Jessa Russo: Divide (and Ever)
April 16, 2014
Jessa Russo asked me to help her promote her new novel Divide, which comes out tomorrow, and I suggested dragging my review for her debut Ever out of the archives. It’s something of an anomaly among her reviews, since I decided to wax pretentious and treat its protagonist as an unreliable narrator.
I should mention from the outset that I tend to avoid reading YA (young adult) fiction. I didn’t like being a teenager, so reading about them isn’t exactly appealing. I tend not to read romance, either, for reasons I can’t even pretend are reasonable.
First, the plot: seventeen year old Eleanor Van Ruysdael (whose nickname, Ever, is derived from her initials) has a dead boyfriend named Frankie, who died in a car crash which she survived. She isn’t over him yet, but it might be difficult to get over a teen crush who insists on haunting you.
What begins as a tale of unrequited love becomes a love triangle when twenty-two-year-old Toby and his father move into the house where Frankie and his family once lived. Though Ever tells us she’s stuck on Frankie on numerous occasions, she is instantly smitten with Toby — to the relief of her friend Jess. After some courtship between Ever and Toby, the arrival of Toby’s ex Ariadne further complicates matters.
Ariadne’s arrival kicks Ever into high gear by introducing an interpersonal conflict halfway through the novel. Ever can’t stand Ariadne, but the feeling isn’t mutual because Ariadne doesn’t regard Ever as an equal worthy of her enmity.
I won’t comment further on the plot, lest I spoil the ending. Instead, I will shift my attention to the mechanisms driving the story. In particular, I wish to consider Ms. Russo’s choice of viewpoint. Ever is told exclusively through the viewpoint of its protagonist. We only know what she tells us. We have no choice but to believe Frankie is real, because Ever tells us other people can see him. When Ever learns that Toby and Ariadne are “soul collectors”, we can only take her words at face value, but Ever doesn’t tell us what exactly soul collectors are, or how they do what they do, because she herself doesn’t know. We remain ignorant of Toby’s motives and those of Ariadne, because we’re limited to Ever’s viewpoint.
A cursory glance at the reviews on Goodreads suggests that this limited perspective frustrates a great many readers to the point where they end up despising the novel. I consider it Ever’s chief virtue. While I might praise Ever’s verisimilitude by virtue of its characters, who are annoying enough to remind me of the teenagers with whom I used to do time in high school, the real value of this novel lies in its unreliable narrator.
An unreliable narrator, according to Wikipedia, is “a narrator, whether in literature, film, or theatre, whose credibility has been seriously compromised” (emphasis mine). Ever’s youth and inexperience alone might compromise her as a narrator, but it’s her psychological issues which push her over the top. Her unresolved grief and survivors’ guilt are both obvious from the first page of the first chapter. Furthermore, because we have to take her word for the fact that others can see Frankie, the ghost himself might be a figment of Ever’s imagination — or a delusion. Even the events culminating in Ever`s cliffhanger ending might only be a fantasy, but it’s a fantasy we must accept at face value, because we only know what Ever tells us.
I don’t know if Jessa Russo intended for Ever to be an unreliable narrator. I could be overthinking a novel which is nothing more than solidly written young adult paranormal romance. Or, Jessa Russo might have infused her material with unexpected literary sophistication through her choice of viewpoint and the care with which she feeds the reader information.
Pick whichever interpretation you think is most flattering.
Don’t forget! Divide comes out tomorrow.
Ryan Hill: The Book of Bart
April 9, 2014
I’m helping out Curiosity Quills newcomer Ryan Hill today by spreading the word about his debut, a YA paranormal entitled The Book of Bart. Here’s the cover; the book comes out on May 22, 2014.
Behold! The cover for Ryan Hill’s debut YA Paranormal novel THE BOOK OF BART, coming May 22 from Curiosity Quills!
Only one thing is so powerful, so dangerous that Heaven and Hell must work together to find it: the Shard of Gabriel.
With a mysterious Black Cloud of Death hot on the shard’s trail, a desperate Heaven enlists the help of Bart, a demon who knows more about the shard than almost anyone. Six years ago, he had it in his hands. If only he’d used it before his coup to overthrow the devil failed. Now, he’s been sprung from his eternal punishment to help Samantha, an angel in training, recover the shard before the Black Cloud of Death finds it.
If Bartholomew wants to succeed, he’ll have to fight the temptation to betray Samantha and the allure of the shard. After an existence full of evil, the only way Bart can get right with Hell is to be good.
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K. H. Koehler: The Devil You Know
March 5, 2014
I first read The Devil You Know when K. H. Koehler published it through Curiosity Quills Press. Now that she’s gone indie again, she’s taken the opportunity to re-issue the book with a new, stark, minimalistic cover.
I recommend it to fans of adult supernatural thrillers. It’s how Hellblazer should have been Americanized, assuming it was ever necessary to strip John Constantine of his Britishness.
This re-issued edition also includes her novelette And Death Shall Have No Dominion.
Sympathy for the Devil…
Not only does the devil have an only begotten son, but he’s currently residing in the rural town of Blackwater in northeast Pennsylvania. Semi-retired from law enforcement, the handsome, if cynical, Nick Englebrecht becomes quickly caught up in a local missing child case that seems mundane on the outside, but when the sheriff requests his help as a psychic detective to help find the missing girl, his off-the-books investigation quickly leads him to some terrible truths about life, love and the universe as we know it. And if that isn’t bad enough, the angels have begun an ethnic cleansing of all beings with demonic blood. Of course, Nick is at the top of their to-do list.
About the Author
K. H. Koehler is the author of various novels and novellas in the genres of horror, SF, dark fantasy, steampunk and young adult. She is an associate editor at KHP Publishers, owner of K.H. Koehler Books and a partner in The Job Octopus, which specializes in editing and cover design. Her books are available at all major ebook distributors, her covers have appeared on many books in many different genres, and her short work has been featured on Horror World, Literary Mayhem, and in the Bram Stoker Award-winning anthology Demons, edited by John Skipp. She lives in the beautiful wilds of Northeast Pennsylvania with two very large and opinionated Rottweilers. She welcomes reviews and fan mail and you can contact her via her website: khkoehlerbooks.wordpress.com