Title: The Edge of Nowhere (Saratoga Woods #1)
Author: Elizabeth George
Whidbey Island may be only a ferry ride from Seattle, but it’s a world apart. When Becca King arrives there, she doesn’t suspect the island will become her home for the next four years. Put at risk by her ability to hear “whispers”–the thoughts of others–Becca is on the run from her stepfather, whose criminal activities she has discovered. Stranded and alone, Becca is soon befriended by Derric, a Ugandon orphan adopted by a local family; Seth, a kindhearted musician and high school dropout; Debbie, a recovering alcoholic who takes her in; and Diana, with whom Becca shares a mysterious psychic connection.
This compelling coming-of-age story, the first of an ongoing sequence of books set on Whidbey Island, has elements of mystery, the paranormal, and romance. Elizabeth George, bestselling author of the Inspector Lynley crime novels, brings her elegant style, intricate plotting, incisive characterization, and top-notch storytelling to her first book for teens.
Okay, it’s list time. [Please note, this is an honest review, don’t hate me world.]
This book was a book of firsts:
It was my first ARC (thank you Razorbill Canada)
It was my first book by Elizabeth George
And it was my first mystery novel in a while (in all honesty, the last mystery book I read that I can actually recall would probably be Nancy Drew and the mystery of something or another)
Things I disliked about the book… (this list is pretty hefty)
1. The ‘Whispers’. ‘Kay, it’s not like some chick’s hearing voices in her head, it’s like Edward Cullen meets a bad radio reception. I found that this did absolutely nothing for the plot. She couldn’t get anything useful, instead it was just irritating, likely to both Becca and to readers. Reading “Sponsor… wrong… what sort of fourth” (pg. 396) a number of times is just makes me sit here and think “ARE THERE REASONS TO THESE WORDS!?”. It was as if Ms. Elizabeth George thought ‘teenagers!’ therefore ‘THE STORY MUST BE PARANORMAL IN SOME WAY SHAPE OR FORM’ -sticks in whispers- I guess the initial issue that brought Becca to the island was due to this paranormal trait, but it could’ve been brought on by something normal just as easily, but it wasn’t. It was brought on by these irritating half thoughts that just seemed like words typed out to fill the page.
2. The dialogue. My goodness. I see the reviews for all her other books and I’m here just like I DON’T SEE WHAT’S SO GREAT… ?! Like she makes Seth’s grandfather say “… favourite male grandson.” (pg. 391) [All my quotes are coming from the end ’cause I didn’t think to bring sticky notes with me everywhere I read this book]. That bugged me and it was all to set up for a joke or a point that vaguely made me smile. It just wasn’t worth it. Maybe this is how her family speaks? I’m not one to judge, but it made the sentences all the more awkward and ill fitting.
3. The characters. None of the characters had depth to them. They were simply shallow, cliché type teenagers that you’d see in those overacted soaps or dramas on tv. There was the pain-in-the-ass bitch who kept saying ‘gutter/foul words’ that are too harsh for the eyes of a typical YA reader, the popular nice guy, the misunderstood sidekick, the dumbass girl who just DOESN’T GET IT, and the MC who, honestly I wanted to kick.
George WANTED to put some depth into the characters by adding in like hard background stories, where there were kids from Uganda, or the girl who lived in the nowhere part of town who didn’t have the greatest family, or the girl who’s father was slowly deteriorating but no one wanted to face the facts. Like I get that, but she just skimmed over it, as if just putting it there was enough. Half of the ‘rough-and-tough/this is life, you’d better face it/some people just have a shit hand dealt to them’ stuff wasn’t detail and I just didn’t catch on right away. I don’t know if I’m slow, or it just wasn’t written well (this is the ARC version? So maybe), but it just didn’t work for me.
4. The writing. Okay part of the above paragraph is part of the writing, but there were three thing that really irritated me.
-Her description of Derric. “The boy was black, deeply black, and the pure midnight of his skin made the policeman with him look white beyond white.” (pg. 24). Just that description alone is just wrong. Honestly, you can’t swear in the book but you can just spew on and on about how dark this kid’s skin is? When I write, I worry about putting stuff about Chinese superstitions in the book just ’cause I’m afraid I’ll offend someone AND I’M CHINESE. This description thoroughly irritated me. I wasn’t offended per se, but I just didn’t think it was the most apt way of describing someone.
-Her constant obsession with Becca’s weight. This isn’t weight watchers or Jenny Craig. Teenagers these days are so obsessed with their weight, they don’t need a book like this to tell them over and over again that being overweight is bad ’cause it isn’t. George pointed out at the beginning that Becca wasn’t the thinnest girl on the planet. She noted this through Becca’s mother saying things like “in through the lips and onto the hips” (pg 13). And then having guys in the book describe Beccas as “chubbette” with “thunder thighs” (pg 373). It’s horrible to hear and it’s horrible to read. By the end, when Becca loses weight, everyone looks at her differently. Sending this kind of message is wrong on so many levels. Maybe she thought putting something like that in would add some connection with the audience, but Becca only feels insecure and just lets people bully her without really standing up for herself or anything. Between this and Derric’s description, George did not win any points with me.
-Her use of italics. They’re everywhere. You don’t have a page without them (I’m exaggerating, but really). In one conversation between Becca and Seth she used them for every other sentence (now I’m not kidding). Like “Seth…” -two lines later- “come on…” then, “the sandels again” and “that’s it?” leading to, “I didn’t even know why anyone cared about them.” Is all of this really necessary. If anyone really spoke like this, they’d have some really irritating conversations.
5. The length of the book. It was dragged out. People say Eona/Eon by Alison Goodman was dragged out, but this is really pulled and stretched to an infinite limit. Likely, by the end of this trilogy (at least everyone believes it’s a trilogy), everyone would probably deduce that the entire book could’ve fit into one book alone. This is filled with useless walking around and teenage idiocy that isn’t even that realistic (that was another issue, it just wasn’t realistic – people’s reactions to things, and their actions, it just didn’t work right). It’s interesting the first 50 pages, where the main plot is set up, then this mini plot is set up, dragged on for 200 pages, and then the next 100 is a vague resolution that isn’t that satisfying to be honest, and it just drove me INSANE. At this point, I’ve had to make a million assumptions, which isn’t too good seeing as this is a 400 some-odd page book. One shouldn’t have to resort to assumptions.
Now, what I liked:
1. As odd as it is, I only liked three characters:
-Seth ’cause he actually had a lot of description to his character, you could actually feel something from him, and he was a well written good character.
-Seth’s grandfather, Ralph, just ’cause he made sense even thought he was like the voice of reason and didn’t actually make sense half the time, but the fact that he was supposed to be like the overseer of everything in the book added to his character which I kind of found helpful, oddly.
-Seth’s dog, just ’cause there wasn’t really anyone else to love.
2. Something about the writing. It kept me reading and hooked. Maybe ’cause I really wanted to know who did it, but I kept soldiering on through the book. Or maybe I just did that ’cause it was an ARC sent to me specifically and I felt some kind of obligation to finish it…
3. The end. And yet I hated it too. Something finally happens with the main plot… and then the book ends. It was as if George didn’t think we could handle any real action or anything really heavy.
So no, this was not a success in my eyes. This was George’s first YA novel, and it shows. She obviously doesn’t know her audience if she thinks that these characters and their flimsy stories would satisfy us. I’ve read other reviews, I’m not the only one disappointed by this novel. I expected something like Kelley Armstrong’s “Darkness Rising” series, where there’s just this special island with a tonne of different supernatural people on it. All I got was a vivid description of trees, hills, roads, and valleys, and a plot that seemed to have been rushed together with characters who just weren’t well thought out or well executed.
Will I read the next book? Honestly, I probably will. When I read a book like this, where I find so much wrong with it (-coughImmortalSeriescough-) I feel a need to read the rest in hopes of finding something redeemable in all this. Also, I kind of want to find out what happens with the main story line and I also want Becca and Seth to end up together ’cause that would make sense, and this books needs a little ‘sense’. Maybe George will read this review and rethink a few things before she releases the next novel, though she probably won’t. Pipe dreams I tell you, but there’s always hope. (And I hope for a great sequel…)
World Building: 4/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.24/5