Saturday, April 14, 2012

Review: The Shattering by Karen Healey

Tags: YA, fantasy, New Zealand, murder


Keri never believed that her beloved older brother Jake was actually capable of committing suicide, so when her childhood friend, Janna, and Sione, a boy from out of town, propose another theory—that their older brothers were actually murdered—she jumps on board their investigation. As the three teens explore further, they begin to realize that Summerton, their “perfect” tourist town, actually has some sinister secrets hidden behind its beautiful surface. There are people who are willing to do whatever it takes to keep Summerton the way it is, but Keri, Janna, and Sione are also willing to do whatever they can to ensure that no other family has to suffer the way they did.


I was lukewarm on Karen Healey’s award-winning debut novel, Guardian of the Dead, but after reading THE SHATTERING’s eerie and absorbing first chapter, I was willing to give her books a second try. Unfortunately, THE SHATTERING just confirmed what I was already worried about: that there is something “off” with either me or with Healey’s writing, resulting in a disconnect between her stories and me.

As I mentioned, THE SHATTERING starts off strong. The cast of characters is diverse, and each main character has their own worries and distinct personality. You’re not quite sure what’s going on in Summerton, and so you read on, your heart fluttering to know. It’s a great setup, and all the elements are there to make it a good story: the suspense, the characters’ personal investment, the tensions between the characters, and the hint of a threat beneath it all.

Unfortunately, THE SHATTERING was ultimately a frustrating read for me. Oftentimes I felt like I was singlehandedly trying to pull a stubborn mule and his cart up an unending hill, that was how much the plot dragged at times. A large part of THE SHATTERING felt simply like the characters were running around, not finding out much. Once again, the problem I had with Guardian of the Dead arose here: I felt like the ultimate setup and revelation of the suspense did not justify all the “effort” that the characters—and readers—invested into discovering it. In short, I liked the characters, but wanted them to be part of a different story: either one that wasn’t so ambitious in its supernatural elements (so perhaps a contemporary novel, which poses its own awe-inspiring complexities), or one that did succeed at achieving its supernatural ambitions (i.e. an urban fantasy that is more fantasy than urban).

THE SHATTERING will find its audience in fans of uncommon elements of speculative fiction. It is far from bad, but it just didn’t have the special something, that readerly investment, that I crave in my books.

Cover discussion: I think it's cool-looking, but, like I said in my review, I'm not sure if it really reflects the...under-impact of the book.

Little, Brown / Sept. 5, 2011 / Hardcover / 320pp. / $17.99

ARC sent by publisher.


  1. Great review! I know how hard it is to write one of these 'less than positive' ones, and you did a wonderful job. I haven't read any Healey, and I have to wonder if I'd have the same reaction that you did. Hmm...

  2. Hi Steph. Are you involved with the literary community in Shanghai? Thanks.


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