PJV Quickie: While interesting and darkly compelling, THE SUBURBAN STRANGE moved me along with great interest, but I just couldn’t go all the way in, because the juvenile writing style and constant book and music references kept popping me out of what could be a great total book immersion.

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[/frame] Title: The Suburban Strange
Author: Nathan Kotecki
Series: The Suburban Strange
Publication: Published October 2nd 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Type: Young Adult Paranormal Novel
Source: Amazon Vine

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Review:

Nathan Kotecki’s world building was quite unique and a pleasure to read, unfortunately he needs to work on the implementation a bit more. The world he created in THE SUBURBAN STRANGE had the feeling of uniqueness and emotional depth that you usually don’t see with a young adult male writer, his creation confined and internal as opposed to broad and sharp, leaning toward middle grade, which I find is stereotypical of male authors writing in the genre. Don’t hate me for my stereotypes, but things like this do go through my head when choosing books to read. Yet, while I enjoyed reading about Celia Balaustine and her new friends, I was constantly put off by Kotecki’s dry writing style, which read like a teenager’s first attempt at a novel, instead of a talented writer telling a tale. Pepper that novice writing style with the constant references to song titles and book narratives and you had a book that was good, but not something that I would not sing praises about.

The story follows Celia Balaustine, who is starting a new school. In an art class that she took, just to get out there, because she is so unbelievably talented at 15, no one can teach her anything, she meets an intriguing girl with style and grace who befriends her, gives her a make-over and initiates her into a very stylized world. The girl, Regine is a member of an exclusive group at Celia’s new school, Suburban High, they call themselves the Rosary. Once Celia meets their “look” she is welcomed within their folds and remakes herself within their image. She goes from a shy awkward teenager to a very meticulously styled and mysterious young lady. Like the transformation was not enough, there is a mystery that is playing out within the halls of Suburban High, a curse that befalls 15 year old girls on the eve of their 16th birthday. The curse injures the girls in different was from bee stings, to broken ribs. The rumors begin to spread and then gain momentum as the only skip one girl, a girl with a reputation for being “easy.” Could the curse only target virgins? Celia decides to find out who is behind the curse and how she can beat it…because her birthday is at the end of the year and she doesn’t think she’ll lose her virginity before then.

Like many middle of the road reviews I write, as I recap I often wonder why the book even merited the few stars that I did give it. This one is the same, because along with the poor writing, there were very obvious plot inconsistencies and ludicrous outcomes. The timeline at points seemed off – has a month passed, or just a few days? It would jump from a few days passed, to weeks, to months, traversing a whole year by the time the book came to an end. You are pretty much aware at the beginning of the novel that Celia’s birthday and the end of the school year are the culmination of events and all else is just fodder. Very similar in how Rowling handled the Harry Potter novels – Voldemort never attacks at the beginning of the year! And like Voldemort’s kind timing, the bad person of THE SUBURBAN STRANGE waits the entire year until they finally take aim to finish up their dastardly plot. This didn’t make sense though and I don’t want to give spoilers, but I’ll hint at it – because what made the person finally take the plunge literally at the end of the year? You would think their patience would have given out after the first couple of tries when nothing happened? Yet, no, they had to go through almost the entire sophomore female population, with rumors flying to finally finish the plot. Great to draw out a book, but in my “Evil Chick/Guy Handbook” drawing out a bad situation doesn’t make sense. Other things didn’t make sense either in the finale, they way said bad character confessed everything, reacted to certain events and then “waited” as Celia completed a few tasks before actually doing what they came to do.

Did I also mention that the love-interest was a total coward? He actually left when Celia told him to leave to “hide” while she faced the evil character. Who leaves their younger girlfriend to do that?

What was good about the novel? The picture Kotecki paints is nice, dark and thick. He had a wonderful idea with an interesting take on things. There were paranormal elements, but they never overwhelmed the mystery. The characters were also wonderful, I really enjoyed reading about Branden and Marco, Ivo and Regine. Liz I was on the fence about.

Overall, I was disappointed with THE SUBURBAN STRANGE. I might read the second book depending on the synopsis of events because again I think the idea.

Recommendations:

I do not recommend this for younger teens, with the constant references to virginity and talk of sex, along with the characters constant frequenting of “all ages clubs” I think this would be better handled for more mature teens. This would be a good novel to transition to paranormal, considering the elements are low-key and this has more of a coming of age feel, instead of a YA paranormal romance.

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