Sara is a smart, funny writer I’ve met through my blog. So I downloaded and read the first book in her YA fantasy series.
Xoe Meyers had a normal life. So she was stuck going to high school, and she only had a few friends to call her own. She liked her normal life. Things were about to change though, because there’s a new guy in her small town, and he is anything but normal. Before Xoe can say, “Werewolf,” her best friend’s life is in peril, and Xoe’s world is turned upside-down. Then, of course, there’s Jason. Xoe doesn’t trust him as far as she can throw him, and given that he’s a vampire, she’d have to be able to catch him first.
The chirpy tone of the blurb accurately reflects Xoe’s attitude. This isn’t some angst-ridden cry from the heart set in amongst an uncaring dystopian world. In fact, her daily routine is very familiar – right down to the long-suffering tone Xoe adopts when discussing her classes. Roethle manages to exactly capture the teen voice, with perhaps a slightly less self-absorbed spin on events. But the first slice of the book effectively establishes Xoe and her friends’ daily lives – until it all changes.
I was perfectly willing to suspend my belief regarding that change and go with the flow. Roethle’s lively style sets a cracking pace that doesn’t hang around, as the story then gains extra momentum once everything lurches into the paranormal spectrum. However, this story isn’t about some isolated loner mooching around looking exotically different… Xoe has several close buddies and like many teens of her age, wants to hang out with them. Constantly. So when events start sliding out of control, there’s no thought of this little group coping alone – one of Xoe’s main characteristics is her strong loyalty and sense of protectiveness towards her friends. Which means that in addition to finding Xoe appealing, we need to be convinced about her friends and their relationship dynamic within the group. And it’s a lot harder to do successfully than Roethle makes it look, when the story skips along at such a rate, while ensuring readers know exactly how everyone is feeling and what they are doing. But, again, she ticks that box.
So does Roethle manage to bring this adventure to a satisfactory conclusion, yet leave us wanting more? In the first book of a series, it is always a balancing act – do you leave the story on a cliffhanger, hoping your readers will be compelled to immediately reach for the second book to discover what happens next? And I’m delighted to report that Roethle resisted the temptation to go down that route. All the major plotpoints are satisfactorily tucked up, bringing this particular slice of action to a conclusion with a real sense of pleasure – yet with the knowledge that there are a handful of outstanding issues that will need attention sometime very soon.
This is a charming, enjoyable beginning to this YA series and one that once she is a few years older, I’ll have no hesitation in introducing to my granddaughter. In the meantime, I’ll be tracking down Accidental Ashes, the second book in the series – Xoe is definitely a teen I want to meet again.