Monday, November 24, 2014

Magic in the Making: A Book Review on Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker

Sterling Saucier lives in Sticks, Louisiana, next to the swamp that no one talks about and everyone steers clear of. There are legends and stories about the creatures in the swamp and the things that have come out from its depths, but they're only stories with warnings attached to them. Until the day Sterling's brother, Phineas, runs into the swamp and a girl named Lenora May is returned in his place. The town believes Lenora May is Sterling's sister and to make matters worse, Sterling is the only one who remembers anything about Phineas, the brother who disappeared. Her friends are worried about her, her family is watching her like a hawk and the only person who believes her claims has a questionable reputation. As the power of the swamp begins to seep into the town, it slowly becomes clear that no one is safe and that the warning were true.

Now Sterling needs to enter the swamp, to understand its mysteries and figure out a way to get Phin back before he's gone forever.

I kept waiting for my local bookstore to get this in stock. Finally, I caved and ordered a copy then tracked its movements until it was delivered to my front door.

It was worth every effort.

The world that Parker created here is reminiscent of other books following the Southern Gothic parameters and yet, Parker was able to imbue her world with a sense of originality and the makings of magic that made all the difference in making this an incredible debut from an author who is now on my permanent radar.

The magic was wonderful. Parker created a whole background filled with legends and mystery so that as a reader I was quickly able to suspend all disbelief and accept that this powerful swamp and its hold on the town had existed for generations. I read about the stories that surrounded the swamp and I was impressed. And for that, Natalie C. Parker, I applaud you.

In terms of writing, Parker was able to build up her setting with perfect descriptions, words that trickled into your head and then left incredible images in their wake. The voice was strong, clear and concise, which brings me to the character of Sterling, as the novel is told in her first-person point of view. By no means is this character perfect in every sense. She has flaws, she does a few stupid things, but she owns up to her mistakes and she has the grit and the backbone to fight, to pick herself up and throw herself back into the fray. She inspires loyalty in her friends and has the brains to lead them. A wonderful lead that stands on her own two feet in the vast world of young adult literature.

The supporting characters worked as a whole and on their own, strong enough to be important and yet different enough to balance Sterling Saucier and aid her in her quest to save her brother. Lenora May was tragic and strong. Candy, Sterling's best friend, was fierce and determined, a one-woman army with a no-nonsense attitude. Heath Durham, the love interest who once left Sterling in a lurch and has recently come forward to help and make amends, is wounded but understanding, resilient and ready to stand alongside the rest of Parker's characters, making for a well-rounded cast of people to follow in this novel. Even Phineas was given development despite the fact that he's missing in the swamp for the most part, through the memories of his devoted little sister. One can only hope that there are more books in the future that delve further into these characters.

The plot moves fast, nothing lags, the necessary facts were discovered when they were needed and options were explored when they had to be, and the whole sense of urgency in rescuing Phin keeps the reader flipping pages, waiting for the moment that everything is finally resolved. There are pauses when necessary, sweet moments between family and friends, and big moments of change and battles, which keeps the interest steady as the book heads towards its resolution.

In the end, Beware the Wild was a wonderful, creepy little fairy tale from a very respectable, talented writer. I enjoyed every second of it.

Rating: 9 Stars

Loved every moment of this book and I'm so glad the stores are finally putting copies on the shelves. I hope Parker has more books in the works because as soon as the word it out, I'll be ready to buy them, no questions asked.

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