Anne’s Book Club 13

NearlyGonecover

NEARLY GONE by Elle Cosimano (summary from Amazon.com):

Nearly Boswell knows how to keep secrets. Living in a DC trailer park, she knows better than to share anything that would make her a target with her classmates. Like her mother’s job as an exotic dancer, her obsession with the personal ads, and especially the emotions she can taste when she brushes against someone’s skin. But when a serial killer goes on a killing spree and starts attacking students, leaving cryptic ads in the newspaper that only Nearly can decipher, she confides in the one person she shouldn’t trust: the new guy at school—a reformed bad boy working undercover for the police, doing surveillance . . . on her.

Nearly might be the one person who can put all the clues together, and if she doesn’t figure it all out soon—she’ll be next.

My Thoughts on NEARLY GONE by Elle Cosimano:

Nearly “Leigh” Boswell has one shot to leave her single mom and the trailer park behind her: a chemistry scholarship. To increase her odds, she tutors classmates. That is, until they start turning up dead with numbers painted, carved, or burned into their flesh. If that weren’t enough, Nearly also has the uncanny ability to know what a person’s feeling just by touching them. An ability she recoils from every time it happens.

Emotion is energy, and if energy is strong enough, it can travel between two points.

The mystery of whodunit holds out until nearly (pun intended) the last page with red herrings and surprises along the way. Nearly doesn’t know who she can trust, as her friends, enemies, and fellow classmates are all suspects—until they die—so like any good detective, I had to rely on my knowledge of “motive, opportunity, and means” to solve the mystery. The clues add up for the police and point them in Nearly’s direction. She overhears one officer telling one of her classmates to spy on her in exchange for a more lenient sentence. Reece Wheelen’s the perfect suspect: trouble with the law, a dark past, and involvement with the local drug dealer.

Throughout the book I tried to figure out why the cover title has a “43” in it. The reason is awesome and ties into both Nearly as a character and the book’s plot. I don’t want to say too much more, or I risk spoiling you. If you like mysteries, fast-paced books, a touch of magical realism, and a smart heroine, this book’s for you!

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Tori’s Book Club 1

maradyercover

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin is the first in a trilogy (the third book, The Retribution of Mara Dyer, will be out in November). It’s a haunting story about a girl who’s dealing with something impossible while the normal world carries on around her. The magical realism grounds the book firmly in our world, which makes the paranormal elements even scarier because they no longer seem so impossible.

I don’t want to spoil things so I’m afraid to say too much. In the beginning, we learn that Mara suffers from PTSD after being in a building that collapses and kills her friend, and everyone–her parents, her brothers, her teachers–think all of her weird experiences are just symptoms. At least, the weird experiences they know about, which is only a fraction of them, because she’s afraid to tell them lest they lock her away in a padded room. At times, even Mara isn’t sure if the stuff she’s seeing or feeling is real or just hallucinations, and she worries maybe she’s lost her mind.

The book is fast-paced although the paranormal elements don’t show immediately. The book starts with a Ouija board, and at first it feels a little hookey (not the book, just the fact that there’s a Ouija board at all because what year is it, 1985?) And of course, it gives Mara and her friends some cryptic message. But I kind of like how it’s presented as ‘lol Ouija boards, right?’ It’s just something people do. (Not really a spoiler, but the reasoning behind its existence makes a lot of sense when we learn things later and can surmise why it was there.) Then Mara and friends visit an old mental hospital that collapses on top of them and only Mara survives. This leaves her with post traumatic stress, a metric ton of survivor’s guilt, and even inspires her whole family to move to Florida to give her a fresh start.

Actually, though, the book opens with her explaining that her lawyer told her to pick a fake name:

My name is not Mara Dyer, but my lawyer told me I had to choose something. A pseudonym. A nom de plume, for all of us studying for the SATs. I know that having a fake name is strange, but trust me—it’s the most normal thing about my life right now. Even telling you this much probably isn’t smart. But without my big mouth, no one would know that a seventeen-year-old who likes Death Cab for Cutie was responsible for the murders. No one would know that somewhere out there is a B student with a body count.

And it’s important that you know, so you’re not next. Rachel’s birthday was the beginning.

This is what I remember.

I mean, how do you not want to keep reading right then and there?

The creepy and scary elements get amped up every chapter, so you never want to put it down. Hodkin writes an engaging teen voice, and Mara is pragmatic, sensible, and a little sarcastic. Also, Noah Shaw. I’m not even going to tell you about him, future reader, just trust me when I say he’s great.

I cannot recommend this series highly enough, even if you think you’re sick of paranormal books or magical realism, because this one is unexpected and captivating. Also, just FYI, the audiobook is excellent! It’s narrated by Christy Romano, who brings Mara to life in a way that completely compliments Hodkin’s clever writing.

Anne’s No Rules Friday 06

If “a photograph’s worth a thousand words,” then I’d like to share a photo I took near Vail, CO in 2009. It was a time when I felt whole and alive and ready for anything. Sometimes I need to be reminded that that person is still here buried deep inside me, waiting.

Reaching for Infinity © Anne Marie 2009

Reaching for Infinity © Anne Marie 2009

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Stay tuned for Julie’s No Rules Friday next week.