This past week’s book (I feel like I’m always saying that, how annoying) was The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff. Be forewarned, there will be no quotes in this review as I returned the book to the library. Sorry. Honestly, there weren’t any quotes I could really think of that needed to be in the review as it was. I’m sure, mid-review, I’ll regret that. Oh well, no use crying over split milk, as it were.
This book was one of the first books recommended to me when I started this project. My younger sister had just read it and said that it had an interesting treatment of the Fae in it. So, I reserved it at the library back in mid-January. It arrived just this past week. Yes, that many people had it out on hold and were taking their sweet time reading it. I hate waiting for things through the library. I fully expect to be thirty before getting my grubby paws on the newest Brandon Mull book, which also is supposed to make an appearance on this blog.
Despite the delay in getting the book, my desire to read it had not been cooled, so I launched into it last Friday, determined to have it done as quickly as possible so I could catch up with the ridiculousness that is how behind I’ve gotten in my blogging (what can I say, my life never seems to slow down). Well, I did finish it that night, but by the time I had, I did not feel up to reviewing any book, much less the one I had not had the time to sort through my feelings on.
Having had the chance to sort for a bit, I’m delighted to say that I’ve accomplished something: I’m only four days late on writing a review for a book that I didn’t like a lot! That’s a significant improvement over the one to three weeks of the last couple times!
Now, as to why I did not like this book: The writing felt pretty stilted. That’s not to say that the subject matter and tone didn’t warrant an abnormal writing pace/style, but The Replacement didn’t just feel off, it felt off-kilter. Something wasn’t connected about the writing. I will admit, I may have been biased in this regard. When my sister recommended this book to me, I went and read up on it a bit on Amazon.com and read an interview with the author. She described her writing process, which includes writing down the “right” words with ellipses in between where there were words to be filled in. I instinctively balked at the idea, but almost immediately admitted that each author did things very differently. This is clearly what worked for Yovanoff. However, I don’t feel like it worked for me and I suspect I wouldn’t have noticed the jilty flow to her writing as much had I not known about the way she went about it beforehand.
I did appreciate that, though this book is clearly teen fiction, she didn’t treat teens as hormone-controlled (borderline addicts) monsters who do nothing but drink and swear. When the kids swore, I felt that the swearing was justified nine times out of ten from the emotions of the scene. The recreational drug use (mostly, if not exclusively, alcohol) wasn’t brushed off as healthy, but neither was it made a big deal of. Teens drink. A lot. That’s how it goes. Do I like it? No. Does ignoring it/not writing about it make it go away? Not in the least bit.
Of course, I can’t talk about this book without getting on my sex soapbox. But this time, it’s a really happy time on the soapbox! Sexuality was treated with a healthy dose of humor. Hallelujah! I suppose what I so dearly hate about “adult” novels and their treatment of sex is how humorless it is, besides being unnecessary most often. Sure, are there times when sexual scenes are a good idea in a narrative? Yup! I felt like Yovanoff found one of them: both her characters were desperate to feel alive and wanted and they did so by finding each other. But the book also treated sex as something to laugh at. As someone who recently graduated from college, this is how sex was treated by my friends all through school (and yes, that means through a good deal of elementary school as well). The act of having sex itself is serious decision and we young people make it so much less intimidating by poking fun. I feel, in many ways, this is actually more mature. To realize that even the most serious of things cannot be taken too seriously or problems arise. Also, there’s no way to survive Sex Ed without humor. It’s either that or be scarred for the rest of your life. Boils down to this: FINALLY! A book that deals with sex in what I feel to be the “mature” way!
Now, onto the thing I did like, quite a bit: the villains!! >) *MUAHHAHAHAHAH!!!!*
Before I get into the book’s villains, I have a generic question: Why is it that it seems the villains always get the best lines/songs/theme music/personality quirks/physical features/sidekicks/powers/etc.? Seriously! I’m not complaining, but I am wondering. As an aspiring writer, I do know how fun/challenging it is to take myself there. Two of my favorite characters are Vouivre and Jason Stern, and they’re only my favorites because of how fun it is to write them. Vouivre because of her warped obsessiveness and Jason Stern because he just doesn’t give two hoots and a holler what other people think or what he says. But these two aren’t very hard to write, just fun. The hard villains to write–like the prison guards in a piece set in Nazi Germany–those are the more rewarding villains. I had to write those with a certain playlist blasting in my skull, or it came out horrifically wrong. As it was, the scenes came out only okay. But they were definitely the scenes I put the most work in to and despite the quality, it showed.
So why is this, I ask? I want to know! Because this same thing seemed to happen in The Replacement. I felt, very distinctly, that the Lady and the Morrigan (the two villains) were easily the best written characters of the bunch. I wish this much effort had been put in to the main character!
The Lady is easily the most identifiable villain. She’s downright evil. She sacrifices children every seven years because she likes to. Not because she has to, but because she likes it. And, to make it worse, she could use the children of her community, but she uses the children of the town to keep them cowed. She’ll also cause catastrophic “accidents” when she feels like the town doesn’t believe enough in the Fae (which is just a name I’ve given them, as she and the Morrigan prefer their race not be names, as naming takes away some of their power–it defines them too much (I have a feeling Yovanoff likes LeGuin, which is awesome)). To add insult to injury, sometimes, in the middle of these seven years, the Lady will take a child as a pet, because it is beautiful. The Lady keeps a servant who is a sadist, a masochist, and more than a little bit off his rocker as her personal torturer. She is the nightmare of every sane child and a few insane ones.
The Morrigan can stop things and doesn’t.
You tell me, who is more evil?
Ultimately, if you’re a fan of the creepifying, I’d say give this book a whack. You might like it, you might not. I feel like the teen interactions are genuine and the magic isn’t so over the top that The Replacement feels like it’s set in a different world. I didn’t really like the book, but I don’t feel like I wasted my time either.
Why this book was challenging for me:
- The writing style was way off what I expected.
- The true villain isn’t apparent at all.
- The concept of naming as power.
- The blood sacrifice vs love/adoration struggle.