I am supremely disappointed with this book.
The first third of DeStefano’s coming-of-age, YA story is intriguing, and I raced through 50 pages in one sitting. The family dynamics between Wil, Owen, and Gerdie are a breath of fresh air. I feel connected to Wil’s life, family, and story. The tragic turn of events that occurs almost halfway through the book takes my breath away. I haven’t felt that immersed and connected to a story in a while.
Then Wil meets Loom.
I don’t know if I can roll my eyes any harder. Our heroine falls for every YA trope invented.
Sure, she is already established as the typical “plain and pretty,” and “not into girly things but can still rock a dress,” and “excellent at all forms of combat but frequently needs a man to save her when it forwards the plot” protagonist, but I’m willing to overlook that for the interesting and fresh story DeStefano creates regarding Wil’s family and her strange power.
But all of that interesting, crunchy plot goes out to sea with Loom. He’s bland, predictable, and a self-sacrificing “bad-boy with a good heart.” Oh, did I mention he’s also a prince and really attractive? Of course he is. And of course he’s immediately interested in “plain-and-pretty-but-also-not-pretty” Wil.
Wait. Wait. Haven’t I read this story before? Oh yeah, it’s the romance plot of a thousand other YA novels. Why do YA novels have to be so formulaic? Why can’t we have a heroine who is unapologetically pretty? Or unapologetically not? Or a heroine who maybe can’t fight that well but uses her wits, not a man, to evade harm? Or how about a leading man who’s not a “bad boy” or even attractive, but maybe possesses a few of the other 1000s of qualities that make a person a good friend, ally, or love interest?
Why can’t we write more diverse characters in YA novels? Why do they all have to be recycled versions of Bella and Edward from Twilight?
Honestly, after Loom’s introduction, both Loom and Wil are boring to read about. Their romance feels forced like DeStefano knows the reader excepts it so she delivers – but only after Wil expresses internalized monologues of predictive self-doubt, of course. I hate it. I keep asking myself, is it impossible for boys and girls to be friends?
I want more of Zay, a feisty, unconventional character with an interesting past and strong, unromantic ties to Loom. Her relationship with him feels more genuine and real than any moonlight exchange between Wil and Loom.
In the end, what keeps me reading is DeStefano’s talent with prose. She’s excellent at description and balancing telling, showing, and inference. I always know enough about the setting and characters to form detailed pictures in my mind, but she never overburdens me with adjectives that slow the pace. Her tone, style, and execution of plot (unrelated to YA romance) is easy and enjoyable to read.
But I will not be reading the sequel. I feel like I have my fill of Wil and Loom for a lifetime (unless he dies at the beginning of the next book… Actually, let’s have a Zay and Wil book please?)
I’d be really interested in reading more from DeStefano that’s not in the YA genre. I think sticking to the formulaic style that saturates so many YA books is a disservice to her excellent writing style and unique ideas.
You should read this book if: you enjoy YA romance. Perhaps if my reading lists weren’t already so saturated with adolescent, coming-of-age tales, I would have enjoyed this book more. I’m still frustrated that what begins as one of the freshest fantasy novels I’ve read in years dissolves into tortured monologues of self-doubt and moonlight makeout sessions.