killer takes an unexpected turn, suspicion is cast on those they trust the most. As secrets shatter around them, can they save the next victim? Or will they become victims themselves?
This was a very difficult book for me to read. The discussions of suicide survivors hit me very close to home, and the difficult topic overshadowed a lot of the book. I also come from a very small, dying town in Kansas, so the struggles of Summerton were very relatable as well. The other problems I had were with the plot line. The first half or so of the book reads like a contemporary YA book about suicide, something I usually avoid reading because I dislike it. There’s also a strong disjoint in the front of the book because the switching narration between the three lead characters and the tenses that are used (Keri is first person, Sione and Janna are third) that makes it harder to identify and relate to them and thus get invested in the plot. In the second half they discover magic and the book starts turning into a fantasy story. At this point I’ve seen enough of each person to become invested in Keri, Sione, and Janna despite myself and the story starts to move quicker. Although I won’t spoil the magic in the book I will say that I loved how it was a modern twist on a very ancient tradition and the permutation is as logical and relatable as it is chilling. This makes the plot a little predictable, but it’s well handled so it doesn’t feel as foreshadowed as it could. There are parts, however, where the plot seems to drag, and it really messes with the tension in the story because by the time the kids get to a mini-climax the section before has taken all the drive out so the climaxes seem like a laundry list of tasks, not a real climax. However, at the end my heart still bled for Keri, and I can’t really say why other than her first person narrative and her development made me feel for her, and that was the true gift of this book.

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