first published December 1, 2009 by Little, Brown and Company
Paperback, 563 pages
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
There were no surprises in Gatlin County.
We were pretty much the epicenter of the middle of nowhere.
At least, that's what I thought.
Turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong.
There was a curse.
There was a girl.
And in the end, there was a grave.
Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.
Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.
In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.
Actual rating would be somewhere between 3 and 4 stars. I'm still making up my mind not whether I liked it, but just how much I liked it. This book was all the hype back when I started blogging and it's been on my wishlist ever since I first read the synopsis and the preview chapters. It turned out to be a mixed bag of things that I liked a lot and thinks that made me roll my eyes.
I was quickly lost in the story, nice writing and the lush southern atmosphere. I enjoy a good story about witchcraft, and add curses and ghosts and mysterious songs with beautiful lyrics appearing and disappearing on iPods...I was sold. It started out as a great southern ghost story, but it watered down somewhere along the way. At places it felt too long, as if the authors didn't know how to wrap things up, and eventually it became too much. I couldn't wait for the resolution. And when it came...sigh. A cliffhanger, not a particularly exciting one, just a prolongation. Yet, even though the excitement factor wavered, I felt compelled to read on.
The romance between Lena and Ethan is my favorite part of this book. It gave me that warm fuzzy feeling and I loved their interaction. It was innocent and sweet, not some sort of abusive/unrequited love/ twisted relationship that I've seen a lot of lately in YA. Plus, none of them is too snarky, overly mature or too naive. Lena was mopping at times, so was Ethan, but speaking of Ethan, there was a thing that bothered the hell out of me. His constant and repetitive deprecating attitude toward Gatlin started grating on my nerves around the third time around (that would be page 5 or so). Just how many times in one chapter can you say that Gatlin is boring/ pathetic/ conservative etc. I get it, every teenager is dreaming of getting away. I grew up in just a small town bent on gossip and tradition, and I wanted to leave too, but guess what? I didn't spend every waking hour thinking about it. His "better than everyone around me" attitude made me like him considerably less. Lena is his opposite, a regular teenage girl who wants to have friends and go to the prom, lead a normal teenage life, and who just happens to be a Caster.
Generally speaking, I loved the characters. Maryanne is so cool, and I could easily imagine Amma shaking her finger (or sharpened pencil) at me. Macon left me a bit confused, I'm not completely sure I understood what he is. Ridley fooled me all right, and some others did as well (no spoilers).
Overall, I liked it, the writing, characterization, plot and atmosphere were great. What spoiled the enjoyment were the somewhat dragging middle, Ethan's constant complaining and the cliffhanger which didn't make me squirm in my seat, but rather sigh impatiently.
And one last think-do I smell a love triangle at the end? Please someone tell me I'm wrong (still, points added for not throwing it into book 1).
Many thanks to my darling for buying this book for me!