Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Book Review: Liv, Forever

When Liv Bloom lands an art scholarship at Wickham Hall, it’s her ticket out of the foster system. Liv isn’t sure what to make of the school’s weird traditions and rituals, but she couldn’t be happier. For the first time ever, she has her own studio, her own supply of paints. Everything she could want.

Then she meets Malcolm Astor, a legacy student, a fellow artist, and the one person who’s ever been able to melt her defenses. Liv’s only friend at Wickham, fellow scholarship kid Gabe Nichols, warns her not to get involved, but life is finally going Liv’s way, and all she wants to do is enjoy the ride.

But Liv’s bliss is doomed. Weeks after arriving, she is viciously murdered and, in death, she discovers that she’s the latest victim of a dark conspiracy that has claimed many lives. Cursed with the ability to see the many ghosts on Wickham’s campus, Gabe is now Liv’s only link to the world of the living. To Malcolm.

Together, Liv, Gabe, and Malcolm fight to expose the terrible truth that haunts the halls of Wickham. But Liv must fight alone to come to grips with the ultimate star-crossed love.

In a lot of ways I greatly enjoyed parts of this book.  While I'm not a big mystery fan, I do go in for gothic atmospheric books and the dark undertones therein.  Talkington sets the scene quite well - much better in hindsight then on first reading possibly.  Things that Liv overlooks tend to stand out once you know the secret.

I was pleasantly surprised by the reveal of the secret and by the way it was handled.  Talkington showed real talent in not only the slow build for the resolution, but also the inventiveness of her characters.  Rules are firm and consistent.  Its not surprising why it occurred, but its surprising how the origins came about.

My problem lay in the characters.

Eventually I enjoyed their interactions and their personalities, but a good chunk of the book I was waiting for something to happen.  Liv, Malcolm and Gabe seemed to exist to inhabit their respective trope and push that trope to the max until Liv's death.  Only then did they evolve and exhibit any traits that would make them interesting to the reader.  And not coincidentally only then did I start to really care what happened to these kids.

Liv was just a little too out there for me.  I've known some really artsy people--teens who didn't care about the established norms because their art always, always came first.  Adults who have sacrificed every other connection in the world because of their talent.  Kids who struggle to figure out whether their creativity is really worth alienating their peers.  Liv is very much like them, but racketed up to an uncomfortable notch.  I'm not sure if its because half her references go over my head so I had to struggle to understand some of her allegories or if Talkington overdid it in her intent to make Liv more then just a superficial artsy character. 

Gabe and Malcolm started out fairly typical, but by the end I was happy to see that a bond had formed beyond their need to solve Liv's death.  Its odd but as much as readers seem to complain about the lack of female friendships in YA, I can't name any male ones (especially none that don't become a love triangle).

I thought it was also clever of Talkington to write the "stories" of the other dead as their own separate "voice" and chapters.  You can tell these folks apart very easily as they speak very differently fro Liv and from each other.

Overall I definitely recommend this for the mystery and caution patience.  Its not a very long book (relatively speaking), so your patience is well rewarded.