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4.6 out of 5 stars
The Accidental Siren
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
I gave this book a 5 star rating, and here is why...

You know the part in Aladdin where the Genie says,

"PHEEEEEEEE - NOMEEEEEE - NALLLLLLL COOOOOOOOSMIC POWWWWWWWAHS!" ??

Well that's the only explanation that I could come up with as to how this book was that friggin good. lol He either laced the watering hole with the ceremonial kool-aid, or he was blessed by the gods with a ridiculously amazing talent for writing. I'm thinking both. haha ( I don't give out a five star rating lightly so it must have been hoodoo. lol)

I won't lie though, I was beyond hesitant to pick up this book. I dislike stories about pubescent young love. They do nothing for me because I have a hard time relating to the characters and everything seems rather perverse because it's an adult story that comes from the mouths of babes. I have a total disconnect and I just move on. However, a friend of mine read and reviewed the book and was falling all over her blog about it. And while I still had reservations, I scurried over and stalked out the author and decided it would be unfair of me, not to give it a shot. Now I can say that without a doubt, it was the best move I have made so far.

Right from the very first page I was intrigued. My fingers had a mind of their own and kept thumbing through the pages to absorb more. It felt as if I honestly couldn't get enough. Not only was I reading this twisted epic re telling of adolescence, but I was IN it. I wasn't in it in the traditional sense, but my whole reality was transformed into this world and I felt like part of it. It's an amazing feat for a writer to accomplish that level of intensity and he pulled it off. I applaud Jake Vander Ark for his abilities and his passion.

As I continued on with the book, I thought to myself, "What is it about Mara that makes her so desirable? Why is this girl so significant?". The only answer I could come up with, was that it felt like he was using Mara as a symbol of obsession to convey to the masses that there is always that one person/love that is our Achilles heel. The one we sacrifice everyone and everything for and we are too blinded with tunnel vision to realize how badly it's affecting the world around us.

I'm curious to know if when he was writing Mara, if he actually had a 12 yr old girl in mind. She was adolescent in the sense that she had whimsical female traits that are indicative to a young girl, but her mind was this cavernous hole of darkness and deceit. There were no bounds to her manipulation. Talk about chilling! She may have only been 12, but the experiences she had up to that point in her life were abusive and sick and when you experience things like that, you are forced to mature mentally. Your frontal lobe is drenched in steroids and your innocence is left struggling and weak. This turns you into a potentially lethal individual, and although Mara was sweet and adorable and fun, she was indeed what Vander Ark painted her as; a siren. At least that's my humble opinion anyway.

If Mara had a mantra, I believe this would be it. lol

"Bound in darkness you will hear my cry,
and long you shall till the day you die."

Those poor people didn't stand a chance!

The rest of the cast did amazing things for me. He nailed the bullies and the crazies. The jocks were typical. Whit, the best friend, was great! James - our leading man - was adorable and I just wanted to hug him. I could gush for hours about Livy, and Age, and the twins. but then it wouldn't be fun for you to discover them for yourself, so I digress. Vander Ark painted everyone so beautifully, that it felt like more than just his imagination. Almost as if they were actual memories and not fiction. I think the reason it felt so authentic and real, is because there was no holding back. A lot of people try to be politically correct in their writing so as not to offend anyone, but not him. He pulled out all the stops and it was as believable as an autobiography.

The scenes in the book were laid out perfectly too. I could see, hear, smell, and taste everything. I felt like I was in the middle of a movie. Literally. At one point, I was on set, in the middle of the creepiest action scene ever. I actually shivered and attempted to close my eyes because I didn't want to witness what I knew was coming. It was righteous! I like to think that I partook in the greatest movie never made. lol Think Carrie meets Final Destination meets The Pied Piper, and you have Mara wrapped in a beautifully horrific bow. Creepy, right?

I fell in love with this book because it achieved every goal that we as readers have for our beloved authors. I laughed, I cried, I contemplated, I cringed, and I questioned. Most importantly, I felt. I was an emotional roller coaster till the very end. No matter what page I was on, or what scene I was in, I felt everything. The lust and betrayal alone are enough to satiate your palate, but there is just so much more to experience. You can't read this book and tell me that you didn't feel something when you read it. It's highly improbable that anyone could.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I'm not a reader, I like audio books and hook that to my ears and go about my day. But this book, had me sitting and reading, almost skipping paragraphs because I wanted to see how each chapter ended. I didn't allow the skipping of the paragraphs, but I hurried through to see the unpredictable end. Then went back to make sure I didn't miss a word.

I loved all the images from that time period, I loved the characters and their conversations. They all sounded very preadolescent with their mild swearing and trying to be "cool".

The book was very engaging and disturbing at the same time. Vander Ark was able to get into the mind of a 12 year old and express those feelings on paper. He was able to talk about the foster care side of the family with good knowledge and show the difficulties foster families, in a rare situation, face.

I will be recommending this book to lots of my friends. Now on to get the next one of Vander Ark's books.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
This book is well written and has very interesting concepts. It is told from the point of view of the 12-year-old protagonist, yet still poses questions about love and lust, good and evil, responsibility, hope, and what it means to be family. The author has a great vocabulary and an amazing ability to paint with words in order to show the reader his story.

Mini-spoilers:
Not for the squeamish or the easily offended, and not for children. Some of the bullying that occurs is violent and there are some bloody scenes.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2012
Format: Paperback
I found this hidden gem on wattpad, and read it from start to finish in two days. The complexity of the characters really pulled me in. Good story.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
I received this as an ARC.

We all have either met girls or heard of girls that are so gorgeous that every girl wants to be just like her and every boy wants to own her. I am very serious about the word "own". She is the epitome of sweetness and beauty that you can't help but want to keep all to yourself. I have actually known two girls like this. As kids they always looked like they were ten years older than they were. They weren't devolped like a woman, but it was like a woman was trapped in this angelic body. The Accidental Siren is about a girl just like this. Every boy that sees her is instantly in love and it is rather obvious that adult males feel her allure as well. All the young girls want to be her best friend. Girls tend to have a little more resistance to her power, but even the strong fall.

Mara had lived a rough twelve years. James meets her when he tries to purchase a video camera from her "aunt" whom you will learn has a very interesting past. Upon their first meeting, James discovers boys watching her from nearby trees and videotaping as well. The reason for their leering? Mara has a voice that entrances everyone, young and old, when she sings. Hearing her songs once will leave you craving more like a cocaine addict. James finds this very interesting, but is even more shocked when Mara sends a note flying from her bedroom window to him asking to meet later in secret. He literally gets in a fist fight over the note from one of the stalkers. This is just the beginning of things to come during one of the craziest summers of James's life.

I must say that this was a very strange story, but I couldn't put it down. I, like the characters in the book, was entranced with Mara's seemingly supernatural abilities. I kept reading out of a kind of morbid curiosity of what would happen next and how Mara may have caused it. I felt a sort of jealousy over this girl because I always wanted to be like her. Of course when you get to the ending, you will understand why I am actually happy not to have been like Mara.

Read more reviews at Identity Discovery Blog.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2012
Format: Paperback
The Accidental Siren is wonderfully written and enjoyable to read. It reminds me of the childish games of make believe my friends and I used to play, and that age when you are on the brink of realizing just how ugly life can be. I would definitely recommend The Accidental Siren to anyone, but especially to those who are not old enough to enjoy memories of a time before electronics suppressed the imaginative spirit, when all we had for entertainment was what we could come up with in our own worlds.

As you read this coming of age story about the pain of first love, pay attention to the secondary characters, and how their lives and even their personalities are changed because of this one special little girl and the boy who loves her. RIVETING!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
The way this story enables you to feel, is just amazing and disturbing, teaching you how to grow up all over again..
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Article first published as Book Review: The Accidental Siren by Jake Vander Ark on Blogcritics. [under Dayla F.M., Amazon won't let me link]

I received a free copy of The Accidental Siren for review purposes.

The Accidental Siren by Jake Vander Ark is a young adult debut set in Lake Michigan that follows twelve year-old James during the summer of 1994. This particular summer is unforgettable for young James since it is the year he experiences his first love. Beautiful and surreal, twelve year-old Mara is the object of every boy's dream, yet her attraction goes beyond reality and touches on the supernatural.

Vander Ark successfully recreates 1994 for the reader by using references to popular artists, films, and trends of the time. He openly warns the reader of the prejudices that were still active in the early nineties; racial discrimination being an important subject in this novel. The Accidental Siren also explores the difficulties of growing up. James, a prepubescent boy when we meet him, struggles with his weight, hormones, and changing body as the summer progresses.

James, as a protagonist, is unreliable. As the frightening conclusion approaches, he does nothing to show us that he is affected by what he's learned about Mara. At times, as is pointed out within the story, the reader is left wondering if James is in fact relaying the truth, or if everything we've learned from him is all an illusion caused by obsession.

There are moments where Vander Ark's characters appear unrealistic. However, an older version of James reflects on particular events in certain chapters, reminding the reader that this is an adult's retelling of a childhood memory.

Written in beautiful prose, Vander Ark's tale warns of the perils of obsession. The setting is described using flawless metaphors that paint James's world in the reader's mind. The plot becomes more haunting with every chapter, effectively dragging the reader deeper into the story with every twist and turn.

Jake Vander Ark's debut is a wonderful book to read not just because of how original it is, but because the writing in itself is something magical that the reader can't detach him/herself away from.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2012
Format: Paperback
As a fairly "picky" reader, I can say that Jake Vander Ark absolutely delivers! This story hooked me from the first page, and I was really sorry for it to end. And when it did end, the characters remained with me for a long time. In fact I'm still hoping to learn more about them again in a sequel...or two! The story line is very well written in a style that makes the reader feel like he/she is there. Vander Ark's character development is right on; he does a fantastic job of showing us the complexities of each character's personalities...enabling us to feel what they feel and to empathize with each of them. We see them in all their humanness...both good and not so good, and it endears them to us in a way that I've rarely had the privilege of experiencing in a book. This story brought a lot of feelings of nostalgia about childhood, as well, in all it's innocence and rawness.

LOVED IT! Cannot recommend it highly enough! You will want to read this for it's entertainment value as well as for the wonderful little nuggets of truth and lessons filled throughout. That is one of the things that sets it apart. It's more than just a good story. And then you will want to order more copies and give them to your family and friends so they can experience the same thing.

Cannot wait to read whatever this talented writer puts out. He will most definitely be on the best seller list some day!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2012
Format: Paperback
The best books are the ones you can't stop reading. You just have to know what is going to happen next. The Accidental Siren is all of that. Vander Ark has created a story that you can't stop reading with characters that you love and hate. James, the leading character, is adorable and you just want to hug him. Mara is alluring and psychotic all at the same time. I love complex characters and all of these were point on in their multi-layered personalities.

I have to admit I was reluctant to read this story. I don't enjoy pubescent love stories. They don't call to me even though I do enjoy a good adolescent sci-fi or fantasy story. I guess the throw back to romance in those awkward days are just too much for my damaged teenage psyche. This story is different in that you can relate to difficulties of the young people in a way that reminds you it wasn't just you that had troubles in your teens.

Vander Ark is a talented writer with a wonderful gift for crafting with the written word. I am excited that he has chosen to write as a means for his passion. I look forward to reading his other books and finding more great gems from this young man.

I was provided a copy of this book for my honest review from Promotional Book Tours.
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