Author: Nathan Kotecki
Genre: YA, paranormal, coming-of-age
Publication Date: October 2, 2012 (HMH – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: Shy Celia Balaustine is new to Suburban High, but a mysterious group of sophomores called the Rosary has befriended her. Friends aside, Celia soon discovers something is not quite right at Suburban. Girls at the school begin having near-fatal accidents on the eve of their sixteenth birthdays. Who is causing the accidents, and why? As Celia’s own birthday approaches, she is inexorably drawn into an underground conflict between good and evil—the Kind and the Unkind—that bubbles beneath Suburban High.
☆: 4/5 stars – a very original debut that definitely could use more attention!
Summary: I guess I’m in the minority when I say that I thought this book was pretty awesome. Yes, the maturity of the Rosary was a bit over-the-top at some points in the book, but otherwise? I really enjoyed this read – surprisingly so. And I definitely want to read more. Anyone looking for the way out of a traditional paranormal or PNR read should definitely check out “The Suburban Strange”.
What I think I liked the most about this book was the sheer originality of it – yet at the same time it was very familiar. It felt like a goth “Breakfast Club” updated for the current culture. The idea of having a group that actively liked to seek out old things in order to make them new again, in order to have inspiration, in order to better themselves was just a really nice breath of fresh air. I also liked that they purposely delineated themselves from the standard goth crowd, which was kind of a pleasant change from so many YA high school-centric novels.
I also liked that Celia allowed herself to be made over and kind of “baptized” into the Rosary counterculture that they built, and that she didn’t seem to have limits when it came to that. She absorbed everything and kept what she liked. It seems like some reviewers have taken this to mean that she lets her friends use her as a doormat, but if this were the case, I don’t think she would have been friends with Mariette, as she might have been afraid of retaliation from said friends. It feels like Celia was a lot stronger than many gave her credit for, and I felt a strange bond with her. True, I didn’t have my own Rosary in high school, but I was constantly seeking out new things to immerse myself in to broaden myself.
The Kind/Unkind plot was interesting, but here’s where I agree with other reviewers – the virginity clause in the curse (as in, if you stay a virgin, you’ll die on your curse day) could have been explained and explored a bit better. Instead, it felt like one of those ’80s horror movies where the virgins died because they were virgins, and nothing more. And while I feel like there was, happily enough, no slut-shaming in this book, I was still kind of uncomfortable the way the whole virgin/curse day relationship was approached. It could have been smoothed out in another edit. However, I will give Kotecki props for having a gay couple in the main cast – it feels like unless it’s either couched in bullying, self-hatred, or depression, YA seems to be keeping its distance as a whole. There are exceptions, of course, but I’m glad that Kotecki brought this to the fore – as teenagers are always exploring themselves, all parts of themselves, all the time – including sexual identity. Good on him for this.
The sensory language and imagery could have been a bit sharper – again, I think another edit round could have been needed – but when he wanted to use it, Kotecki could really use it. Everything concerning Mariette’s abilities and how flowers changed around her were gorgeous, as were the images of the uber-stylish Rosary going off to Diaboliques every Friday night.
Final verdict? If you’re looking for something new and exciting within paranormal YA, definitely check out this book. “The Suburban Strange” is out now from HMH in North America, so be sure to give it a read – it definitely deserves it as it’s made my best of 2012 so far.