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The Accidental Siren Paperback – February 25, 2015
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
I think the power of physical beauty is probably the greatest power a human being could possess, but how that power is wielded depends entirely on the individual human being inside the body. It's actually true that possessors of this kind of beauty sometimes don't recognize the power they have at all. And maybe that's for the best. Sometimes they recognize it and try to avoid using it or acknowledging it at all. That's called being humble, and I find that admirable, and maybe it's also for the best.
If TV and movies are to be believed, this power is often used for endlessly selfish means, gold diggers and such, and can be wielded with incredible cruelty and a thrilling rush from walking all over people whenever they want. From my experience, TV and movies are to be believed. This unbelievably shallow usage is widespread in real life, but I certainly wouldn't say it's the behavior of the majority of beautiful people. But it may comprise the largest group within all beautiful people. There's a statistical term for that, but I can't think of it right now. What splits this group is that some of them have a conscience and intensely regret their people-using behavior later. And some don't.
If they have specific desires or goals, be they power, wealth, or fame, the road is smoothed.
Some just enjoy the attention and worship thrown their way, and feed off it like an extra source of sustenance to food and oxygen. They are flattered endlessly and they eat it up. Everyone falls in love with them, and much of the world goes out of its way to do things for them. But they do get their hearts broken sometimes, and they're subject to the pitfalls and stresses and judgments and harsh realities that people have to go through to survive in this world. But much of it is a bit easier for them. They can get a lot by just Being There.
They can use their power to bend others to their wills and make everyone else feel inferior. That's called being a diva.
There are some downsides. Unfortunately beautiful people are more likely to be sexually abused as children than plainer children, and their lives become a total mess. They also can become the targets of psychos just for being beautiful. Expectations of them in general, from bosses to society as a whole. are higher. They're targets of extreme jealousy, usually from females, and they can get hurt because of it. They are also endlessly hit on, and while many may say, "Oh, poor babies", the aggressive behavior of their "admirers" can be invasive, dehumanizing and even frightening. And more than anything, downright rude.
Finally, great beauty can be used for great good. People tend to think highly of beautiful people and automatically assume they have the best traits - this has been proven by multitudes of psychological studies over many years. They can be role models and use their influence to help people and advance people to higher levels of responsibility, kindness and charity - to help them pull themselves up to be better people and make this a better world. And there are many beautiful people who do just that - giving back to the world the love that the world has given to them so abundantly. Even a sweet smile from a beautiful person can make someone's day, week, month, year.
As in all matters human, and all matters real, great beauty is usually complex: a combination of some, most or all of these factors. And more. And as I said before, a lot of it is driven by the person inside the beautiful casing. But some of it is utterly beyond their ability to control.
Hardest of all, their beauty itself is beyond their ability to control. If it starts to fade, and it almost always does, even the best plastic surgeons can't keep it going forever. But even here there are a few exceptions. A lucky few age wonderfully and are gorgeous right up through their oldest years. It's rare but it can happen. More often in men than women. I think Lloyd Bridges. William Shatner's looking great. And I'd give good odds for Pierce Brosnan, twice voted People magazine's "The Sexiest Man Alive", both with jet black and, decades later, mostly gray hair.
So that's what we come with to "The Accidental Siren." The twelve-year-old title character is "the most beautiful girl in the world". Nothing less. Can there really be such a creature? I think so. Why not? Conventional wisdom has it that it's all too subjective. But I believe there are some universal attributes to beauty. Is it possible to put a woman in a room, have her stand on a platform or stage, bring 1,000 people into the room to look at her, and when they leave, rate her looks on a scale of 1 to 10, no decimal points allowed, and have all thousand people rate her a ten? Yes, it's possible. But not likely. But then again, it's not likely that any particular woman chosen possesses that degree of beauty. It's exceedingly rare, which is why it's so powerful. But no one can say that such a woman doesn't exist. She does. Someone out there is probably, right now, the most beautiful girl in the world. And it is most certainly a matter of majority opinion. No one can win every single person in the world's vote.
The girl in this novel, so far, has no dissenters. She's young, and hasn't travelled far, but reaction to her up to now makes her a very good candidate for the title, and for all intents and purposes, the title holder.
Is she aware of her beauty? Be serious. You can't be that beautiful and go anywhere in public and not have the world constantly reminding you in the way they look at you and treat you of your physical beauty. But Mara Lynn is only twelve, still a child, and while certainly somewhat wise beyond her years and self-aware enough not to miss all the cues, she can't fully grasp or believe the enormity of it. Or can she? And how about the power of it? Is she aware at all of that?
The author, with skill and artistic vision, keeps her almost as much a mystery to us as she is to the people in the book. Or at least to the limits of the perceptions, feelings, and events recalled by her friend, 12 year old James, through whose eyes we watch the story.
Childhood is depicted in this book as a gross, filthy, dangerous and disgusting thing. Its inhabitants can be cruel, violent, selfish, jealous, completely unreasonable, prone to breaks from reality into childish fantasy, stupid, impulsive, funny, sweet, kind, petty, grandiose, thoughtful, unthinking, curious, confused, afraid, constantly having their self esteem battered, challenged to prove themselves strong, often in wonder and sometimes selfless. What's always clear is that without adult interference, there are no brakes.
What is pervasive is the complete disgusting grossness of it all, the sickening things they do with their bodies and the products of their bodies, the disgusting, stomach-curdling way they interact with each other and the world around them.
It was so overwhelmingly hideous and horrific that I almost couldn't get through the first chapter. I almost completely gave up on the book right there.
Is the first appearance of beautiful Mara Lynn some kind of relief from this unrelenting stinking puke hole of a world?
Well, she'd BETTER be, because I don't think many other readers could have taken much more of that stuff straight.
Just on a personal note, while there's a lot of truth to most elements of this depiction of childhood, I don't remember childhood that way. Not mostly. I couldn't have gotten through it if it was constantly that way. No way.
Is Mara beyond all this? After all, she's still a child. And we've been shown what children are like. Does her beauty and beautiful voice protect her from all the ugliness? Does it isolate her from it? Does it raise her above it?
Well, to some extent, it would have to, and it does. Realistically it would.
But we learn that Mara is definitely still a child, and fully human. The appearance of a perfect goddess cannot keep her from feelings, vulnerability, imperfections, love, fears, and the whole mixed bag of what makes us human. Nor what makes children children. But her sense of aesthetics, which all humans have some degree of, is a bit more developed. Neither it nor her beauty can protect her to the degree we'd like to think it would.
Fortunately for us, our protagonists James and Mara Lynn are pretty good people in a very ugly world. James' disabled best friend is a well-developed third character who adds a lot to the story. James of course is in love with Mara but then who isn't? Can plain, chunky James ever win the affections of a girl like Mara? Well, take a look around in the real world and tell me if he could. What are the real odds?
You're not going to get the answer from me. In fact, you're not going to get much of anything else from me about this book. I abhor people who give away plots and endings so I pretty easily stay away from being like them.
Does this book explore beauty and its power as it promises to? Absolutely. It does a damn fine, and mostly artistically honed, job of it. Does it go as deep as I'd like it to go? No. Whether that's because of the limitations of its author or the limitations of the narrator who is caught up in the beauty of Mara I can't say for sure.
But it's too limited for me and thus only four stars.
This is a fine, fine book by any standards. A bright burst of creativity. Read it. You won't be sorry. And you'll have some fun. And maybe learn something.