Saturday, 13 September 2014

BOOK REVIEW: INESCAPABLE BY AMY A. BARTOL



My name is Evie Claremont and this was to be the making of me–my freshman year of college. I’d been hoping that once I’d arrived on Crestwood’s campus, the nightmare that I’ve been having would go away. It hasn’t.

I may be an inexperienced seventeen-year-old, but I’m grounded…sane. I look for rational explanations to even the strangest circumstances. Since meeting sophomore Reed Wellington, however, nothing makes any sense. Whenever he’s near, I feel an attraction to him–a magnetic kind of force pulling me towards him. I know what you’re thinking…that sounds fairly awesome. Yeah, it would be…if he liked me, but Reed acts as if I’m the worst thing that has ever happened to Crestwood…or him. But get this, for some reason every time I turn around he’s there, barging into my life.

What is the secret that he’s keeping from me? I’m hoping that it’s anything but what I suspect: that he’s not exactly normal…and neither am I. So, maybe Crestwood won’t be the making of me, but it could be the breaking of me. I’ve been left to wonder if the dark future my dream is foretelling is… inescapable.




Amy A. Bartol, I did not see you coming.

The first and most prominent complaint I have about Inescapable is the synopsis. Coupled with the (notoriously unreliable) word of mouth, the synopsis is phrased in such a way as to make the book sound run-of-the-mill. Though now that I think the matter through, perhaps this mundane quality to the description is specifically designed to lower expectations and ultimately make the reader exclaim:

Amy A. Bartol, I did not see you coming.



If there is one thing that Inescapable cannot be faulted with, it's the writing. Having read the synopsis and come to expect a Twilight-reminiscent charade, the writing style was the first indicator of just how wrong I would be. Not to be mistaken, I am not crediting Twilight with horrible writing. I am merely making a point that since the Twilight craze, many a YA paranormal has suffered a lack of proper editing and proper wording, all in hopes of being released fast enough to recapture the "paranormal phenomenon". Inescapable is so far from being poorly written, it belongs in a different category entirely. The writing style flowed, and seemed in equal parts effortless and thought-through. This is not a YA novel written in the broom closet on lunch breaks. This is serious, proper writing.

If there is any fault to be found in the editing, it's merely that on occasions the writer got the character names mixed up, and the editor was none the wiser about it. Not that it's surprising, considering the names occasionally give a vibe of reading a unique brand of dystopian novel where the caste system is based around the similarity to the names of the characters (which is not a half-bad idea for a dystopian novel, and would make for a quirky read, if nothing else). At one point, Russell is telling Red that they can't go help Reed. Buns and Brownie, meanwhile, are inside a building, as are Candence and Caroline. It's not that the names are identical, per se. But they're easy enough to mix up. (There is also a bit of an overuse of names in dialogue going on - where characters will repeatedly address one another by their names while talking, though there's no one else in the room but the two of them. Read out loud, it sounds unnatural, but it's easy enough to get past unless one is determined to nitpick.)

And if anything was as big of a surprise as the writing, it was the protagonist herself. Genevieve Evie Claremont does us female readers proud when, in the very first interaction with the future love interest, she does the unfathomable: she stands up for herself. In the sea of docile, subservient female leads, Evie's remark that the future love interest is being unnecessarily creepy, and furthermore wrong about what he is saying, is as novel a thing as any to read about. Evie's determination to make her own choices gained her instant likability, and I only wish this resolve hadn't completely dissipated before the novel's end. On a purely physical level, Evie was at an understandable disadvantage, and there is plenty of hope of improvement in the future as she grows into her strength. On a psychological level, however, I soon found myself daydreaming about the Evie from the beginning of the novel - the self-reliant stubborn girl whose life didn't revolve around two boys who are passing her back and forth like a football ball (which was an apt, if not strangely disturbing, metaphor).

And on that note, on a completely personal level I felt that this author was better than this love triangle. While the novel itself came as a surprise, and a refreshing one of that, the occasional cliché was that much more jarring, and each and every single time I thought that this author was too talented to waste her time on those things. The love triangle was particularly prominent, given that it's more of a relationship-with-an-occasional-appearance-from-a-third-wheel. While each of the characters involved in it was an interesting enough individual in and of themselves, as a love combo they were unconvincing at best and unlikable at worst. In fact, most of my latter frustration with the lead stemmed from her attempts to rationalize going on with two guys simultaneously, when she had an obvious, highly evident preference for one over the other. With every intention to continue on with the series, I can only hope that this particular love shape (as EpicReads referred to them) isn't of an annoyingly long-lasting variety.

Outside of the love triangle, the plot flowed as effortlessly as the writing. Having only read the synopsis once, and briefly, I took endless pleasure in (for once) not being able to work out what sort of supernatural entity the lead was supposed to be. Amy A. Bartol has certainly taken this lore and made it her own, thus making the paranormal aspect of the story into what is perhaps its strongest and most enjoyable facet. Not that the humor isn't spot on and the characters interesting enough on their own. They are. But it's the mythology that ties the whole thing together, and it is the mythology that promises an array of great things to come. Did I feel the whole soulmate subplot was necessary? Perhaps not. Was I a fan of the very ending in terms of the level of supernatural going on? Perhaps not.

But all was forgiven, especially in lieu of an astounding twist 80% in that not only did I not see coming, I had not even entertained it as a possibility. From the 80% mark, the events took on a whole new dimension of unexpected and I found myself applauding the author for the subtle hints throughout... which I missed in their entirety. In many ways, I had not seen that resolution coming. Much as I hadn't seen the writer coming in quite such a pleasing manner.

Inescapable is a series worth checking out for all fans of the YA paranormal genre (or the YA brand of urban fantasy, really). It is my sincerest recommendation going into this book virtually blind in terms of the synopsis - it keeps things interesting and keeps the reader guessing, with about as much success as the protagonist (which is not a lot). And if you enjoy it, there are good news. The fifth novel in this series is due to be released sometime in 2015.




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