Friday, 17 May 2013

Finding Summerland by Paige Bleu

Publication date: 1st January 2012
Published by: Self-published
Genre: Fantasy Romance (YA)

If you skipped the prologue of Finding Summerland and started at Chapter 1, you might not realise that it is a fantasy novel since there is very little to suggest that this is the case for the first half of the book. Of course, it is unlikely that the prologue would be skipped. It takes place one year ahead of the rest of the story and in contrast to the first half of the book is packed with paranormal activity. What I got from these two contrasting approaches was that it allowed me get a better understanding of what it would be like to be awakened to the existence of mystical beings. It made it more real. I’ve only come across this once before: when I read the beginning of Philip Pullman’s ‘The Subtle Knife’ - good company to be in ;)

The protagonist is Wesley Rochester, a 17 year old boy who doesn’t fit in - not at school or at home. He has learning difficulties, is an under-achiever and has trouble integrating at school. He has lived in the shadow of his older brother Channing, whom he loves. Channing is missing and presumed dead - although Wes does not believe this - and he is trying to come to terms with his disappearance. His life takes a turn for the better when he meets Olivia, a mystical girl who remains mysterious throughout (hence the cover). They fall in love. I would say the love story is Twilightesque with the roles reversed.

Wes is a nice guy but he isn’t perfect. He spends a lot of time observing what goes on in the lives of the popular teenage girls at his school and giving us an account of this. It is clear that he doesn’t like them and he is sometimes uncharitable in his opinion of them, while placing Olivia on a pedestal. On the plus side, he comes across as intelligent and wise and he is a likeable character. Some may say that there is too much of the daily routine of high school in the novel and one could argue that Wes’ fixation on the girls at his school is unrealistic (i.e. boys don’t care about that stuff). It would have been different if he were a girl.  It can be challenging for a writer of one gender to write from the POV of the opposite gender.  (I say this as a female writer well past her teens who often writes from a teenage male POV and has found it challenging.) I was thinking maybe Paige could have gotten a little more in touch with her masculine side.

Without giving too much away, the back story to how the Ameryn society came into existence (the paranormal stuff) comes in the form of documented information which Wes is able to read. The history is complex and there are a number of key players, each with a key part to play - so my advice is pay attention when you get to this part. I had to read it twice to get to grips with it and it maintains an air of mystery so you are still left with questions. The plot is well thought out and intriguing, with hints of good things to come in future books in the series.

I believe Paige Bleu has raw talent and is a storyteller with great promise. Finding Summerland is a really good read and I look forward to the next instalment.

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