Monday, August 27, 2012

Book Review: Maledictions: The Offering, by Michael Gettings

            After waking up early Monday morning and rushing out the door without showering to make a eight AM class (that had been moved to nine AM without my knowledge), I realized I hadn’t done my weekly book review yet. So I picked up Maledictions: The Offering, by Michael Gettings. This YA coming of age story, while tinged with supernatural elements, is at heart a story about growing up and dealing with tragedy. It might be a slow read for those expecting action-packed hardcore fantasy—in no way could this be considered epic fantasy—but for readers who prefer tension and romance, Maledictions: The Offering, delivers.

Cover really doesn't do it justice. 

            We meet the lead character Beau Grace as he begins his senior year just after moving to the small town of Fort Flagg to live with the mother he barely knows. Raised by his alcoholic, abusive father, Beau doesn’t expect to have a good time in his new town—yet no sooner than has he walked through the doors of his new high school when he finds himself unexplainably popular. Three chatty girls vie for his attention, but Beau only has eyes for the mysterious Ezra, a girl whose parents recently died in a mysterious fire, a girl who sneaks out of drama class to read books in the rafter, and the only girl in school who doesn’t seem to be fawning over the new arrival.

            Yet instead of writing her off as just a weirdo, Beau continues to try and befriend her. Not only does he succeed at that goal, but he also manages to attract a beautiful, funny girlfriend and beat up the school bully. Yet instead of turning into another tale of high-school-success, this novel takes a suddenly shocking twist that blows apart Beau’s new life and casts a shadow of tragedy over Fort Flagg. As Beau struggles to recover, he draws even closer to Ezra—and soon learns she’s got some amazing secrets.

            Beau’s voice really makes the story worth reading. It evolves very nicely over the course of the book, from sarcastic and edgy at the beginning to mature and composed by the end. We really get to see his growth as a character. He’s quite sympathetic and realistic.

             Unfortunately, I didn’t really get drawn in by the mysterious Ezra. Her role in the story seems to be only to enable Beau’s growth, and we don’t really see her change much at all. While reading this book, I felt like quite a few foreshadowed hints didn’t play out. One scene that sticks in my mind, where a crazy drama teacher instructs her students to ‘hear the voices’ in an imaginary crowd, never really developed into anything.

             The plot initially reminded me a great deal of Twilight with the genders switched around, but this is a much deeper story here. It’s a story of innocence lost, of hopeless romance . . . but the rather slow beginning may convince readers to move along, there’s nothing to see here. The fantasy in this book is never on the central stage, which may be more enjoyable for some readers than others.

            High Points: Beau’s voice. Realistic, strong, and evolving throughout the story. The dramatic climax. It throws in some unexpected plot twists which make total sense in hindsight, which is very well done. The epilogue. Ties up all the loose ends, which is nice. A certain dramatic plot twist at the end of Part One. I won’t give it away, but it really shocked me. Beau’s relationship with his mother. The way he always pulls cigarettes out of her mouth at night is both gritty and sweet at the same time.

            Low Points: Foreshadowing. I thought there was a reason to why all the students at this school wanted to be Beau’s friends, but I guess Fort Flagg must just be a really boring town. Ezra’s character. I care about Beau, but I never really care about this girl. The way Twilight is mirrored in the first few chapters. I like Twilight pretty well, but I think a more original plot structure could have been used.  

Did I like this book? Yes. Would I read it again? Yes. Would I recommend it to people who like YA fiction? Yes. Maybe not for those who like hardcore fantasy, but any fan of more serious YA would enjoy this book. My rating? As serious YA fiction, I’ll give it five stars out of five. As a novel? Four and a half.

--Liz Ellor, O43

You can download Maledictions: The Offering here

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