I received this book for free from HarperTeen in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Beware the Wild Published by HarperTeen on October 21, 2014
Genres: Mystery, Paranormal, YA
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It's an oppressively hot and sticky morning in June when Sterling and her brother, Phin, have an argument that compels him to run into the town swamp -- the one that strikes fear in all the residents of Sticks, Louisiana. Phin doesn't return. Instead, a girl named Lenora May climbs out, and now Sterling is the only person in Sticks who remembers her brother ever existed.
Sterling needs to figure out what the swamp's done with her beloved brother and how Lenora May is connected to his disappearance -- and loner boy Heath Durham might be the only one who can help her.
This debut novel is full of atmosphere, twists and turns, and a swoon-worthy romance.
Objectively, Beware the Wild is really good. Subjectively, while I found it decent, I couldn’t really connect to it very much.
Don’t get me wrong, the writing is gorgeous. It’s very showing than telling, moving the plot along in a great pace while portraying the heroine’s personality and flaws exceptionally well. There were a lot of inner thoughts and monologues that give you front-row seats of the turmoils being stirred within her as Sterling finds herself in a situation where nobody suddenly remembers who her brother is, except, perhaps, the Swamp where magic and danger lie within. There is flow, and you could even say things happen “naturally” and nothing feels forced, but…
I don’t know. It just… fell flat, for me, characterisation-wise. Is it normal to recognize the beauty of the words and how they were weaved (which means, yeah, kudos to the writing), but not feel connected to the characters? Because that’s what happened to me. It felt like while the words flowed beautifully and naturally, it lacked ‘heart’. At times, I found myself skimming over some scenes (especially the romantic ones) because I would lose interest every now and then. And then we would have half-human/half-alligator creatures, magical fruits, and I would sigh every 10 pages because I would feel exhausted.
BUT!!! The atmosphere. The atmosphere is really well-done, and it’s something I haven’t seen this well-written in a long, long while. You’re in a small town called the Sticks (the Sticks?! Really?! It’s hilarious and a little ridiculous at the same time, but there is an endearing aspect to it), and nearby is the Swamp, and between the two is a white fence that has been there for generations. It really gives this “magical realism” vibe mixed with some eerieness that can only be achieved when characters live in a small town that knows everybody right next to a living, breathing, giant place of mud and huge oak trees. Imagine the swamp in The Princess and the Frog (Disney version) just… more sinister. And somehow romantic, even? Does that even make sense?!
As for the plot itself, I liked it, even if I weren’t emotionally-invested in it. It was really creepy when everyone suddenly had no memory of one person and had new memories of someone else who appeared out of the blue. Even if I couldn’t connect completely to Sterling, I did feel for her at least in this regard. I can’t imagine it if someone you loved suddenly didn’t exist in everyone’s minds except for yours. I would go completely crazy! To think that a Swamp has such powers really makes it formidable and somehow romantically mysterious.
All in all, Beware the Wild was well-written in a way it’s not telling than showing and that it sets up the atmosphere really well, better than many I’ve read previously. Small town with a dangerous swamp may not be original but this book gives something new to the plate, no doubt. It’s just disheartening that I couldn’t connect to the characters, and thus, the plot, because it would have an even more fantastic ride otherwise. I recommend you try it yourself, still, though. I may not have had a 5-star experience, but your journey may be well different from mine.
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