by Franny Billingsley
First line: "I've confessed to everything and I'd like to be hanged."
Seventeen year old Briony Larkin lives in a remote English village haunted by Old Ones. Supernatural creatures that only people with the Second Sight (such as herself) can see. Saddled with the responsibility of caring for her mentally ill twin sister Rose, Briony hates herself because of the secrets that she must hide. Believing herself to be a witch, she walks a fine line between trying to hide her abilities from the townfolk who will surely hang her if they knew the truth, and using her powers to try to protect her family from the swamp sickness that has infected the countryside. When handsome Eldric moves to town, Briony can't help her selfish feelings from coming through at last. When it comes right down to it, maybe she does want what normal girls all seem to want after all - a nice boyfriend, and to feel loved and cared for, instead of abused by her recently deceased Stepmother and abandoned by her always absent father.
I found this book difficult to slog through. Briony's constant litany of self-disgust was fairly hard to take. Much of the book feels like an exercise in stream-of-conciousness as Briony's thoughts skitter from one guilty or sad thought to the next. Rose is supposed to be the crazy one - she screams at hours for apparently no reason, she cuts things up to make collages, she has the odd habit of insisting that Briony doesn't have a birthday and hates to hear a clock chime twelve. But, I wondered if the twist of the story would be that Briony was the mentally ill one after all. Maybe all of the legends about Old Ones were all simply in Briony's imagination?
I also think that there's something terribly self indulgent about a book about how a character must discover themselves as a writer. Briony used to write stories, under the encouragement of her Stepmother, but hasn't done so for about three years, following a fire that destroyed their library.
I have loved Franny Billingsly's other books: Well Wished and The Folk Keeper. This is the same kind of world, with ancient magic that is malevolent and foreboding, boiling just beneath the surface of everything. This book is definitely more young adult in feeling and tone: there are some scary events, including the death of a baby, a near-rape, a public execution of an innocent girl, the loss of one of the character's hands.
There is a twist at the end - one that I didn't quite see coming, and I was glad to see Briony finally start to come out of her shell a little bit and start to like herself again. Eldric is still a bit too wonderful to be believed - he's a dreamboat and as much as he proclaims himself a ne'er-do-well bad boy, it's his essential goodness that finally allows Briony to feel like she's allowed to join the human race again.
A Great and Terrible Beauty - Libba Bray
Beautiful Creatures - Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Sabriel - Garth Nix
The Replacement - Brenna Yovanoff
I borrowed this book from my library.