Saturday, March 13, 2010
Review: Light Beneath Ferns by Anne Spollen
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
14-year-old Elizah and her mother have just moved to the small town of Wenspaugh, New York to get away from her gambling addict father. In Wenspaugh, Elizah, who has always been different from other girls—quiet, preferring to spend time alone in the graveyard beside her new home—is forced to interact with various adults who think they know what’s best for her. Then she falls for Nathaniel, a strange boy she met in the woods, who speaks cryptically and shows her things that, at second glance, don’t appear to be what they seem. Who is Nathaniel and what does he want from Elizah?
LIGHT BENEATH FERNS is a beautifully written book that will chill you to your bones. If you appreciate poetic language and want to be spooked, this book is the one for you.
The strongest part of this book is its language. Anne Spollen strings words and descriptive language together in chains that I would never have thought possible—until I read it from her. The dreamy language transports you into half-mystical Wenspaugh and sets you right in the middle of Elizah’s tiny high school, the graveyard, and the mysterious woods.
Elizah is not the protagonist for everyone. She’s cynical to the point of being a little depressing, sarcastic to the point of being rude, and seems to change very little throughout the course of the novel. While I love and admire snarky, well-written dialogue, the number of times that Elizah clashed verbally with other characters quickly grew tiring for me.
Elizah is essentially a strong and well-developed protagonist, and may not have developed throughout the novel, but I was still surprised at the inconsistency of her character when it came to her interactions with Nathaniel. Many times I felt that the story was trying to force Nathaniel and Elizah upon one another, eschewing typical relationship development and trying to make it out that they had a connection before they even met. As a result, the romance was disappointing to me, their interactions based upon sensation but little substance.
LIGHT BENEATH FERNS is a story that revolves, surprisingly, not around the strong, albeit unchanging, characters, but rather the creepy element. It’s an interesting mix of snarky dialogue, poetic language, and the paranormal. That unconventional combination of genre and stylistic techniques may be its selling point for some people. It could also be its downfall: many times I found myself struggling to fit the book’s many parts together into one cohesive whole. Check it out, and see what it is for you.
Laurie Faria Stolarz (Blue is for Nightmares series)
Laura Whitcomb (A Certain Slant of Light)
Francesca Lia Block
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Cover discussion: 3.5 out of 5 - It doesn't look like much at first glance, but it's actually one of the coolest covers I've ever touched. You'd have to hold it to understand. And this might be just the scaredy-cat part of me, but after reading the book and understanding what it's about, the cover is even spookier.
Flux / Feb. 1, 2010 / Paperback / 206pp. / $9.95
Copy bought by me.