Publishing a first book is an act of bravery. Telling your friends you’ve written a book and inviting them to read it is braver still. I’ve known Aviva online for a few years, so when she revealed that she had published two books, I was excited. When she offered me the first book, I was terrified. I want to at least like every book I read, and when it’s written by someone I like, I want to like it even more.
I liked Stacked. It is very definitely a first book in the sense of a first published book and the first book of a series. One of the things a first book of a series has to do is establish a reason to be invested in the series. Stacked is primarily focused on the romance between Imogene and Oscar Magellan. Peripheral to the romance, Aviva sets up some looming conflicts. A small town needs to change or it will die. The mayor has been wanting to sell city property and make a lot of money. A barrier to selling off city property is a grant which seeks to revitalize the town instead of gentrifying it. There’s also the Devil’s Bastards motorcycle club and what exactly it is that they are up to. I am so grateful that Aviva resisted the urge to establish a town full of quirky characters. She kept her story focused on the people the story needed, while leaving room for the cast to grow.
Aviva has thought through why her characters are where they are. Imogene was hired to revitalize the library and it’s programs because of the mysterious grant. She is there because she has an opportunity to shape the rebirth of a library. Oscar is a member of the motorcycle club (why is a mystery and I hope later books will shed some light on that) and has just taken in his sister and niece. I love it when characters come together organically.
Aviva has the plot on lockdown and she doesn’t let it get away from her. Where some of her newness as an author particularly shows is in the introduction of Imogene. I found it a little rocky, but it doesn’t take too long before Aviva hits her stride. I’m excited to see where this series is going, and I’m even more excited to see Aviva grow into her voice as a writer. She does a lot of things right with her characters and her plot in this book. It is not a chore to read at all. When it seems to me that she’s at her most comfortable, extraneous detail is stripped away and the characters speak from an authentic place. At some point in the future, Aviva is going to be comfortable enough to write with no fucks given and I can’t wait to read that book. Not every writer gets to that point, but I’m pretty sure Aviva will.