[Book cover credit: librarything.com/work/5955972]
ALA Best Books for Young Adults (2010)
ALA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults (Twists on the Tale, 2010)
"It struck me that we'd come to a strange unspoken agreement. He pretended to be normal, and I pretended I believed him. I wanted to believe him. But I couldn't. What brand of abnormal, I wasn't sure yet. I just hoped it didn't involve axes, gags, and the trunk of a car."With that, Deirdre decides to go with Luke wherever he happens to take her, even though she knows, deep down, that there is something strange, maybe magical and definitely dangerous, about him.
Sounds familiar, right? Don't start drawing out the similarities too quickly. Dee has a head on her shoulders and isn't afraid to fight the darker forces that seem to be popping up all of a sudden. And though she's decided to let Luke drive her around and buy her ice cream, she won't fully trust him until she can figure out if he's here to keep her safe or to lead the bad faeries to her.
Lament veers from what looks like it might be the current formula for YA paranormal romance:
girl, painfully ordinary, meets boy, spectacularly wonderful, and finds out she's not so normal after all, in addition to landing a hottie.Dee does not start out boring or blank or ordinary. She is a harp prodigy, not unexpected in a family of musical virtuosos, which makes her stand our from her peers even if it doesn't make her popular. She spends her weekends playing fancy dinner parties and weddings, her summers at music competitions -- competitions in which she places well. She has interests! and a personality! and talent coming out the whazzoo! She's so much better than Bella! Sorry, that last one slipped out. And I'm not even a Twilight-hater.
But on to the rest of the book.
Stiefvater manages to weave a lot of faerie-lore throughout this story, without it turning into a Lisa Frank extravaganza or seeming any less current or more princess-y. These are not nice faeries. While Dee is taken aback by a lot of what happens (being attacked by a monster-sized, panther-type creature while at a wedding reception without anyone else noticing could throw anyone off. also, not nice), she gets the hang of everything real quick. She clearly has some background knowledge of faeries and what they're capable of. It is this knowledge, let me rephrase: her own damn smarts, that save her more often than not, although Luke does manage to get a few dramatic rescues in as well.
Everything I know about faeries I learned from Lady Cottington or Marion Zimmer Bradley, so I did not know many of the little tips that Dee has picked up from a lifetime of playing/singing Irish folk songs on her harp. And yet, I never felt out of the loop. Stiefvater does a great job of immersing the reader in Dee's and the Faeries' world without getting too didactic or explanatory. And then she throws all of what I thought she was telling me on its head so that Dee and Luke can fall in lurv.
In short, give this to Twilight fans and Twilight haters. This is paranormal romance without the clueless, helpless love interest.
Also: She didn't make it into my review (Luke barely made it into my review, I was so happy about a stronger female lead), but I thank and applaud Stiefvater for making the hot, ditsy side character important and solid by the end. James (Dee's best friend, who also didn't make it into my review) is great, but I'm glad Dee got to have a girl-friend to gush about Luke with. And to help her save all the boys.
Book source: Philly Free Library which does not, horror upon horror, have Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie, the sequel, yet.