In the (Wuthering) Heights

Title: Catherine Catherine

Author: April Lindner

Publisher & Release Date: Poppy, Jan 2013

The Hook: Retellings of classics always intrigue me, and I enjoyed “Jane” which came out a few years ago.

The Lowdown: From Amazon: “…Seventeen-year-old Chelsea learns through a hidden letter that her mother did not die when she was three, but ran away to New York. Chelsea does the same to try to rediscover Catherine and see if she is still alive.”

Overall Impressions: Lindner sets up the classic story with a modern twist: in her search for her mother Catherine, Chelsea finds Hence (a version of Heathcliff) as the owner of her grandfather’s punk venue; her mother’s diary; and a cute musician that her father most likely won’t approve of. Between one major plot change and the layered story-telling, the story will still have some surprises for readers familiar with Wuthering Heights. (For those who haven’t read the original: it’s gloomy and tragic and probably uses the word “woe” at least twice.)

Chelsea herself is a determined sleuth, tracking down her mother’s history and friends and pestering Hence until more of the mystery is revealed. It’s like she’s unfinished, and knowing more about her mother will complete a part of her that she didn’t know was missing until she discovered the letter. Hence is grim, hard to like, and hostile toward any idea that Catherine might be alive – because her absence would mean a deeper rejection than mere death. You can see how his passion is captivating. Chelsea’s father is well-meaning in a vague and ineffectual way, concealing Catherine’s last letters to Chelsea and dropping his missing wife from their lives. Chelsea’s romantic interest, Cooper, is cute, though very secondary to Hence and Catherine’s story.

The Highs: The structure, which could have been contrived and awful and instead flowed very nicely between the past and present. The undercurrent of romance with Chelsea and Cooper; a nice touch but not a distraction from the central mystery. The believable tension between Hence, Catherine, and her brother Quentin, in a world with less class restrictions than Bronte’s time but still many sources of friction.

Buzzkills: There were a couple of scenes that dipped a toe briefly into the gothic, an obvious nod to the original – but a mismatch in tone, I thought. The story itself is rife with misunderstandings, passion, and anger, but it’s a very human (rather than supernatural) tragedy. (Disclaimer: I have never really studied Wuthering Heights, so I would be willing to be persuaded.)

This is a total side note, but the proper names between the retelling and the original gave me hives while trying to write this review – I had to work to keep Lindner/Linton/Quentin/Hareton/Hindley/Hence straight.

The Source: My public library

Disclaimer: No chocolate or punk LPs were provided by the publisher for this review.

You can’t outrun death. But you can face life.

Chasing_full_jacket

Title: Chasing Shadows

Author: Swati Avasthi, Craig Phillips (illustrator)

Publisher & Release Date: Random House, September 2013

The Hook: Sophomore novel from the author who wrote the incredible Split.

The Lowdown (from jacket): “Chasing Shadows is a searing look at the impact of one random act of violence.

“Before: Corey, Holly, and Savitri are one unit—fast, strong, inseparable. Together they turn Chicago concrete and asphalt into a freerunner’s jungle gym, ricocheting off walls, scaling buildings, leaping from rooftop to rooftop.

“But acting like a superhero doesn’t make you bulletproof…

“After: Holly and Savitri are coming unglued. Holly says she’s chasing Corey’s killer, chasing revenge. Savitri fears Holly’s just running wild—and leaving her behind. Friends should stand by each other in times of crisis. But can you hold on too tight? Too long?”

Overall Impressions:  Ms. Avasthi’s new novel is just as intense as her first and just as complicated in the personal relationships, how they empower us and how they tear us apart. Mr. Phillips’ graphic novel pages equal her intensity, driving the story forward.

Corey, Holly and Savitri have been best friends for years. The story opens with them racing across rooftops and a moment when one of them could have fallen. But she doesn’t fall – they all safety return to their cars. And as Holly and Corey sit in their Mini for a moment, it happens. A gunman approaches, fires, fires again. Corey and Holly are both hit. When Savitri unfreezes, she manages to call 911, tries frantically to stop Corey’s bleeding, to get them to respond. Holly requires surgery and lies in a medically induced coma for days while she travels with her brother, led by a creature called Kortha, into the Shadowlands, until Savitri’s voice calls her back.

Everyone’s dealing with grief in their own ways – Corey and Holly’s mother and father, Savitri’s mother, classmates and former friends. Some get caught up in trying to find the killer, some in trying to hold onto Corey.

Holly and Savitri are twisted up in loss and guilt – Holly as a survivor and Savitri as a witness. Savitri’s also tied herself in knots because just before Corey was killed, she told him she’d gotten early acceptance at Princeton and she’d always told herself that if she left for collage, she would end the relationship. And now Savitri can’t bring herself to leave Holly behind, and Holly can’t let go of Corey, falling into the stories of superheroes created through pain and her visions of Corey and Kortha. How long do you hold on?

Ms. Avasthi does an amazing job of balancing all the characters, of weaving past and present, of taking the reader through grief, fear, anger and mental illness, bringing all the pieces together. I am struck by the story’s imagery, the police as the city’s biggest gang, the freerunners on roofs, the nooses Holly sees on “deliveries” to Kortha. She and Mr. Phillips have created an amazing, powerful story.

The Highs: The power of Phillips’ illustrations for the Shadowlands. Wow.

The balance of Savitri, Holly and Corey’s relationships with each other Before. They were a trio of friends first. Holly encouraged Savitri and Corey’s romantic relationship but Corey also recognized when he needed to step back to Holly and Savitri’s friendship.

The full, complicated portrayal of the parents and their struggles to help their children.

That Corey’s flaws are addressed as well as his good qualities – he’s not canonized in his death.

The jacket – Holly on the cover, Savitri on the back.

The discussions of loyalty and what it means.

Buzzkills: More of a format issues, but some of the text in the illustrated sections was a little hard to read on my non-color e-reader screen.

And a minor detail gripe – when Holly’s thinking through various comic book heroes and heroines and the role pain has played in their journeys, she references “Jane Grey and the Phoenix,” rather than Jean, which threw me out of the story for a moment. I’m guessing someone’s more of a DC fan than Marvel?

The Source: Bought the e-book.

Disclaimer: Neither chocolate or a trip to Chicago was provided by the publisher in exchange for this review.

October 2013 Antici….pation!

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Title: Hideous Love: The Story of the Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein

Author: Stephanie Hemphill

Publisher & Release Date: Balzer + Bray, Oct. 1

The Hook: “Hideous Love is the fascinating story of Gothic novelist Mary Shelley, who as a teen girl fled her restrictive home only to find herself in the shadow of a brilliant but moody boyfriend, famed poet Percy Shelley. It is the story of the mastermind behind one of the most iconic figures in all of literature: a monster constructed out of dead bodies and brought to life by the tragic Dr. Frankenstein.

“Mary wrote Frankenstein at the age of nineteen, but inspiration for the monster came from her life-the atmospheric European settings she visited, the dramas swirling around her, and the stimulating philosophical discussions with the greatest minds of the period, like her close friend, Lord Byron.”

 

Title: Man Made Boy

Author: Jon Skovron

Publisher & Release Date: Viking Juvenile, Oct. 3

The Hook: “Sixteen-year-old Boy’s father is Frankenstein’s monster and his mother is the Bride. A hacker and tech geek, Boy has lived his whole life in a secret enclave of monsters hidden beneath a Broadway theater, until he runs away from home. Now, the boy who’s never set foot outside embarks on a madcap road trip with the granddaughters of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that takes him deep into the heart of America. Along the way, Boy falls in love, comes to terms with his unusual family, and learns what it really means to be a monster—and a man.”

 

Title: Constable & Toop

Author: Gareth P.  Jones

Publisher & Release Date: Amulet Books, Oct. 8

The Hook: “Something mysterious and terrible is happening throughout Victorian London: Ghosts are disappearing. When this reaches the attention of the Ghost Bureau, the diligent but clueless Mr. Lapsewood, a paranormal paper-pusher, is sent to investigate, and what he discovers is grave. The Black Rot has arrived-a voracious spiritual infestation whereby empty haunted houses suck in unsuspecting ghosts and imprison them. Lapsewood’s investigation weaves through the plotlines of several other memorable characters-both living and dead-including an undertaker’s son who can see ghosts, a serial throat-slasher reminiscent of Jack the Ripper, an evangelical exorcist, and many more. The living and dead must work together if they hope to destroy the Black Rot-before it destroys both the ghost and human worlds.”

 

Title: Reality Boy

Author: A. S. King

Publisher & Release Date: Little, Brown Books, Oct. 22

The Hook: “Gerald Faust started feeling angry even before his mother invited a reality TV crew into his five-year-old life. Twelve years later, he’s still haunted by his rage-filled youth–which the entire world got to watch from every imaginable angle–and his anger issues have resulted in violent outbursts, zero friends, and clueless adults dumping him in the special education room at school. No one cares that Gerald has tried to learn to control himself; they’re all just waiting for him to snap. And he’s starting to feel dangerously close to doing just that…until he chooses to create possibilities for himself that he never knew he deserved.”

 

Title: Across a Star-Swept Sea

Author: Diana Peterfreund

Publisher & Release Date: Balzar + Bray, Oct. 15

The Hook: “Centuries after wars nearly destroyed civilization, the two islands of New Pacifica stand alone, a terraformed paradise where even the Reduction–the devastating brain disorder that sparked the wars–is a distant memory. Yet on the isle of Galatea, an uprising against the ruling aristocrats has turned deadly. The revolutionaries’ weapon is a drug that damages their enemies’ brains, and the only hope is rescue by a mysterious spy known as the Wild Poppy.

On the neighboring island of Albion, no one suspects that the Wild Poppy is actually famously frivolous aristocrat Persis Blake. The teenager uses her shallow, socialite trappings to hide her true purpose: her gossipy flutternotes are encrypted plans, her pampered sea mink is genetically engineered for spying, and her well-publicized new romance with handsome Galatean medic Justen Helo… is her most dangerous mission ever.In this thrilling adventure inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel, Diana Peterfreund creates an exquisitely rendered world where nothing is as it seems and two teens with very different pasts fight for a future only they dare to imagine.”