I received this book for free from Penguin in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Inland by Kat Rosenfield
Published by Dutton Juvenile on June 12th 2014
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The psychological labyrinth of a young woman’s insidious connection to the sea, from the Edgar Award nominated author of Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone.
Callie Morgan has long lived choked by the failure of her own lungs, the result of an elusive pulmonary illness that has plagued her since childhood. A childhood marked early by the drowning death of her mother—a death to which Callie was the sole witness. Her father has moved them inland, away from the memories of the California coast her mother loved so much and toward promises of recovery—and the escape of denial—in arid, landlocked air.
But after years of running away, the promise of a life-changing job for her father brings Callie and him back to the coast, to Florida, where Callie’s symptoms miraculously disappear. For once, life seems delightfully normal. But the ocean’s edge offers more than healing air … it holds a magnetic pull, drawing Callie closer and closer to the chilly, watery embrace that claimed her mother. Returned to the ocean, Callie comes of age and comes into a family destiny that holds generations of secrets and very few happy endings.
Inland was a mixed bag for me. On one hand I love the cryptic nature of books like these where part of the fun is how it plays with our imagination, but for this to work I have to turn the last page with some kind of stunned wonderment, and that did not happen here. While the writing is great and the magical realism feel with its eerie mystique is initially intriguing, I ended up being quite bored for the most part, and eventually underwhelmed in the end. I was left disappointed with no more than what I felt after I read the synopsis. Also, that epilogue/ending kinda confused me – if anyone can shed a light on what the heck it meant that’d be great O_O
This is the story of Callie who has lost her mother to the sea, and feels an inexplicable attraction to it herself. At first this novel completely gripped me. I loved how cryptic everything was, I loved the narrator’s voice, and I especially loved the mysterious allure of this plot with this enchanted vibe that was mermaid-like, so it’s unfortunate that it dragged on too long without letting threads unravel and, thus, lost its spark. The first part of the book takes us into Callie’s fight to breathe. Since she moved away from the ocean, she’s been in hospital after hospital and it’s a conscious effort just to take a breath. This has made her a sort of pariah in every school she’s been in. No one wants to get too close to the girl who’s sickly. This was a great way to get to know Callie at her core. There was definitely no problem in character building. I found her voice compelling and her situation heartbreaking.
The second part of the book is by the ocean, where things get bizarre and kind of messed up. This is also where we start seeing a new side of Callie. One that’s happier and healthier – at least physically. My favourite part of this book is easily the writing. It’s poetic, yet simple, and Kat’s ability to bring the setting to life is impressive; I could feel the ocean’s beckoning nature through the pages and even smell its salty breeze. It made it easy to understand Callie’s strange behaviour towards it – the magnetic pull she felt becomes palpable. Unfortunately, even with the pretty writing and eventual potency of its plot, my boredom took over after this initial fascination as the answers are not freely given. There’s no give or take, it’s all wonder and mystery and bewilderment that goes on for a bit too long without any real progress other than digging up more questions. Then after reading for what felt like ages, I was left underwhelmed with the ending. Being a fan of magical realism novels, I was not expecting complete closure, but I felt like the payoff was not worth the journey.
Another aspect I liked is how the book introduces the topics of grief and mental illness in a very unique way. It’s not even made apparent or obvious for the most part, it’s just one of the many undertones this novel suggests. But, again, there isn’t enough of a closure to give this much of a meaning in the end. I was left with nothing but confusion and frustrations, not the enlightenment and impressed awe I am usually left with in these kinds of books.
This novel does have a lot to offer, but also could have been much more powerful if it was more balanced. I was bored for too long without any sense of progress or reward for me to be able to give it a higher rating, regrettably.
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