In my second review for CBR13, I wrote about how disappointing it is when one of your favorite authors writes a book that you just do not like. I don’t know if this is some kind of cannonball curse, but with book 6 of this challenge, it has happened to me again.
I used to be a huge YA fan, and the first book in Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy still ranks as one of my favorites. His short novel A Monster Calls is amazing too – a heartbreaking story that will have you sobbing.
This novel, however, was pretty disappointing.
The premise is promising: what if you lived in a world like the Buffy-verse, where every couple of years your town is under threat from yet another supernatural force. Sounds cool, right? What if you and your friends weren’t the chosen ones, though, but just normal kids?
The dichotomy between those two groups would be an interesting topic to explore, but sadly Ness paints it in the broadest of strokes. The chosen ones are known as the “indie kids” – I guess a cross between hipsters and emos – and they are the same in every town in the US. They all have weird or ‘quirky’ names like Satchel and Finn, don’t use the internet, and keep to themselves. That’s it – that’s all you get to know about the chosen ones. In fact, if you took the main storylines and set it in a normal world, without chosen ones battling supernatural beings, the story would be exactly the same.
There is a subplot about the main character’s mother, a career politician who doesn’t seem to care about her children unless it is politically convenient to do so. Knowing that Ness can write characters with a lot of nuance, I was hoping this would be an engaging part of the story, but unfortunately it didn’t really rise beyond a fairly boring trope-as-a-story.
All of that said, this is still an enjoyable read. The group of friends at the heart of the book are fun, and I was invested in their stories. If you’re after a YA book that focuses on friendships and relationships, and adds a good dash of humor, this could tick that box. It’s just such a shame that the central premise isn’t really used.