Harper Teen YA/Supernatural/Gothic
Hardback 327 pages
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From Goodreads- It's an oppressively hot and sticky morning in June when Sterling and her brother, Phin, have an argument that compels him to run into the town swamp -- the one that strikes fear in all the residents of Sticks, Louisiana. Phin doesn't return. Instead, a girl named Lenora May climbs out, and now Sterling is the only person in Sticks who remembers her brother ever existed. Sterling needs to figure out what the swamp's done with her beloved brother and how Lenora May is connected to his disappearance -- and loner boy Heath Durham might be the only one who can help her.
There is a free PREVIEW of the first few chapters of this novel on the Goodreads page. It's what hooked me. Just the first page.
I am such a sucker for a story set in the South. One that just drips with Southern humidity and Spanish moss. That's what reminds me of home. I grew up in the South, swamps are as familiar to me as sunshine. Don't get me wrong, I don't go around stomping through them, but salt marshes precede the beaches I played on and you can hardly throw a rock without hitting a gator. So when I read the first page of this novel, pure poetry and so atmospheric, painting a picture and a warning all at once, I went on a hunt to find this book in a book store immediately. This is a book I savored, reading bits of it at a time instead of devouring it. I just didn't want it to end. I was trapped in the story just as much as the characters were.
Sterling Saucier, what a name, right? And she lives in Sticks, Louisiana. Oh the alliteration. The story begins with Sterling sizzling on her brother's car he lovingly restored. It is a week before school is out and her brother has disappeared after a fight with Sterling and their stepfather. One in which he got violent. It's all so hazy. Did he run away? Did he leave because of Sterling? Did he go into the swamp willingly? Does he want to stay there? Sterling starts feeling guilty. She's been starving herself over worry that Phin is going to leave her for college. He's always been there to protect her. It sounds flimsy at first. A poor excuse for what at first sounds like the beginning of anorexia. But it isn't that. Not at all. I don't want to say much though I will assure you this is not an issue book. There is a romance, slow going, very sweet. The kind that happens in a small town between a boy and girl where everyone knows everyone else.
This story is about the power of where you come from, how your roots never really leave you. It's about the power of words, as a reader, you already know words have power. And I have to say that Natalie C. Parker is magical in the way she weaves words. The swamp is as much of a character as the people are playing a big role in the story. It's a mystery, something to be afraid of, beautiful, and fearsome. Books are written about the swamp, it's held back by a fence, the people of Sticks decorate the fence, and burn candles at the fence.
Sterling is honest to a fault. I like her. Her view of the world is unclouded by judgement or jealousy. She is the epitome of the word love. She loves her family. She loves her friends. And she loves her brother. She is flanked by her very logical friend Candy, her maybe boyfriend Heath and her sorta sister Lenora May. They make an interesting group whether together or apart.
I'm not doing a great job selling this book, so let me just say this, the language in this novel pulled me in and I found myself understanding so well what the character was saying. Here is one of my favorite passages. If you've ever lost someone, had a breakup, lost touch with someone, you'll understand.
Maybe it's easier to not know the little things. They're what hurts the most when they're gone. What does it matter that Phin loves old cars and painted that '68 Chevelle red because it's my favorite color? It doesn't matter a damn, but looking at that car in the driveway is a knife in the stomach; the guts of my relationship with Phin all cut open and rotting in the sun. I don't want to feel this way about someone else. I don't want to get so close that losing them means losing a piece of myself. (pp. 206-207)I know what you mean Sterling. I know exactly what you mean.
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