by Julie Berry
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by those who were once her friends and family. Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember—even if he doesn’t know it—her childhood friend, Lucas. But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever. This startlingly original novel will shock and disturb you; it will fill you with Judith’s passion and longing; and its mysteries will keep you feverishly turning the pages until the very last.
(synopsis from Goodreads)
This book is quite different... but in a good way. It's a well-written, engaging, heartbreaking story that kept me turning the pages until the very end. Short and long chapters are combined in a way that adds backstory without contrived info-dumping from the characters, and the author manages to pack in quite a bit of story for a book that's less than 300 pages long.
Though I could never quite put my finger on a particular time or place for the setting, the book reads like historical fiction. Roswell Station seems to me like a New England colony from a few hundred years ago, complete with unforgiving Christian mores. However, the lack of Native Americans and the references to the homelanders (the enemies of the people of the area, who come from across the sea to steal land) make it difficult to determine the actual location. No matter. The author does a pretty good job of building the world and describing the setting with such beautiful detail that a reader might feel like they're actually there.
The characters are all fairly unique and developed well. I liked some more than others. I hated some, too (but I think I was supposed to). Judith is an interesting narrator. I spent much of the book wondering if she was telling us the whole truth, or if she was lying, or if she simply didn't remember all of the facts after her traumatic ordeal. Some of her assumptions and conclusions are irksome, but they're probably meant to be a reflection of the society she lived in. Her feelings for Lucas, a young man she's known almost her whole life, are conflicted and heartbreaking, but those emotions make her seem more real as a character.
At first, I thought the pacing was a little odd, as one of the more exciting scenes seemed to happen in the first quarter of the book. But, after getting to the end, I can see how that pacing makes sense. Those exciting parts near the beginning were needed to set up the rest of the story.
If I had any complaint, it would be that the book was just a little bit info-dumpy at the end, but by that time I was hankering for answers so much that I didn't really mind. It turned out to be a satisfying and enjoyable read, and I'll probably be thinking about this book for quite a while!
We sit, watching the battle from afar, like poor children watching a party at a rich man's house across a pond. It has nothing to do with us, so we feast upon the spectacle. The sun sets, and the glorious sky purples off over the ocean that brought these ships on her bosom. The prize land toward the west that the homelanders dream of subduing is saffron gold. Fireflies wink around us, just like the incendiaries that burn red and snuff out.
Recommended to: fans of historical fiction and mysteries
Writing & Editing: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4.29 out of 5 ladybugs