Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff



Published: September 21st 2010
Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin Group

Introduction
            The town of Gentry is superstitious – they nail metal ornaments on their porches to keep away an unnamed threat from stealing their children. The babies that they steal are replaced, and they die shortly after. No one knows what happens to the kids that are taken away.
            Except Mackie Doyle. He is a replacement. His real home is beneath Gentry with the monsters that the town fears. When his classmate’s sister goes missing, he is the only person who can help. But does he belong with the creatures living under the slag heap, or with the family who raised him as their own?

Note
Have you ever read a book that you adored and stirred something delightfully nostalgic? What if you went on to Goodreads to get the cover art and saw that 415 people gave it one star and scathing  reviews that called it unreadable and a waste of time? Sure, 2241people gave it 5 stars, but many people are calling it the equivalent of literary garbage.
I regret starting it and having to put it down because of working two jobs and going to school. I tweeted about it in the summer of 2013, and I didn’t get to finish it until my Christmas vacation of 2013/2014.
I usually don’t care what other people think about the books I review. However, in this review, I’ll address some of the common negative comments I see about Brenna Yovanoff’s amazing book of not-belonging, sacrifice, community, and family.  

Cover
            I love the cover. The metal objects hanging over the old-fashioned carriage is haunting. The knife and scissors give the ominous feeling of insecurity and yet you wonder what kind of creature is in the carriage. Should you want to harm the creepy child, or save it from the menacing sharp objects dangling precariously over it? 

Setting and Tone
For me, it was pleasantly frightful in a sombre, Gothic kind of way. The rotting, drowned girls, the decay, the slag heap, the folklore and superstitions, the little girl that is the Morrigan, and sick woman who is the Lady – all this sets the stage for a story that I crave. It’s not necessarily flamboyant horror, though there are some creepy, gross, and nerve-wracking moments. It’s the thought that this is the way things are there and the complacency that the town and the beings who refer to themselves as monsters exhibit.
And in the end, it’s a discarded member of the monster society that decides to challenge the system that has sustained the town for centuries.

Gentry
            The complaints that I am reading are about how everyone knows about the mysterious creatures and the stolen babies, but no one outright says it. This is a problem for some people, but why? How many other stories do this? Twilight, Need, Watership Down, Surfacing, many short stories by Lovecraft, many novels by Stephen King, and video games like Silent Hill, Fatal Frame, and Deadly Premonition all employ this to various degrees.
            Personally, I liked the general vibe of the town. Mackie has obvious fatal allergies to iron, the town barricades its abodes with iron ornaments, and he walks on eggshells most of the time. The mystery of these stories is always, Well, why do they stay? Despite the dark secret, what keeps the citizens in that area? The citizens of Gentry do have a reason to stay, and if you are invested in the story, you’ll learn what it is.  

Tate
            She gets a lot of flak for making out with Mackie and then…avoiding him. She gets information from him, sucks his face, and then is mad at him. In this instance, I don’t disagree with the people who dislike her.
However, at least she, as a character, has something going for her. She has a driving motivation (her sister’s death), and she is complicated. True, by the end of the novel I was questioning their relationship. I think too many people have the idea that all books have to end in a happily ever after with marriage in the future. Maybe she did use him. Maybe she’s just too complicated for Mackie. Fair enough. How many people can honestly say that they stayed with the person they dated in high school? Maybe she loves him but she was too caught up in the turmoil of her sister’s replacement to properly show it during the course of the novel. Maybe she has trouble expressing those kinds of feelings.
My point is that Tate is way more interesting in the usual love interests that guys in YA books get.   

Alice
            She gets negative attention because she’s portrayed as the “bimbo”/ “skank” that all the boys fawn over. Yes, she is a shallow character. Haven’t you ever listened to a teenage boy, or an adult male, at any age? I’ve asked countless men why they like Brittany Spears, or Megan Fox, or [insert the lady flavor of the week]. They like them because they are attractive. It happens, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Girls do it too. We don’t know anything about the real person inside, but we’ll lust over them. Teens especially know about lust, and in this book, Mackie is learning about lust vs. real feelings. As much as people want to say that girls like this do not exist, they do. It’s their choice, so I’m not about to rage against what they decide to do with themselves. I’m not against portraying reality, so complaining about Alice is, in my opinion, rather pointless.

Underage Drinking and Swearing
            This can be said about many books in the YA spectrum. I used to hear older people screaming, “Where are their parents?!” I wonder, Have they ever been teenagers? Some parents know their kids are going to do it. Some parents don’t care. Personally, I’m from a place where underage drinking was the norm, even for the “preppy” girls. Mackie goes to a bush party in the novel. I don’t know why people have a problem with this. It happens. They drink and people make out. Unless you’re 13 and you haven’t hit the age where this is a thing, don’t be unrealistic of what teens are doing, regardless of whether you agree with it or not.
            I’ve also asked what people think about swearing in YA. If you’ve ever heard teens speak, you’ll probably hear some curses in the dialogue. If an author is trying to connect with teens and make their literature relatable, they should have a basic grasp of the speech patterns of their audience. Although, you don’t want to overdo it and end up with the dialogue in Velveteen.   
            Also, did you know that adults swear, too? I know, it’s shocking. Even in professional places like offices (I should know), and on the street, in stores, schools…

Final Verdict
           I adore this book. It will definitely be a book that I will re-read in the near future. It is a story more suited for teens who are outside of the fluffy romance niche. If you like a little creepy folklore and some Gothic elements in the atmosphere, I highly recommend this. It would make a fantastic Halloween book club read. Personally, I can’t wait to read more of Brenna Yovanoff’s work, and I am so glad that I picked up this book.