Thursday, April 11, 2013

We wish to inform you that your baby has now been replaced

During the weekend, I finished Brenna Yovanoff's young adult novel The Replacement and found myself being conflicted with my feelings toward it. It does have all the elements that I usually am partial too—the creepy atmosphere, the supernatural characters based on folklore, the subtle horror, and the romance not bordering on bubblegum. And yet, I'm not too sure if I really liked it.

The Replacement touches on a myth that seems to be common across different cultures: supernatural creatures living below the ground steal babies and replace them with one of their own. In Yovanoff's novel, this unfortunate incident seems to happen in the town of Gentry regularly. It's a situation that the town folk don't talk about openly; a few of them view it as a sacrifice to these mythical creatures. These babies are offered as a way of thanks for giving Gentry a few more years of prosperity.

Normally though, the replaced babies—these changelings—don't live long. But Mackie Doyle is an exception. He's now 16 but is apparently slowly dying. He gets long-lasting dizzy spells brought about by being near to objects made of iron; he passes out easily. The human world isn't an environment where he can thrive. He's living in it on borrowed time. But he finds out that he is drawn to the underworld where he originally came from, and it's a world that can offer him the chance to live. However, choosing the underworld means leaving his family behind and also the girl whom he has fallen in love with, Tate.

I was expecting that the romance angle of The Replacement would be a major element. Thankfully, it's not. More than anything, it is the concept of the family that Yovanoff chooses to highlight. We find out that the changelings don't survive long because the family knows that their babies have been replaced, and that this knowledge is what keeps preventing them from loving the changelings. In Mackie's case, it is not the love of his "parents" that made the difference, but the enduring, unselfish love of his older sister. His sister chooses to look beyond the fact that Mackie is no longer her original brother; she acknowledges that Mackie will be the only brother that she'll have.

I like Yovanoff's writing style. The slow burn, the musings of the characters, and the exploration of the importance of family and friends are pretty much enjoyable to read. But something is holding me back from loving The Replacement. I can't quite put my finger on it yet. Maybe I would have liked more exposition on the supernatural aspect of the novel. As it is, the mythical creatures don't even have labels of what they really are. The underworld, with its wonderfully ugly inhabitants, had a huge potential for development. Unfortunately, I was left wanting.

Still, I think I would read more of Yovanoff's works, as her writing is very beautiful and very fluid. She has 2 more novels that I've seen recently: The Space between Us and Paper Valentine. I've Googled the stories of these novels, and I think they're right up my alley.

Read this book if:
  1. You're fascinated with the idea of changelings.
  2. You understand the concept of " being beautifully ugly."
  3. You love creepy reads.


Lynai said...

Hi Peter!

This is the kind of novel I'd love to read. Will check thisout the next time I visit the Bookstore. :)

Peter S. said...

Hello, Lynai!

Fortunately, this is widely available in bookstores. I think even NBS has it. Although I bought my copy at Fully Booked.

Louize Gonzales said...

Hi Peter!
I've read this last year, and I remember having tepid feelings towards it too. I did love the beautiful ugliness of it, but I do believe that there should have been more. And yes, I agree with you on the family concept of the story.

I'm going to give Paper Valentine a try too. ♥

Peter S. said...

Hi, Louize! I'm reading Paper Valentine now! So far, I'm liking it.