The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff. Grades 8 and up. Razorbill, September 2010. 343 pages. Reviewed from ARC snagged at BEA.
Something's rotten in the town of Gentry. Kids disappear sometimes, replaced by creatures that soon die, unable to bear the metal in the world. Everyone knows it, but that's the way it's always been. Gentry's been cursed... or is it blessed? Because the things that happen to other towns - natural disasters, business failures - never happen in Gentry. And kids keep disappearing...
Mackie Doyle, with eyes black as coal and a severe aversion to iron and steel, is not like the other kids at his high school. He knows he's different, knows that he's been different ever since he was placed in his crib, knows that without his sister Emma looking out for him he never would have survived this long. But he's not sure what he is. Mackie's going to find out. He's going to find the one thing that can keep him alive. But it'll require sacrifice and Mackie - along with the entire town of Gentry - will have to decide if it's worth it.
Eerie. That's a good word for this story. And atmospheric. And creepy. And compelling.
The first thing I really liked about this story was our main character Mackie. He's not human, but no one's really sure what he is exactly. He's lived in the human world longer than most of his kind do. And he's just so relateable! Sure, he can't use a normal knife and fork because metal burns his skin. He can't step onto the consecrated ground at the church where his father works. He tries to make himself invisible at school because he feels like he's so different that he doesn't want to call more attention to himself. Who hasn't felt like that at some point? Completely outside, like nobody would ever understand. Sure, Mackie's different, but he's not evil and, in fact, he's doing everything he can to make sure that the evil that surrounds Gentry is stopped.
I loved Mackie's relationship with his sister and his friends. Despite his weirdness, people care about Mackie. If he'd let himself see it, he'd know that he's got a nice support group. At the beginning of the book, Mackie feels alone, but as he slowly figures out where he came from and what's happening in Gentry, he realizes that there are people who love him just how he is. I especially loved the bond between Mackie and his sister Emma because they truly have each others' backs.
So, then there's the town of Gentry. CREEPY. This is a town where, for hundreds of years, people have looked the other way. They've allowed their children to be taken and sacrificed in exchange for the town living on. The atmosphere that Brenna Yovanoff has built here is dark and foggy, mysterious and a little poisonous. It's such a warped little town that it's easy to believe that there are unnamed monsters hiding underground. The monsters (for lack of a better word) are presented in such a way that they're not just evil. This is not the Big Bad, wreaking havoc just because that's what they do. These are very old creatures and there are precedents behind how they act and how they relate to the people of Gentry. I really appreciated the fact that the creatures are well-rounded. It makes sense, what's going on, even if it is a little twisted.
Teens looking for a spooky tale need look no further, but the appeal of this book goes beyond horror fans. Maggie Stiefvater is quotes on the ARC, calling this a "beautiful story of ugly things" and I couldn't agree more.
Read more reviews at Reading Rants, DJ's Life in Fiction, Stacked, Forever Young Adult, and Fat Girl Reading.
The Replacement is on shelves now!