Friday, January 09, 2015

Review: Beware the Wild by Natalie Parker

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Review: Beware the Wild by Natalie Parker
Beware the Wild
Genre: Mystery, Paranormal, YA
Publication date: October 21, 2014
by HarperTeen

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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.
-A copy was provided by HarperTeen for review-

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.

3.5 Stars
3.5 Hot Espressos

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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.
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9 Responses to “Review: Beware the Wild by Natalie Parker”

  1. JennRenee

    Sounds like if you character connection it would have been an awesome read for you. i am real big on character connection. I am really glad to hear the atmosphere, writing, and plot made up for it but yes without character connection its hard for me to love a book. the characters are alway what makes a book for me. The atmospher does sound wonderful to read about though. I will need to pick this one up soon.

  2. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    I felt the opposite to you. I liked the characters, but wanted a bit more from the world and the atmosphere. I think I needed that creep factor to be amped up. Overall though, I agree the writing is lovely!
    Great review, Faye!

  3. Renae @ Respiring Thoughts

    I had a similar problem with this book. I thought the writing and concept were both quite well done, but the author’s characterization lacked enough depth to forge a real connection. A shame, too, since the writing and atmosphere were so wonderful, as you said.

  4. Pili

    I’m so very intrigued about this one! And I love that you really liked the plot and the atmosphere!! I hope I’ll get to connect better with the characters!
    Great review Faye!

  5. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

    Awww, too bad you couldn’t connect to the book or the characters, but it does sound like it did the swamp thing really well! I can’t do magical realism I don’t think, I just feel too weirded out by it. Great review Faye!

  6. Olivia

    I think this is one I am going to have to pass up on. I was excited for it, but I am very much a character driven reader, and seeing as the characters were the problem here I am not sure I am going to like it much.