Tuesday, 28 December 2010
Review: The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
Then Tate Stewart's little sister dies, and suddenly Mackie can't ignore the truth any more...
For me, the power of The Replacement stems largely from what debut author Brenna Yovanoff leaves unsaid. Set in the prosperous town of Gentry, it's the story of a community that lives alongside an unnamed supernatural menace they never publicly acknowledge. And just as the people of Gentry refuse to name the creatures who bring their terrible blend of misery and good fortune to the town, Yovanoff refuses to limit the power of her creations by defining them in concrete terms. We soon learn that these creatures steal human children and leave sickly changelings in their place, but unlike the majority of YA paranormal species we never truly know what else we can expect from them or what their limits are.
For all its ambiguity, The Replacement is one of the most genuinely unsettling YA reads I've ever encountered. Paranormal titles are often marketed as 'dark', but when it comes to YA 'dark' is a word that's perhaps thrown around a little too easily. Not in this case. In choosing to delve beneath the surface of his eerie hometown, Mackie brings himself face to face with the reality of his own kind. And as you might expect of creatures who steal human children away from their families and replace them with changelings, the reality is both grisly and unnerving. Those of a weak disposition be warned: this story takes the reader to some deeply unpleasant places. Those not of a weak disposition: prepare for an unforgettable read.
Alongside all this darkness, The Replacement is not without its uplifting moments. It's definitely not the kind of novel I'd describe primarily as a romance, but the relationship between Mackie and Tate is nonetheless a compelling one. Mackie is a boy who has had to hide the truth about who he is for sixteen years, and in Tate - who can no longer keep quiet about what she knows to be true - he finds a girl with the power to change his whole approach to life. As narrator, Mackie makes for a largely believable (if reluctant) hero, although I would have to say that I wasn't quite convinced that a boy who feels his outsider status so accutely would attract the attentions of a queen bee in the way that he does. Still, The Replacement is the kind of book that leaves you with plenty to think about, and the lessons Mackie learns on his journey provide some interesting insight into the way that our own society expresses its values. Most importantly, it's a book about the transformative power of love.
Malevolent and haunting, The Replacement blurs the boundary between paranormal romance and horror with fascinating results. While the plot unfolds at a relatively slow pace, it's the incredibly creepy atmosphere that keeps the pages turning here. It's a striking debut from Brenna Yovanoff, and one that I'd recommend to readers who like their paranormal YA with a little more going on.
Out: January 6th 2011, UK / September 21st 2010, US
Thank you to Simon and Schuster UK for providing a review copy of this book.