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Nightshade Paperback – June 14, 2011
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About the Author
Andrea Cremer is the internationally bestselling author of the Nightshade series, which includes Nightshade, Wolfsbane, Bloodrose, Snakeroot, Rift, and Rise. She is also the author of Invisibility, which she co-wrote with David Levithan, and most recently, The Inventor's Secret and its sequel The Conjurer's Riddle. When she's not writing novels, Andrea puts her PhD to work teaching classes in writing and history at Macalaster College. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Visit Andrea online at www.andreacremer.com and follow her on Twitter @andreacremer
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Nightshade by Andrea Cremer is a book about teenaged werewolves. It stars the stuffy Calla, who is the alpha of her pack. She's destined to mate with Ren, the alpha of another pack. And these two packs stroll the halls as the most popular kids. During the very first pages, Calla rescues a mere human, named Shay, and introduces him as the third wheel in the love triangle. With Shay, Calla teaches him the background of her people, the Guardians, and he shows her that not all is how it seems. Will Calla be able to become the individual that she's always dreamed of becoming?
I can see why people like this book. It's pretty fast paced, and there's some interesting world building. I like the ideas that stem with the mythology of the Guardians, Keepers, and whatnot. I also liked how Cremer shows us a lot of this as Calla is explaining her world to Shay. There are some pretty good twists that develop throughout the plot, and leaves me interested enough to stick around for the sequel.
That said, I had a ton of issues with this book. I wonder if I'd have liked it better three years ago when it first came out. The dialogue is so stuffy and stilted-- all of the characters sound middle aged, especially Calla. And she is way too easy with her lips. She very frequently kisses different boys right after one another. Sorry if that's a spoiler, but if you don't know there's a love triangle by page 5, shame on you! Also, I don't understand why these kids are taking some high brow college courses in high school. Are they in a magnet school or something? Organic Chemistry? Some other crazy philosophical course? Most kids would be lucky to be in a school like that separating caffeine from tea. I'm rather jealous actually. Both of the boys seem pretty pushy, so I'm not really digging either one of them. I wish Calla would just tell them both to take a hike and go on a girly vacation with Bryn or something.
Overall, good world building and some interesting twists, but I'm not yet convinced by the characters, how they talk, or where this is going. We'll see how the next 3 books go.
This is yet another addition to a very problematic YA theme I keep seeing- mainly that the lead females are basically just drifting along like a sailboat and the dominant males are the wind that pushes them to and fro. They are presented as dominant, or as leaders. But come off flaky, ambivalent, and indecisive. They do not make choices based on the health of the group, or their pack, or their family. It is often for this strange, often unhealthy, 'love' with often a near stranger who we just know smells good, or has pretty eyes, or something trite like that. (Shay likes music...and smells clean and woodsy. Ren has charcoal eyes....and likes....? Sex with local girls I guess)
There is an excessive amount of sexual situations where the only words from Calla are " No" "Stop" or she has some sort of dizzy abdominal cramping spell- which is basically how she deals with all conflict in the book- I started to wonder if she had an ulcer or something. I understand the author wants to convey her as a sexual person, but Calla does not instigate these situations, just goes with the flow. There is one scene in particular with Ren in a bathroom that is troublesome. Not for the sexual content but the tone, if she was into it and into him it would be one thing- but it reads like a date rape coercion and I find that problematic. But I digress.....I think rape fantasy bodice rippers absolutely have their place- and can be done well- but in inexperienced (sexually) YA characters it often feels a bit toxic or after school special-y. (And yes I am looking at you Edward watching Bella sleep
The plot stumbles around with little structure and ends to be continued....so they are two clans of werewolves who guard a mountain for very bad guy evil witches. The witches could not have a bigger VILLIAN flashing sign. They guard a cave with a magic piece of glass in it. And to be the guard dogs of witches they get to live there and drive around for free......and have arranged marriages. It's weird.....but the books answers zero questions on any of that forcing any type of resolution into another book entirely. I was not on the edge of my seat enough to pursue the next book most likely. I think all series should as a rule always have some element of closure to them in each book. Complete cliff hangers reek of marketing ploy.
But more than that the characters are just very poorly drawn:
Calla- "tough"? "Alpha" does not like girly stuff but when forced to will wear it. Does not like her arranged marriage- but again when forced to will do it. Is a liar- and a poor leader. Endangers her pack, and repeatedly could get the help of others but instead chooses to lie, and....endanger her pack. Not very alpha-leader like.
Ren- hunky, broody, tough guy. Promiscuous. Sexually dominant really into Calla for who knows what reason. Gray eyes. Temper. the end
Shay-Annoying, Nerdy, likes 'music', acts like a jealous 12 year old and a 40 year old woman simultaneously. Has a mysterious background, a Dracula esque absentee uncle, and lives in a creepy ghost mansion. Oh and he is always alone, reads comics, speaks latin and a good rock climber. ???? And me and the lamppost figured out he would be the sacrifice about 25 pages in. Yeah he is a mess of a character.
Her friends: supportive brother, prim mom, bf who likes clothes....mean/slutty goth girl. None of the core characters get more than a ' they have ____color hair and are 1 descriptor: funny, mean, gay, goth etc' And it is not a short book. Even Calla herself she is a white wolf and likes watership down-and the pack structure is vague at best since the bulk of the book is teen heart throb who do I like the most drivel. An eye color and favorite book does not a well rounded character make.
The writing is solid, and the overall concept somewhat unique. But the plot is weak. The characters need way more development. The world building is intriguing, but quickly goes south when one realizes 1. you are not getting answers at least until a book or two from now and 2. the world is more concerned with who she is taking to the ball. So I can see why a certain reader - who like a personality deficient lady lead and a stalkery dominant male (or 2) who adore her and more resembles a middle aged woman wander around in a supernatural reality that is woe fully underdeveloped would dig this book. I just felt it lacking.
I think the Kelly Armstrong YA trilogy The Becoming.Summoning etc....was a stronger one if you like this sort of teens in love, on the run, being lied to by the authority/conspiracy type stuff.