Author: Jodi Meadows
Genre: YA, fantasy, paranormal, AWESOME
Publication Date: January 29, 2013 (HarperTeen – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Ana has always been the only one. Asunder. Apart. But after Templedark, when many residents of Heart were lost forever, some hold Ana responsible for the darksouls–and the newsouls who may be born in their place.
Many are afraid of Ana’s presence, a constant reminder of unstoppable changes and the unknown. When sylph begin behaving differently toward her and people turn violent, Ana must learn to stand up not only for herself but for those who cannot stand up for themselves.
Ana was told that nosouls can’t love. But newsouls? More than anything, she wants to live and love as an equal among the citizens of Heart, but even when Sam professes his deepest feelings, it seems impossible to overcome a lifetime of rejection.
In this second book in the Incarnate trilogy, Ana discovers the truth about reincarnation and will have to find a way to embrace love and make her young life meaningful. Once again, Jodi Meadows explores the extraordinary beauty and shadowed depths of the soul in a story equal parts epic romance and captivating fantasy.
☆: 4.5/5 stars – prepare to get kicked in the feels!
Review: You guys, this book totally needs to come with a warning on it: DANGER! YOU WILL GET KICKED IN THE FEELS REPEATEDLY! Seriously. I was so not ready for “Asunder” and everything that goes on in it. But you know what? That was a good thing. Everything I loved about book one only gets stronger in book two – so much so that I feel like Meadows finally knows her world and her characters really, really well, and has a grasp on everything at last. She’s grown a lot in between these two books, and it really shows. If you’ve read “Incarnate”, you simply must continue your journey with Ana, Sam, and the rest in “Asunder”.
Okay, so we more or less pick up right where we left off – after what’s now being called “Templedark”, or the final events that happened in book one. Things are pretty hectic – no one’s sure if those lost that night will be reincarnated, and everyone’s casting the stink eye at Ana (or nearly everyone) as a scapegoat. Everything is so clean and tightly written in this book, it leaves no holes, no areas for weakness, nor any for a wandering of your attention span. I feel like Meadows really grew in all of the technical areas of things – plots, arcs, character building, worldbuilding, all of it. ALL THE THINGS. But what perhaps gets expanded the most in this book alongside character development is the worldbuilding – we learn so much in this book that I wish we’d had a bit more of in book one in terms of history – how Heart really came to be, and the reincarnation cycle, as well as the other quasi-sentient creatures in the area (particularly, phoenixes and sylphs) have affected the development of Heart and its people. None of this is found through easy methods – there is a lot of pain in this book, but it’s spent well in order to find out more about Heart and the world around it, mystical as it may be. Meadows’ sensory imagery here is some of her best yet – anything she described, it felt real. Startlingly so.
Meadows also cleverly inserts a new character, Cris, and kind of sticks more toward the relationship web school of worldbuilding – that is, building a world more through the main cast and how they relate to each other. Cris was a goldmine of information, but it had to be worked for. But even for a more minor character who relates in a big way to Ana and Sam, he’s very solid, very sturdily built with a more or less complete history of how he relates to everyone, which kind of unfolds as a sub-plot throughout the book. It was nice to see how Meadows worked him in, and I hope to see more of that in book three.
But perhaps what I loved about this book the most was its focus on a topic near and dear to my heart: genderfluidity/genderqueering. When Sam, Stef, and Cris talk about their lifetimes, they openly talk about how they weren’t the same gender they are now. It isn’t couched in shame or bullying or suicide the way it is in most YA lit, it simply just IS. It exists as a fact of the reality for the million souls living in Heart – you won’t be the same gender each lifetime, and because of that, you should probably keep around clothing so that when you come back next time, you’ll have something to wear regardless. I think this hits the most heavily within the last third of the book, where the Cris/Stef/Sam/Ana love rhombus unfolds and we see the history particularly between Cris/Stef/Sam over a few lifetimes. The way it was so casually talked about was absolutely elating, and I wish more authors had the courage to do that within YA lit without having to use the contemporary crutch of suicide/bullying/etc. It’s risky to talk about because right now, it’s the new frontier in terms of sexuality and development, and due to the lack of information (or correct information), it can freak people out to the point of hate crimes. So the fact that we have one book talking about it at all in a positive way? That’s a win for me.
The rest of the technical areas (character development and plot) were so well done and flawless, I’m not even going there. I don’t have to. Everyone develops really well through a lot of pain/torturing of darlings for emotional payoff and personal journey sub-arcs, which help form a twisty braid of plot. Gorgeously wrought, but not easy to read because all of those feels getting hit repeatedly. Ouch.
Final verdict? If you haven’t started this series, what are you waiting for? Definitely one of my picks for best of 2013 so far, “Asunder” is out now from HarperTeen in North America. Trust me. You need to read it.