September 08, 2013

Erin Callahan & Troy H. Gardner: "Wakefield"

Title: Wakefield [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Mad World (1st of 6 books)
Authors: Erin Callahan & Troy H. Gardner [Mad World site | Erin on Goodreads | Troy's site | Troy on Goodreads]
Genres: Paranormal, Contemporary
Year: 2012
Age: 12+
Stars: 3.5/5
Pros: Relatable, interesting characters (for the most part). Strong blend of contemporary and paranormal elements. Well-fleshed out setting.
Cons: Slow, with most action concentrated in the last pages. Typical villain. A few chapters sound slightly awkward (see: Eduardo).
Will appeal to: Introspective readers. Male\female friendship supporters. People who are fed up with stereotypical heroes and heroines.

Blurb: Orphans Astrid Chalke and Max Fisher meet when they’re sent to live at Wakefield, a residential and educational facility for teens with psychiatric and behavioral problems. Just as Astrid and Max develop a strong bond and begin to adjust to the constant chaos surrounding them, a charming and mysterious resident of Wakefield named Teddy claims he has unexplainable abilities. At first, Astrid and Max think Teddy is paranoid, but Max’s strange, recurring dreams and a series of unsettling events force them to reconsider Teddy’s claims. Are they a product of his supposedly disturbed mind or is the truth stranger than insanity? (Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I received this novel from the authors in exchange for an honest review. Here goes...
You know, most paranormal novels are fairly predictable. Usually. a girl develops a certain kind of power (all of a sudden, but she may have had it for a while sometimes), then meets the new boy at school and feels inexplicably drawn to him (most of the times it's just your average hormonal surge, but still)...then they end up developing both a romantic and paranormal bond and set out to save the world - or part of it. Well...nothing of that happens here. Which is SO refreshing, if you ask yours truly. Also, on with common tropes. Heroines are usually wrapped in their most girlish self, but of course they have to be feisty as well. Heroes are required to be dark, sulky and misterious, and of course swoon-worthy material. Which, I'm happy to say, it's NOT the case here. In Astrid's words "I normally dreaded wearing skirts, or doing anything remotely girly. I always felt like I was playing dress up or wearing my femininity on my sleeve, and it made me ridiculously self-conscious." (p. 192). She's also a good judge of feminine stereotypes - and while she's strong and bold when required, she's not your usual epitome of spunkiness. Max likes her, but not in a romantic way: “You didn’t want to go [to the prom] with me, did you?” “Honestly, no. It would have been like going with my sister." (p. 193). He's quiet, sensitive, loyal - and thank goodness, nowhere in the novel it says he's a sex symbol or something. (On a side note, Astrid seems to develop a romantic attachment for someone else later, but it's NOT overplayed. Another thing that I found refreshing...).
As the blurb already informed you, Astrid and Max meet in a facility for messed-up kids. They're both orphans, but their personal histories are quite different, as is the way the staff at Wakefield (especially the in-house psychiatrist Dr. Lycen) interact with them. This is your first clue to figure out what's really going on under the Wakefield fa├žade. Other clues come in the form of Astrid and Max' fellows inmates - or better, some of them. I can't dwell on this aspect of the novel, in order to avoid spoilers; suffice to say, it is another peculiar trait of it. I also liked how the paranormal is dealt with here, because it appears to be linked to emotions and strenght of character, and enhanced by hard experiences - as opposed to be sort of a magic power one can unleash at the throw of a switch. On the other hand, it is maybe a little too convenient that all the paranormal energy comes into play at the same moment for everyone involved. But it's effective, of course. [...]

Wakefield is mainly written in alternate first-person chapters by Astrid and Max. I've already mentioned how I did like the leads - and honestly, most of the times I was able to feel a connection with them. But on the whole, I found the other kids interesting as well, while I can't say I was thrilled by the adult characters. The villain is fairly typical, the rest of the staff is a bit two-dimensional, and Eduardo - a clinician who gets his own odd chapter in first person here and there - suffers from rather stiff characterization. I think his narrative would have sounded better if the authors had decided for a third-person POV. 
Wakefield, the facility where the kids are kept prisoners, is like an added character here. The female half of the author duo, Erin Callahan, actually worked in a residential facility for children, and it's obvious that she's spot-on here. I appreciated the insight Wakefield is able to give into this kind of structure - though, of course, the authors build up a whole scary, off-the-wall plot from there. On the other hand, while such insight and a slow world-building were probably required, they ended up hindering the action and thrills one usually expects form a YA adventure.
On the whole, the book is rather slow, and only picks up pace in its last pages or so. This is the main reason why I didn't rate it higher - which doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. Actually, I already have the second installment Tunnelville in my virtual hands - courtesy of the authors - and I'm interested in following Astrid, Max and their friends further on their road. I will add my usual link to next book in the series below, once I have read and reviewed it.

(Note: I was able to spot a few typos in this release, but they didn't detract from my reading pleasure. And they were genuine typos, not author mistakes).

For my review of "Tunnelville" (second installment in the series) click here.
For my review of "Perfection" (third installment in the series) click here.
For my interview with Erin and Troy click here
For more Supernatural/Paranormal books click here.

2 comments:

  1. How come I hadn't heard of this one before? O.o Anyway, I love your review! I'm not sure if I want to read it, because really need to be in the mood for slow books and I don't like the typical villain. Realistic characters I do love, however, so I'm undecided!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I were you, I would definitely give this one a shot :). Maybe you could even ask Erin or Troy on Goodreads (see above) if they're willing to hand out a copy for review. I don't know if there are still any, but trying wouldn't hurt! To date, I only talked to Erin, and she sounds like a very nice person.

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