by Amanda Hocking
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wake / 978-1250008121
I thought I knew what I was getting into with "Wake": I figured the book would be "Twilight but with Mermaids". And, well, I was wrong. But in a good way.
"Wake" starts out like your standard YA supernatural novel; within the first two chapters, we've quickly established a pretty heroine, a sexy love interest, a broken down car, an absentee father, and an infantile mother. Check, check, check. But the establishment is done pretty quickly and not too awkwardly and I have to say I like the pacing; none of this mooning over details for chapters on end. And I *really* like that when the supernatural monsters move into town, everyone notices that they stand out and rumors start flying. That adds a very genuine feel to the novel.
Somewhere along the way, though, the novel stops being a YA supernatural novel yearning for love and awesomesauce and starts being something else entirely, and in a very good way. As protagonist Gemma has to cope with the changes being forced into her life, she undergoes some really compelling character growth and the ride is pleasantly rocky and surprisingly delightful to read. I guess it's worth pointing out that I'd initially planned to read one chapter a day, and instead read *two* chapters on Tuesday and then the entire thing on Wednesday. I'm not sure how chapter three turned into "okay, I'll just read the whole thing and why does the phone keep interrupting me", but it did. So I can honestly say this book held my interest!
So. Things I liked about this novel, hopefully without being too spoilery. The descriptions are lush and gorgeous without being overwrought. The feel of the book takes me to the same place as the Percy Jackson books; there's a very visceral mix of mythology and modern day. All the characters, even the ancillary ones, seem real and genuine and true to life. The "small town" feel comes across really well in the book. The protagonist is genuinely likable without being perfect, and there's zero sneering at people who fail to meet her expectations. Her sister, though slightly more judgmental, stole my heart entirely as she remains open to learning new things about people. The love interest is sexy without being sexual; I don't know how to clarify that further except to say that this book is chaste without being what I would call "abstinence porn". And the supernatural is treated from a really interesting angle, with the pluses and minuses laid out neatly for the reader to agonize over. The conversations, one of the hardest things to write, are superbly realistic and very humorous.
If there are things I didn't like about "Wake", it would perhaps be that some of the flashbacks and fleshing out of the characters felt a little clunky, especially near the beginning. But, you know, I'd almost rather a quick-and-clunky establishing paragraph than a four-chapter drawn-out ordeal just to convey the precise nature of, say, Harper's romantic past. Hocking gets to the point, and I won't fault her for the road having a bump or two.
"Wake" is the first in what looks to be a four-part series, and it definitely ends on a cliffhanger that will leave you wanting more. I'm already eying the back-of-the-book notice telling me to wait until Winter 2013 and wishing time would hurry up. So if you can handle the wait, take this as a recommendation.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine.
~ Ana Mardoll