Everyone has their own weakness when it comes to YA fiction. For some people it might be vampires or maybe you really like love triangles or bad boys, but for me one of the cliches that I often succumb to is reincarnation. I think this is in part because I love history so much and with a reincarnated relationship you can get that feel of epic love without feeling short changed. Or can you?
General Summary: Haven has always thought about him. Ethan. However, she doesn’t know Ethan. Ethan is dead as a doornail and Haven is deemed to be a little loco by her grandma and her crazy Southern town. It doesn’t help matters when Haven sees a boy-a celebrity-that she thinks is Ethan on TV and when Haven meets up with Iain she finds that things are even more sinister than she originally thought they were.
Review: Sigh, I don’t really know how to describe my feelings for this book…guilty pleasure read? It’s not great by any means. In fact, it relies on a lot of good old reliable YA cliches. However, there’s something about it (reincarnation) that I found enjoyable and that made me buy the sequel.
As usual, I’ll discuss what good things came out of this book. Well, the first thing is that it was very enjoyable. If you like reincarnation stories this is probably a good book to read. Once the first part of the story has ended, the novel picks up at a thrilling and exciting pace. However, it takes about one hundred and fifty pages or so for the book to pick up. I also liked the back story that Miller gave the characters. I think that’s one of the biggest reasons I like reincarnation stories is that they always have backstory even the most cliche out of cliche novels. The backstory that Miller provides for Haven and Iain really works. Yes, it’s cliche but I liked how the audience was pulled into the past. And I felt if there had been more flashbacks I would’ve liked the book better.
Obviously, there were lots of problems with this one. And most of it had to deal with how cliche the book was. I’ll discuss how the book being an overall cliche affected it in the worst feature section, but right now I want to focus on two of the cliches that bothered me. I’ll start with the depiction of Haven’s home town. Haven comes from a backwoods town in Tennessee that suffers from all sorts of Southern stereotypes. You know crazy religious zealots who are bigots.
And yeah, growing up in the south I’ve seen some of the types that Miller discussed, but that’s a slim minority. The general population behaves like….well, people. They’re multi-faceted just as people from New York City are. And yes, Miller there are some crazy Christian zealots in New York too. I think what I’m trying to get here, is that I hate generalizing. Backwards towns are a cliche that you see in lots of fiction-just not YA- and while I understand why Miller decided to go this route she didn’t need to be so obvious about it. She could show that while their were some assholes in the city for the most part Haven’s small town operates like any community. But a community that is small.
I think one of the reasons I found the town’s portrayal so annoying was because of the way they treat Beau, Haven’s best friend. By all accounts Beau himself is a cliche. He is the sassy gay best friend. And while I love the fact that Miller included a GLBT character, I just wished she wouldn’t have made him such a cliche. How is Beau cliche you might ask? Well, besides pimping Haven’s relationship with Iain like most YA b.f.f.’s do he likes fashion, Barbie lunch boxes, is drop dead gorgeous, and oh yes…he has no storyline outside of being Haven’s friend and showing that Haven is one of the only understanding people in their backwards community.
I really wish that the small town and the characterization were the only things I didn’t like about this book, but the cliches just kept adding up. Despite the fact that Iain and Haven have loved each other for thousands of years, I really wished they wouldn’t have fallen instantly into each others arms. You’d think that they’d be a bit weary of each other at first. But nope, they barely set eyes on each other before making out. The list continues: evil parental units (grandma) check, evil Southern pastor (check), forbidden love (check)….
With all these problems in mind, you’re probably wondering by now why I kept reading the book and for that matter why did I enjoy it to a degree. As I said before, I think it’s because it had such an interesting set up. Sure, there were lots of grating cliches but the plot was pretty good. I mean, it was a bit predictable but it had me on my seat wanting to know what would happen next. And I was, you know, secretly wanting more.
Best Feature: Third Person. I really think having this book is third person was what saved it. While the characters seemed cardboard like, I think that if Haven or Iain would’ve been narrating it, it would’ve even been worse. Let’s take the character Haven. We’re told throughout the narration that she’s pretty than she thinks she is, she’s a great fashion designer despite having little to no formal training, and that she she’s one of a few people who can member her past life. And oh yeah, she has this epic true love. I know what you’re thinking and I’m thinking it too. But the thing is Miller saved Haven from being a full blown sue by having her in third. I didn’t have to listen to her inward monologues about Iain or be subjected to her insecurities and that helped a lot. Did I still get annoyed with book, at times yes. But having it in third impersonalized it enough where I didn’t want to pull out Haven’s hair so much as just wanting to punch her.
Worst Feature: Cliche. Honestly, the whole book is a little cliche it’s what you’d expect with your typical YA reincarnation story. And okay, there were parts that were cool. But with the mega insta-love between Haven and Iain (and yes I’m calling it insta-love because a connection in the past life shouldn’t automatically transcend to the present through just one kiss–I mean how Disney can you get) the book is constantly bogged down. There are even more cliches than insta-love with the hate filled small town, Haven’s interest in fashion the archetypical gay best friend, and evil grandma the book is as predictable as a Lifetime movie.
Appropriateness: There are some adult situations talked about in the book. Arson is committed and it’s implied several times that two of the characters are in a sexual relationship. But here’s the thing, a lot of the scenes are fluffed over. So, nothing extremely explicit or graphic is described in detail.
Blockbuster Worthy: Sure, why not. Hollywood loves epic love stories. Here’s who I’d cast: Haven: Julia Goldani Telles. She sort of imagines how I picture Haven looking. So yeah, she would work. As for Iain, Tom Sturridge. Got to go with what’s comfortable. And Tom is how I imagine Iain so he works.
Overall Rating: My feelings about this book are mixed. Realistically, I know it’s formulaic and there are a lot of problems with the way the book is structured, its use of stereotypes, as well as the character development itself, but I still sort of like it in a strange way which I feel pretty horrible about. I think I’m going to give it a middle of the road rating of five stars.