Nevermore by Kelly Creagh. (Grades 9+) Atheneum, August 2010. 544 pages. Reviewed from purchased copy.
Once upon a high school cheery, Isobel faced English, leery
of the boy with pierce-ed lip and green eyes ringed with smudge-ed kohl.
When her teacher did assign her, then the fates they did align her
with the boy with eyes so clear they stared right down into her soul.
Varen was a tortured boy, finding escape for his soul.
Isobel would play a role.
As they started work together, Isobel decided whether
she condoned the actions of her jealous, football-playing beau.
Hearing strange things calling to her, unsure whether goth would woo her,
Isobel's caught up in Varen's spooky dreamland built on Poe.
As weird things begin to happen, as they study Edgar Poe
Isobel must stay or go...
Nevermore is Kelly Creagh's debut novel and I really liked it!* Cheerleader Isobel gets paired up with scary goth kid Varen for an English project. From the moment he writes his phone number down on her hand in purple ink, Isobel feels a spark, and as they work together on their Edgar Allan Poe project, she discovers that he's much more than eyeliner and silver chains. Unfortunately, Isobel's jock boyfriend Brad is jealous and decides to make life hard for Varen. And strange things start happening to Isobel - hearing voices, seeing things that aren't there... Isobel thought she knew what she wanted - a decent grade on her English paper so she could compete with the cheerleaders at Nationals - but now she finds herself questioning her so-called friends and wanting to know what's behind Varen's mysterious facade. Isobel will find out... but will she survive to tell about it?
What drew me in to the novel right off the bat were the characters of Varen and Isobel. Varen! I love him! And Isobel is pretty darn sassy. She could have easily been a flat character, a stereotypical cheerleader, but Isobel stands up for what she believes in and she's passionate about defending the people she cares about. So, I liked both the main characters right off. And then there's the chemistry between them.
Adele of Persnickety Snark was just ranting about unrealistic love-at-first-sight in YA novels, but I feel like Nevermore gets it right. Isobel's attraction to Varen builds slowly and believably. Kelly doesn't just tell us that Isobel has feelings for him, she shows us. And that, my friends, makes all the difference. Isobel and Varen are steamy without being steamy. It's not a graphic love affair, but a spark that turns into a kind of smoldering thing, which is so much hotter than Isobel instantly falling "in love" and then beating the readers over the head with it.
Also, there's the creepiness. Kelly does a great job with that, too. For me, it's the off-screen stuff that really has the potential to be scary - the noises you hear but can't identify, the things you see out of the corner of your eye. Kelly gets it right, with enough creepiness to please teens who like the scarier side of paranormal romance, and some unexpected funny bits to lighten the mood a bit.
Now, 544 pages is a lot of pages. I generally feel that books should be 250-300 pages max (with very few exceptions). And I'm not convinced that Nevermore really needed to be 500+ pages. BUT. I honestly enjoyed my time reading it. It was a book that I looked forward to picking up and I didn't want to put it down to go to sleep at night. Short chapters and engaging characters make the pages go by pretty quickly.
I'd definitely recommend Nevermore to fans of paranormal romance, but I'd try it on fans of straight-up romance, too. The fantastic aspects to the story sort of trickle in at the beginning and really pick up at the end, so teens who don't think they like paranormal stuff might be drawn in by the characters.
Know that there is a sequel slated for 2011 and things are not going to be wrapped up with a big, shiny bow. I do feel like Kelly does a good job of completing the first part of the story while still building some momentum to lead us into the next book.
Read more reviews at Presenting Lenore, The Book Smugglers, Steph Su Reads, and Stiletto Storytime. Also, check out an interview with Kelly at The Book Butterfly.
Nevermore is on shelves now!
* which is a relief because I went to high school with Kelly and I had a great fear that I would not like her novel and then I would feel terrible. Whew!