The first thing I have to say about the book:
Oh my goodness. I was not disappointed.
I won this book as part of the Goodreads First Reads giveaways portion of the website and I received the book in the mail yesterday. I read it in about 5 hours, with a few breaks in between. I'm a reader of eclectic tastes and have never really read a book like this before. The important thing about this paragraph is that this review is entirely my opinion. I've tried to keep this review free of spoilers, but there might be a few.
The book opens up with main character, Harlow Wintergreen, beginning to experience a voice in her head. It's not an ordinary situation for her as she had thought the voice had gone away with the medication.Currently, she is on a trip in Japan, helping to promote VisionCrest. VisionCrest is a religion her father basically invented, or so Harlow thinks. He, the General, is a distant father. To Harlow, he seems to not really care about her at all. She breaks free from the group of other students and finds her way to a park. Now she begins to experience hallucinations to go along with the nasty voice that appears in her heads. The visions depict her killing another girl at the park. Later on, she experiences more episodes. The nasty voice shows her more sick hallucinations, killing multiple people and the sickening deaths of people at a nightclub.
We experience the story through Harlow. I think her reactions are depicted well to the various situations she goes through in the novel. When she's having one of her episodes, I feel kind of freaked and also a bit embarrassed because the author makes it seem as if people are staring at her. When Mercy (another girl in her class) is having special moments with Adam (a boy that Harlow used to be friends with), it feels as if I'm actually jealous as well. When her father (sort of) forgets her birthday, I feel sad for her and just a little bit ticked off at him. It's incredible the way the author has written the book in such a way that I actually feel the various emotions I would imagine that Harlow is feeling at these points in time.
I think that the plot is quite unique and speaks to a lot of various things about the current world. Though I would describe it as a horror, there are a lot of other genres I would place it in as well. I would also describe it as sort of a "coming of age" story for Harlow where she finally "grows up" and begins to find out the real things about herself as well as the true story of her father's religion. I would also say that it becomes a sort of dystopian reality at the end of the novel because of certain spoiler-ish things that happen during the plot. In another way, I'd also like to think of it as a psychological thriller where Harlow is legitimately worried of the voice in her head and the harm she may cause to others. I think it pulls off many of these genres well. The author has me intrigued by Harlow's life story and the potential psychological problems she has, as well as where they might have come from. The horror aspect presents well because I was indeed somewhat sickened by the things she was imagining. The religious and supernatural elements to the story were also fitting, giving us a great suspension of reality, while providing us with a good explanation of the way VisionCrest has been developed.
The speed of the story is somewhat fast paced, which works well for it. There are a lot of goings on so we're informed of the passing of time while not having to put up with mundane events. The various novels plots- there are minor sidestories to explain various things about VisionCrest and characters- are very relevant to the story's outcome. Major events are clear, like the trip to Japan, the kidnappings and her episodes. Yet, the various details about VisionCrest are a bit lost (in some cases) because they're spread out. I like the way the author hasn't taken up too much space at once to explain it for the reader because that might seem a little dull. However, at the same time, the details are a bit lost to me and I feel like I might be missing or forgetting important details in the beginning. Later on, Harlow explains several of the various VisionCrest levels as well as the way they're determined. But it did have me a little bit misunderstanding at first.
The actual scenery and world Harlow experiences on her trip through Asia is quite intense. In some places, I feel like I'm almost travelling with her and seeing the places for myself.
The characters are all well presented. The friendship between Harlow and Dora seemed quite natural. Their communications and feelings for each other were very enlightening and it was obvious that they care a great deal for each other. Harlow's relationship with Adam was a bit here and there, but I think it was presented well based on the mood and events of the novel. In many cases, it was quite natural to be angry at him and at other times it was quite natural to be curious of the story he had to tell. The way the teenagers (the characters are mostly only 17 and 18 at this point in time) are acting is quite normal. Though there are some various teen-like lingo aspects to their conversations, it was all quite understandable.
The thing that sets out most in my mind is the Wang family, including their introduction to the novel. It seemed quite interesting when introducing Wang to the novel, that the author was describing how Harlow felt about his character and the impression she caught from seeing his property. At first, I'd only thought he was going to be a background character, but I was suitably impressed with the way that situation turned out. The things about Mei Mei were just a little bit sickening (her blindfold) and, at the end, I was just a little bit curious as to what end she might have. I'm not particularly disappointed in the ending for Mei Mei, but would have liked to see a little more of her potential.
The ending is just incredible. Really incredible. The main thing I like about the book is that every other moment in the book, there's something interesting happening. Even at the ending, there's something interesting happening and the entire book has led up to an incredible end. Because of the ending (I'm not going to write it out because of spoilers), I think there could legitimately be a second book continuing these events. Though I don't know how it might work (considering the position Harlow is in), I'm certainly interested on reading it anyway!
I felt that this book was near perfect for me. I felt all sorts of emotions while reading it and genuinely felt like Harlow was somewhat relateable. I received it yesterday and it took me five hours in the early morning to read. Though there's violence, there's little sexual content (not anything more than a bit of kissing and a few suggestive comments). There is also little (if any) swearing that I can remember. Either way, I thought it was quite a right book for young adults (but not necessarily young-young adults).
I really feel that it deserves between 4.5 and 5 stars
. I wouldn't say it was perfect, but it was really, really amazing!