Monday, September 14, 2009

HUSH, HUSH Pre-view

In twenty-nine days, HUSH,HUSH hits bookstores everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. This is not a whimper, slide in under the radar, hope for the mediocre release. This is a hit them hard, ramp up the excitement, plan for the best and more release.

And it's all for my writing friend, Becca Fitzpatrick.

I first met Becca at a group night held at our writing teacher's home. We were taking separate sections of his continuing education writing class and he wanted his students to see how a writing group works in person. So we dutifully trotted over with 2-3 manuscript pages in hand, hoping we didn't humiliate ourselves too thoroughly. My pages were from the Victorian mystery novel that was my first. Becca . . . well, that's Becca's story and she'll have to tell it if she feels so inclined :)

We didn't meet again in person for almost five years. But those years were filled with our online group, in which I first met and fell in love with Patch, the bad-boy hero of HUSH, HUSH.

Of course, it wasn't called HUSH, HUSH at the time. And Patch had nothing supernatural about him, except possibly his wicked smile. And the female star of the novel had a different name and, well, you get the picture. HUSH, HUSH and Becca have both come a long way since then.

Technically, I suppose I could have offered a review of HUSH, HUSH at virtually any time in the last five years. That's how many times I've read it, or versions of it. And if all you want is a one-sentence review of the book, here it is:

No matter how often I read the manuscript, I always picked it up the next time with the same shivery sureness that I was going to read something wonderful.

But if you'd like a slightly longer review, here are my Top Five Reasons Why I Love HUSH, HUSH (and not one of them is that I happen to know the author!)

1. Nora Grey
Being that this novel is told in first-person, the storyteller/heroine must be engaging. Nora is. She's smart, independent, vulnerable, and with a store of wicked comebacks that I wish I could come up with. She's never passive and sometimes reckless, but never in the dreaded TSTL category (Too Stupid To Live). She's endearingly a teenage girl, in a way that makes me remember what it's like to be attracted to someone you know is no good for you (although my object was a long-haired drama student and not a fallen angel). I cheered for Nora, and feared for her, and was proud of her even when my heart was breaking at the end. You can't ask for more in a heroine.

2. Patch
Patch is the boy that no mother ever wants to meet, but almost every girl wishes she could. He's dark. He's mysterious. He's intense. He's funny. He's annoying. And yes, he's hot. It's tricky walking the line of bad boy in a YA novel, but Patch (with Fitzpatrick's genius) walks that line with ease. I always felt that, like Nora, I had no idea what he might do next. I was sure that he'd done bad things. But I was also, irrationally, sure that he wouldn't hurt Nora. There's more to him than meets the eye, and Fitzpatrick is brilliant at shading Patch's character so expertly that you don't have to know the details to be drawn to Patch like Nora is.

3. Dialogue
All writers have innate strengths. Fitzpatrick's is dialogue. She is a master of wickedly funny, writing lines that just beg to be quoted. That's not to say she doesn't have other strengths, but I settle into her exchanges between Nora and Patch with a particular kind of pleasure. It's a gift, and she has it in spades.

4. Pacing
A writer once said that the way to properly pace a novel is to "cut out all the boring bits." It's harder than you might think, but Fitzpatrick pulls it off. There are no serious lulls in this book, no stretch of pages where I wondered "When is something going to happen?" That's not to say that it proceeds at a steady breakneck pace, but that the scenes and transitions are beautifully constructed to keep you moving from one to the next. There is no easy place to set this book down, even when you know what's coming next. So just plan to have a good block of time to read, because you're not going to want to stop. And once you approach the climax, you're not even going to want to breathe.

5. Characters
Apart from Nora and Patch, this book sparkles with fascinating characters. From Nora's best friend Vee who's on a hilarious color-wheel diet to the young and pretty school counselor to the villain who's not fully revealed until the end, this book is alight with people you'd want (or maybe not) to meet and certainly can't forget. There are no filler characters, no placeholders, everyone has something to do and does it memorably. I, for one, will never forget the homeless woman who likes Nora's hat.

Those are my top five, though by no means are they the only reasons I love the book. Who do I think should read it? Well, obviously everyone, but practically speaking I'd recommend HUSH, HUSH to fans of YA, fans of nothing-is-as-it-seems thrillers, fans of complicated romance and complex mythologies playing out in our own world.

And to say one thing about the enormous elephant in the room--yes, it sounds similar to TWILIGHT. Forbidden love, tortured hero, heroine in danger, paranormal meets contemporary teen.

HUSH, HUSH is better. TWILIGHT tells a wonderful story, one that gripped me when I first read the books, but it was a temporary effect that did not last through a second reading. Not only does Becca Fitzpatrick have a gripping storyline, she has the skill to hold it together beyond a first, emotional response.

Twenty-nine days to go . . . pre-order it now.

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