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Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.
Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.
Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.
Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous-it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da's death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.
In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.
I never read The Near Witch. I still have it on a special shelf, sitting there signed by Victoria Schwab who I met soon after it came out and yet there it sits. I just haven't gotten to it. I'm going to get to it soon. I don't know how to say in words what I want to say about The Archived. It is an emotional story, and those emotions are so ordinary,but with Victoria Schwab writing them, she took ordinary and dissected it to make it extraordinary. I almost felt like I was Mac going through this with her, as her. I understood her completely, didn't blame her a bit for anything she did. Victoria Schwab's writing isn't fancy words and images. It's in the every day things that she makes you feel. "The silliest things shatter you. A T-shirt discovered behind the washing machine. A toy that rolled under a cabinet in the garage, forgotten until someone drops something and goes to fetch it, and suddenly they're on the concrete floor sobbing into a dusty baseball mitt."(p.4) Just everyday words, but it punches you right in the emotional gut because you know exactly what she's saying. The writing is simple but "the sum is more than it's parts."
I have to laugh at myself and say I had the world totally wrong in my head. I was thinking that Mac lived at a place called the Library where they keep the histories and she patrolled the hallways during the day looking for escaped histories and then she neatly tucked them back in their books, maybe a little tussle or two, but nothing dangerous and then at the end of the day she goes home to her comfy bed. HA! HA-ha! Now that would have been a boring book. And yeah, I don't want to read it either. But that isn't what Mac does. Mac has to sneak in a place called "The Narrows" on the sly without being seen, catch the "runaway history", shove it through the right door, and then get back out of "the Narrows" somewhere close to her home. It isn't quite as complicated as it sounds but it probably sounded that way the first time her Da explained it to Mac. And the older the history that escapes, let's just say, the harder they fall!
Mac is trying to put some painful memories behind her. Her little brother Ben died in a hit and run accident and she can't let it go. She wants so desperately to see him in the Archives, but she knows it's not allowed. And she can get no comfort from a hug from her parents because she feels everything they feel and think when they touch her, they are too loud for her. It comes with being a Keeper and even though she tried, she never learned how to shut out the noise of someone else's touch. Her parents have no idea what she is or what she does. They didn't know what Da was either. It's about keeping secrets and telling lies so they don't find out. Da taught her well, but she took over when she was only 12, the youngest Keeper yet. And Mac is so lonely. Her best friend is back home, even though she couldn't tell her what she does, but at least she was familiar. Ben is gone. And her mother and father are inaccessible to her. Mac was trained to fight, to keep herself safe, but she always had Da to talk to.
The people of the Coronado are the kind that keep to themselves. As readers we meet very few of them. There is Jill and her cousin Wes who just happens to be Mac's age. And bonus, he's cute and funny! Then there is Ms. Angelli and Nix. Mac takes baked goods to Nix because he's blind, wheelchair bound and on the topmost floor. Ms. Angelli is curt and short with Mac. She doesn't like Mac prying into the history of the building. But Wes, he shows her the wonders of the building, the overgrown courtyard with it's stone benches and literary quotes. There's a lot more to Wes than meets the eye and Mac learns a lot, if not the most from him.
So, we have a young girl, still reeling from the loss of her brother, no comfort from anyone, vulnerable and suggestible chasing histories that have escaped from the archives. There is also this really cute guy that hangs out at her building a lot even though he doesn't live there and his motives are unknown. Mom and Dad are on auto pilot with the barest register of realizing they have a daughter. And then KA-BLAM something big happens in the Archives and Mac is working to figure it out. All kinds of mysteries are stacking up and you will never ever guess who she turns to for comfort and help. I'm thinking that the Archive could do with a therapist or maybe a psychiatrist for their Keepers after what they have to deal with. At least they'd have someone to talk to! I kind of thought this was a series, I'm not sure, but I would love to see another book with these characters in it. It was full of suspense and questions and you didn't know who to trust or whether someone would get killed. It was great! (You might want to have a tissue or two on hand, just in case).
As a lover of the hardbound hold in my hand book, I'd like to describe to you just how beautiful this book is. The cover is that newish kind where it isn't slick but it's not papery, kind of a velvety feel to it. You see the front above, but on the back is a picture I think of The Coronado, the hotel/apartment building because I can see the gargoyles at the top (yes the place has gargoyles all over the top on the roof). But then, you open it up and the end papers are silver and dark blue and have this very rich elegant feel to it, what I imagine The Coronado once felt like in it's hey day. But even the next page is gray and cream with the same elegant design. I love that the beauty of the book matches both inside and out.
Thank you for the beautiful book Ms Schwab!