Sunday, August 26, 2012

Between Life and Death: A Review on Revived by Cat Patrick

Daisy Appleby died for the first time when she was five years old in a bus crash that changed the lives of everyone on board. As part of a government program, Daisy and the other children on board the bus were given a drug called Revive which allowed for these children to come back to life and cheat death. By the time she's 15, Daisy has died 5 times, each time leading to a new life in a different city. Now starting her sophomore year, Daisy enters her new school and for the first time in a long time she manages to make her first true friends outside of the program. Confronted with the aspects of real everyday lives in ways she's never considered before, Daisy starts to question the benefits of the Revive program, the secrecy involved with it and the effects it has had on her life and the lives of everyone she's ever known.

I first learned about Cat Patrick a year ago, when I bought her debut novel Forgotten. I had a marathon reading session with it, going in to read it at one point only to emerge 3 hours later having finished the novel. I was impressed with the plot, the characters, and the pacing so much that when I found Patrick's next release on shelves I picked up a copy.

Revived is a standalone novel, just as Forgotten was, focused on new characters and storylines that are completely unique to this story. I enjoy trilogies and series books as much as the next person but I have to give Patrick credit for choosing not to follow that path. Her next release, entitled The Originals, will also be a standalone novel and it's release is set for May 2013.

In terms of plot, Revived has an interesting premise. The idea of a drug existing that is able to bring people back to life is intriguing. The implications that it could have on the people who take the drug and the ones that don't have to can lead to a myriad of scenarios. The book follows one such set of implications and the author manages to execute her ideas in a precise manner, handling the issues involved in death with both the necessary delicacy and the compassion necessary for such a subject matter. Her writing is clear and concise, the details are exact when necessary, vague when the story entails it and the story has a clear overall arc that keeps the novel on its set course. In terms of writing capability, Patrick can hold her own against the other leading authors in the Young Adult genre.

The characters were mostly strong. I enjoyed main character Daisy, her father-figure Mason and her friends Megan, Audrey and Matt. Daisy had growth to her character. She starts out with an almost flippant attitude about death and then gradually begins to understand how her being the exception to the rule has in a way stunted her emotional growth. Her inability to understand the true risk of death at the start of the book establishes Daisy's characteristics, the way she looks at herself and others and how she deals with risks to her life. For instance, readers learn that Daisy's latest death is the result of her allergic reaction to multiple bee stings but despite the known allergy, Daisy doesn't keep her EpiPen with her at all times. She's gotten used to the idea that when trouble looms its head over her life, Revive will be there to repair the damage. For Daisy to truly understand her gift of life and see the value of it, she is forced to understand that death is more than just an inconvenience that forces her to pick up and move on when she's had the misfortune to die again. And she learns these valuable lessons from her new friends Audrey and Matt, a pair of siblings who befriend Daisy when she starts at her new school in Omaha, Nebraska.

Audrey and Matt are the next up in terms of the most developed characters in Revived. Audrey's the once-popular girl who takes it upon herself to help Daisy with her transition at their school. Matt serves as the romantic interest that Daisy knows apart from Audrey first before figuring out that the pair are brother and sister. Together they take Daisy under their wing, with Audrey taking the time to hang out with Daisy at the mall and the movies, average teenage girl stuff that Daisy's never actually done with a friend outside of the Revive program, and Matt serves as the romantic anchor and occasional rescuer that helps to spur Daisy's questions about the lifestyle she leads. Then there's Megan who is Daisy's original best friend, a girl she's maintained a close relationship with because of their status as Revive subjects. Megan serves as both a soundboard and a second pair of investigative eyes once the plot starts to pick up. She's the embodiment of the strength that Daisy eventually recognizes within herself. However, Megan lives in a separate city from Daisy, so their interactions are limited to text messages and a few quick visits between the bigger points of the storyline seen at Daisy's current Omaha home base.

While I enjoyed the idea of Mason and the interactions he had with Daisy, there wasn't enough development with him as a character. Mason works with another agent named Cassie and together they pose as parents for Daisy. Readers see that Mason cares for Daisy and that he trusts her enough to let her read through the files they have on other Revive patients while Cassie would choose to have a more prudent approach to the access that Daisy is granted concerning their gathered information. Readers see that he struggles with how to raise a teenage girl and that he knows when to seek outside help when he doesn't know what to do to help Daisy. But he's not Daisy's father so he keeps a certain distance from Daisy during all their interactions and it is this distance that keeps him from truly making a connection to the reader, as well.

I liked Mason well enough but I didn't feel that he was irreplaceable as a character in the long run of the story due to his lack of development. Cassie also suffered from the same lack of development. The book also mentions a character referred to as "God" because of the fact that this man is the one responsible for the development of the Revive Drug, a drug that essentially 'gives' life to the patients that receive it. While I understand the point that the little there is said about him is meant to tie in with the whole theme of secrecy in this book, I can't help but wonder if more mentions of this clandestine character would have helped with the overall revelations made about the Revive Program. Instead the plot threads came together too easily in the climax and falling action of the book in a way that seemed a bit too neat, especially when the majority of the characters involved didn't have enough meat on them to make them necessary to the reader and resolution of the plot. The characters had a purpose. I just wanted to know more about them and the connection to Daisy.

The only REAL problem I had with this book was with the pacing. Daisy starts school, she makes her friends, she realizes her growing feeling for Matt after a few semi-dates and then suddenly decides to tell Matt her secret, the one secret that she has signed an oath to never talk about to other people. The timing it took for the characters to come to this development seemed to take place over the matter of a few weeks. When I read that Daisy wanted to let Matt in on her secret in an effort to give him a part of herself, I thought, "Well, that's romantic in a sense, but it seems too much whirlwind romance to make sense." The plot grew from this point, it needed this exchange between Daisy and Matt to go forward, but in terms of their time together, my suspension of disbelief just didn't see the necessary trust built between them for Daisy to make such a rash decision. There was also the lack of consequences for various decisions Daisy made over the course of the story. At one point Mason and Cassie find out about Daisy telling Matt about the program. We're given the idea from the start of the novel that telling anyone about Revive is a violation of their oaths and Daisy initially struggles with the idea of breaking her promise not to tell. Yet once everyone knows what happened, nothing happens to Daisy for her transgression. I'm not sure if it was intentional but the lack of consequences resembled dropped plot threads to me that seemed to coincide with the jumps in time, affecting the pacing with the characters.

The pacing problem also manifested at the climax of the story. One moment Daisy is dealing with the aftermath of learning a few tragic life lessons, then the next moment the plot has moved on to deal with the overall theme of secrecy with the Revive Program. For me, it was too much of a snap your fingers and then there we go, off on the adventure of the story. Had the pacing been given more time to develop, that way there would have been enough time passing with the characters of the book to make the leaps in the plot make sense, I think it would have helped the overall effect of the story. Instead, the rapid developments draw the reader out of the story enough to make us question the logistics of the tale when we need to be more invested in the developments of a girl who's managed to continuously cheat death time and time again.

In the end though, the story held strong thanks to its lead. The idea stayed true to its course and Patrick managed to give an interesting take on the idea of cheating death. For a sophomore release, Revived manages to stand up well enough against other releases thanks in turn to both Patrick's writing ability and the unique plots her mind has to offer.

(Side note: What is the cover supposed to convey? Is it the idea of 'Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,' seen in 1939 release of the film The Wizard of Oz? In a way, that does make some kind of sense, but then again I wonder if I'm thinking too hard about the image? Is it the barrier between life and death? The idea of searching for the truth? Or is just supposed to be mysterious? I just wonder what the point of the image is. It'll bug me for a while, that I can guarantee.)

Revived Rating: 7 1/2 Stars.

I may come to love this book in the future. For now, it's enough to ensure that I will be picking up a copy of The Originals by Cat Patrick when it's released next year. The story was good, with the characters being strong and the themes compelling enough to make the story able to stand well enough on its own. I recommend reading it if you're looking for a unique storyline involving a girl dealing with the ramifications of death and learning the value of life. But I still hold Cat Patrick's Forgotten in higher regard.

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