It's an outstanding read in every way: voice, character, world-building, plotting, and emotional impact. It's multi-faceted and multi-layered and has fabulous re-read potential. It's not an easy read—it requires patience from the reader, as well as a willingness to actively work at understanding Eve's perception of the world—but that makes it all the more satisfying when everything comes together.
It's dark and scary and confusing, but it's also romantic and hopeful and contains moments of pure joy. It's about what it means to be human, about how our understanding of the world is colored by experience, and it's a fantasy, a mystery, a cop drama, a fairy tale, and a romance all rolled into one.
It's a fabulously excellent book, and I hope you read it soon.
And now, here's Sarah!
Thanks for inviting me here, Leila! Hi, everyone! I'm Sarah Beth Durst. My new YA book Conjured is the darkest, wildest, and creepiest book I've ever written. It's about a girl in the paranormal witness protection program, who, haunted by visions of carnival tents and tarot cards, must remember her past and why she has strange abilities before a magic-wielding serial killer hunts her down.
I loved writing the creepy parts.
Okay, the other parts were fun too, especially Zach's lines. But the nightmarish visions...
When I was a kid, I used to lie awake at night, convinced that the sound of my heartbeat was actually the sound of footsteps coming slowly and steadily toward my room. But I couldn't run to my parents for help because if I left my bed, then the invisible giant snakes under my bed would bite my ankles. As they do.
(My husband tells me I wouldn't have had this issue if I hadn't gone to a preschool that kept a massive boa constrictor as a pet. I've pointed out that they also had a goat, and I never had any weird satyr dreams. He says that's not the same at all.)
Anyway, that feeling of dread was what I drew on when I wrote this book, and taking that old feeling and wrapping it in words was... weirdly fun. Or maybe the word I want is cathartic. The novel is told in a very tight point-of-view -- the idea is for the reader to experience what Eve is experiencing. I tried to wrap myself in her shadowy world and see it through Eve's eyes. I really wanted to recreate that middle-of-the-night feeling of disorientation and an atmosphere of claustrophobic chaos as she gropes toward understanding (and then has it ripped away from her).
So for my list of Friday Faves, I picked books that reek with atmosphere. These books smother you with it until you're breathing their air. They wrap themselves around you and pull you into their world. You emerge from them in a fog, the real world tinged with the feel of that darker world, as if it has left behind a thin film on everything.
In no particular order, here are books that have smothered me with their atmosphere:
Past the Size of Dreaming, by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
All of Nina Kiriki Hoffman's YA books have a delicious haunting quality to them. Her prose is always beautiful, and her characters are always entrancing. I think my all-time favorite of hers is A Fistful of Sky, but for sheer atmosphere, I have to highlight A Red Heart of Memories and its sequel Past the Size of Dreaming. They're about Matt, Edmund, and Susan, three teens with odd powers and painful pasts. The sequel centers around a haunted house.
The Homeward Bounders, by Diana Wynne Jones
Jamie accidentally stumbles across a game played across parallel universes by scary, powerful beings called Them. But just describing it like that doesn't do it justice. Jamie is lost, and he spends the novel trying to go home again. His fate has haunted me for over twenty years.
The Keys to the Kingdom series, by Garth Nix
Nithlings! Fetchers! Ahhhhhh! This series is about a boy named Arthur Penhaligon who basically has to save the universe. Nearly every page has some brilliant, imaginative creation -- many of which are thoroughly and awesomely creepy.
The Changeover, by Margaret Mahy
I first read this book when I was about ten years old. And then I read it again. And again. And again... It's a supernatural romance about Laura, a girl whose brother's soul is slowly being sucked away by a creepy villain named Carmody Braque. She turns to a witch, Sorry Carlisle, for help, but he and his family have an agenda of their own. Mahy's The Tricksters is also deliciously creepy.
Alice in Zombieland, by Gena Showalter
Alice Bell thinks her father is crazy. He insists no one leave the house after dark because of the "monsters." When Alice convinces her family to go out one night, her family is killed by zombies in front of her. Needless to say, this leads Alice to have a lot of issues. This book is dark and wonderful, and I can't wait for the sequel.
Silence, by Michelle Sagara
Emma can talk to dead people. This is not a good thing. People who have this power usually turn evil and use the dead to work evil magic. People who have this power usually need to be killed as quickly as possible. This book is very compelling and reeks of atmosphere.
The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
Actually, the Neil Gaiman book I found to be the most scary and creepy is his picture book with Dave McKean, Wolves in the Walls. But since we're talking novels here... this book is about Nobody Owens, who was raised by ghosts in a cemetery. The ghosts were charming, and the killer Jack freaked me out. His novel Coraline is also quite ghoulish, and because of that book, I will always find Lalaloopsy Dolls to be profoundly disturbing.
Chime, by Franny Billingsley
You want a book full of atmosphere? This one. It drips with it. It oozes it. This book is about Briony, a girl who has been stuffed full of so many secrets and lies that her self-worth has been seriously warped.
The Darkangel trilogy, by Meredith Ann Pierce
This trilogy is full of angst, romance, and melodrama (in a good way). It always reminded me of a romantic Bluebeard, except the heroine saves Bluebeard instead of needing to be saved. Like The Changeover, I read these books eons ago, but they've stayed with me.
The Dark Unwinding, by Sharon Cameron
Set in England in 1852, this book drips with classic Gothic atmosphere. Think Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights with clockwork gadgets. Katharine is sent to her uncle's estate with instructions to declare him insane but instead discovers a clockwork factory that is the hope of hundreds. Definitely a novel you can sink into on a dark, chilly night.
Previously:Lauren Roedy Vaughn's Five Favorite Literary Adult Mentors... Plus Two Characters Who Need One.