I have a large backlog of reviews that need to be written, so I'm knocking out a bunch by featuring a specific author today. :)
This was Nancy Werlin's first book, which is glaringly obvious in some ways, as her writing has drastically improved since this book's publication. Instead of the supernatural books she's recently been putting out, this squarely fits into the realistic YA box. The book itself pushes the envelope, even looking at the title, with more provocative language than you'd see in many books. It all serves an important purpose (no pointless swearing or anything like that), and in the end, emphasizes the importance of certain scenes with that content, making it far more realistic than many YA books on the market. I spent a great deal of time while reading this book thinking about how drama-starved we are as readers. Werlin's book moves along at a slow pace, I will say that, but it depicts the average life of an average teen, making it a book readers can truly relate to. The main character, Alison, has her own set of challenges, as does everyone else, but they're not overdone for the sake of gratuitous drama, and for that, I have to thank Werlin. Some of the story gets buried beneath the many messages this book tries to send, and the middle seemed to drag on endlessly, but the end result is really worth it. Some of the plot points end on ambiguous, unresolved notes, but the ending of the story was breathtaking.
The Killer's Cousin
I don't have very much to say about this book. I think it was probably the weakest of Werlin's books that I've read so far. The story moved along slowly, annoyingly so, with more filler than necessary. The writing was choppy, in contrast to the beautiful, evocative writing Werlin was so incredibly capable of in Impossible and Extraordinary. On one hand, it almost seems like it was written by an entirely different author, but on the other hand, it truly goes to show how much an author's writing develops as time passes. The book picked up in speed and interest toward the end, and did come to a satisfying conclusion, but by that point, I was honestly sick of reading the book and didn't care.
The Rules of Survival
Oh, the amount of adoration I have for this book. It's an intense story about an incredibly intense topic, but at this point, Werlin's writing had really developed into something worth reading. The characters all seem to come to life in a way her previous books had failed to capture. Much of the story in this book is a mystery, and Werlin does a fantastic job at writing suspense between the lines. I could easily see this being written as a horrid cliche attempt at suspense, but it wasn't! I've rarely encountered such fresh stories and storytelling. The survivor angle is inspirational and brings everything full circle at the story's emotional conclusion. I would have liked to have heard more on the reasons behind his mother's issues, but that is the only complaint I have about the book, and as far as complaints go, that one's pretty nitpicky.
Extraordinary is Werlin's newest book, and delves into, if such a thing were to exist, a realistic fantasy. I've heard tell that one of the new Things in YA literature has been faeries, but this has been one of the only ones I've bothered to read, and I'm very glad I did. It's rare to find a book, particularly in this day and age where every other YA book published is a "Paranormal Romance", that brings back memories of those old bedtime fairy tales, but this book captures that very essence. It was an immersive, enthralling reading experience, and refreshing to read, similar to Impossible. Two things of note: I really like that the main character's Jewish faith is important to her, and that importance is portrayed in the book without being preachy at all. (The same can be said of Alison in Are You Alone on Purpose?) The other thing that I really found meaningful was the importance of Mallory and Phoebe's friendship. While there is a romance story present, the fact that Mallory and Phoebe's story is the one that holds more importance is telling--again, it's hard to find good YA fiction nowadays, where romance is not the driving factor. Kudos to Werlin, for those things and for once again writing a fantastic novel.
Also by Nancy Werlin: