Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"The Replacement" by Brenna Yovanoff

I admit that I bought The Replacement because of its cover. It’s a lovely hardcover book with the image of an old-fashioned baby carriage with satin innards. The carriage is poised beneath a branch of dangling iron objects: a pair of scissors and a horseshoe; an old nail file; a knife and spinning tops. The background is gray and frosty, like a cold night just waiting for spring.

I admit, sometimes an author will have a beautiful cover and a less-than-amazing story, but Brenna Yovanoff earns her cover. She earns it through and through. This is a story about Faeries, and as we in the YA realm already know, faeries are allergic to iron. Well, this is a story about a town, the town of Gentry, where bad luck is non-existent except that a child is stolen every seven years, and a replacement is left in its place. The town brushes away this small bit of bad luck, refusing to dwell on it, and most replacements die within a few years.

But one survives. Mackie Doyle was switched out when he was just a baby. The night the real Mackie is taken away, his four-year-old sister Emma sees the new child, a vicious thing that she knows isn’t her real brother, but she cares for him anyway. And he survives into adulthood, when the people who gave him up thought that he’d never live so long.

Mackie learns that he is dying. Knives, cars, and even blood are everywhere in his world (and ours) and every day is a struggle. He’s miserable. But then he starts paying attention to Tate, a girl with attitude, who has just had some misfortune. When he finds out that he can help her with this misfortune, he goes into the Faery Slag-heap ignoring all sense of danger to save someone that she loves.

This book is filled with maybe a dozen characters whose names I remember from memory, which rarely happens when I’ve finished a book. In this book you’ll meet Gentry’s Morrigan and a darker power, and the Blue Girls and the Cutter. You’ll find alluring descriptions of ugly things and even the chapter art will keep you enthralled.

On the surface are Mackie’s emotions and his misery; just beneath that is the thing he really is, and his people, and his peoples’ plots, and the plots of the other underground. This is a story of several different things. While the scenes are grisly and quite dismal, the themes are positive: Emma takes care of her baby brother and keeps him alive, proving that love conquers all. Mackie isn’t afraid to die and he doesn’t hold back even when he should fear the worst from happening, showing us that bravery can be rewarded, and it isn’t always thwarted.

This story is unique because it is a Young Adult story told from the point of view of a teenage boy faery. Also, it doesn’t take place in Ireland or an urban setting, and it never jumps around; this faery kingdom is enclosed within the town of Gentry. The main character has heart and desperation and stupid ideas that make him seem real. The female leads are tough and caring, the latter which is rarely found in modern YA books. That our narrator is dying gives him some much-needed sympathy. In a genre where faeries always rule in a dark way and they always win, this is a different story, making it very unique.

This book came out in September 2010.

No comments: