Mackie Doyle has always known there was something different about him and so has the rest of the town. In order to avoid calling attention to himself, he has spent most of his sixteen years in the shadows, avoided making too many friends and just generally trying to lay low. Despite trying to avoid the three things that make his physical existence very hard, iron, blood and consecrated ground, he now finds himself very sick and nothing seems to make him better. But while he is battling his personal problems, the town is abuzz with news of the recent death of four year old Natalie. Her older sister Tate is his classmate and her insistence on not playing the grieving sister is a source of puzzlement for her classmates. Tate unlike the rest of the town of Gentry refuses to stick to her assigned role and will not be silent on the loss of her sister who she believes is still alive. She refuses to tow the party line that the town has steadfastly maintained despite the disappearance of their children through the ages.
When I saw this book months ago, I immediately wanted to read it. The cover art was so beautiful that while I rarely choose books based on covers alone, I was intrigued. And when I read the book's synopsis, I was totally sold. I was interested to read about the concept of Changelings especially as told from the child's perspective. Unfortunately, after reading this book, I have to say that I am throughly disappointed. The ideas for the book were absolutely solid and would have made for an excellent book especially as it definitely aimed to differentiate itself from much of the current YA fare. The problem for me was in the execution. I spent much of the first half of the book not entirely sure what was going. While I did like Mackie, I was many times unsure of his actions as they veered toward the illogical more often than not. By Mackie's own admission, he has always been seen as something of a freak. But why this is considered so is never really discussed by all those all around him. His best friend Roswell, a very loyal and kind young man, has known Mackie since first grade. And while he knows there is something amiss with Mackie, he never asks, he just accepts it. I suppose this reaction should show up in the positive column for Roswell, portraying him as a good person who loves his friend, no questions asked. For me, it just did not make sense, it made the friendship somewhat superficial and unreal. How can a normal teenage boy(or human being in general) not be curious, not have had at least one conversation with his friend about his supposed freak status in all the years of their friendship? As a collective, the town may have decided to bury its secrets but as individuals, it was strange that his friends were never curious. Same seems to apply to his parents who are nice and loving but distant. The only really positive force in his life seems to be his sister who actually talks about Mackie's origins with him and does not shy away from what he is.
Another strange interaction to me was his affection for Tate as it seemed to come out of nowhere. One minute she is accosting him for information and the next he is falling for her. While I many times hunger for strong female leads, I found Tate to be rude, abrasive, manipulative and I could not understand his sudden emotional attachment to her. I understand that opposites attract but in this case, it just seemed odd and forced. Being obnoxious, swearing at every turn does not a strong female make. Also much as I tried, I could not buy the idea of The Houses of Mayhem and Misery, the shadowy underground community that is tied to the kids' disappearances. . The reasoning for stealing children for sacrifice seemed vague and was never convincing. For the most part, the story just seemed very choppy to me and just went on and on without anything concrete happening. The later part of the book got much better, people began to behave a bit more logically and interactions made more sense. But this may have come a little too late for me and by the end, I can't say that I enjoyed this book.
Despite my criticisms, I did love the author's ability to create a world that was so vivid that its description is till stuck in my head. As I read, I could almost hear and feel the gloom of the town and the veil of secrecy that covered its inhabitants. It felt so real and so true. I also liked that I was reading a story from the perspective of the male lead. Though I was sometimes frustrated by Mackie's decision making process, I found him to be an extremely likable character and one who I sympathized with. As mentioned earlier, his sister is a great character, refusing to pretend that all was well and trying to seek help for her brother. I absolutely loved her. I also loved Mackie's friends Roswell and the Corbett twins because they were so loving and loyal to him.
All in all, I guess this book was just not for me.