November 24, 2009

Turning Pages: Stepford Teens, Gods & Monsters

When I was in high school, I saw a news special on a town in Florida that could have been called... Du Lac (Remember the song? Welcome to Du Lac, such a perfect town/ Here we have some rules, let us lay them down...). That town was Celebration, Florida, built and settled by Disney, a strikingly beautiful, classic Americana town. Beautiful. And, a little spooky, actually, with the HOA from hell and those white picket fences and perfectly paint-coordinated houses, as far as the eye could see, and the 87.3% single-race culture all shiny clean and homogeneous, thanks to the Magic of Disney.

It could have been Du Lac. Or, it could have been Pam Bachoz's Candor.

Candor's citizens are upstanding. Their families are tight, and content to be together. And their teens are amazing.

The founder's son, Oscar Banks, actually works at a model home every Sunday, passing about flyers about his beautiful town -- just to help out his Dad! Never mind that dreams of sleeping in, devouring a stack of pancakes and crispy bacon, and longs for just an hour of unscheduled time. He's a Candor boy, and he knows that academics is the key to success. He also knows that the great are never late, so no matter what he's dreaming about, he'll always be to work on time.

Candor's not just got beautiful homes, it's got a strong community. I'm pretty sure that the words "family values" are used in the beautiful promotional brochure, which gives more details on sensational Candor, Florida.
Wouldn't anyone want to live in a town like that? There's always such great music playing there... sure, you want to go, right?

Smile. Nod.
There's only one right answer.

*run away*

Tera Lynne Childs' Goddess Boot Camp is a quick-paced and surprisingly low saccharine sequel to the Oh. My. Gods, which, like the Percy Jackson series reminds us, makes it clear that it's just not that easy being the children of perfection.

Phoebe's Mom has remarried, and the family now lives in Greece on Serfopoula Island, where the new stepdad, Darrin, is the headmaster of a Phoebe's school. Phoebe now knows she's a minor goddess with a more than mortal family tree, which means her life is a bit unusual - and far from perfect. Though she's finally found some great friends and a boyfriend she mostly trusts, Phoebe has got zero control of her hematheos powers. Routinely, she zones out, imagines things, or her temper gets away from her -- leaving beetles crawling over her stepdad at dinner, minor whirlwinds that float the furniture, and her sister covered in frosting -- when there's no cake anywhere.

As much fun as it is to be annoying to Stella, Phoebe would actually like to have a little control. Scratch that: she'd like a LOT of control. And soon. There's a reason Phoebe's got a stepdad -- her birth father crossed the will of the gods, and used his power when he should not have. Phoebe is rightfully terrified that she could accidentally anger the gods in the same way. She's been training for the Pythian games for weeks -- what would happen if she forgot what she was doing, and suddenly sped up? Or turned her fellow competitors into bugs?

Dynamotheos Boot Camp is her stepdad's answer to Phoebe's problems. While her friends vacation, Phoebe is studying control. It would really help a lot if a.) the other girls at Goddess Boot Camp weren't all 10, b.) if Phoebe's boyfriend wasn't hanging out so much with his ex, and c.) if her step sister weren't the head of the Boot Camp.

Even a goddess can't always get what she wants.

I remember reading author Carrie Jones' comments about how the idea for Need came to her -- seeing someone scary looking/pointing at her and seeing glitter on the ground around him, and being freaked out by the juxtaposition (plus the guy: Creepy.) (And obviously this is not exactly what she said, but what I remember.) Well, I am now officially terrified of glitter.


And pixies.

Zara - whose name means "queen" -- doesn't care about pixies. She doesn't care about much of anything, and she's been sent to Maine to live with her grandmother, Betty, because of it.

The day her father died -- the day they came in from running, and he collapsed on the floor, his heart giving out -- was the first time she thought she saw the man in the window, staring in at them. She thinks her father saw him too. But what Zara mostly sees is that she couldn't save him. That she stood there, and watched it happen, and ...let him go.

Zara would like to save somebody. She writes earnest letters every free moment for Amnesty International. She doesn't care if she dies anymore -- she feels that's probably what she deserves. But she desperately wants someone else to live. Someone good. Someone like her father.

Teen boys are disappearing in her grandma's town, and people are scared. Zara wishes there was something she could do about that, but her grandma says that sometimes kids just run away. It's just one more thing to add to the list of things that are wrong with the world. Nowhere seems safe, not even Betty's small town.

But little by little, life gets lived. Zara becomes curious about things. It is a bit odd that the man she thought she saw outside the house the day her father died is the same man she sees on the road from the airport to her grandma's house. And again, on the side of the road where her car gets stuck in a snowdrift.

It's a bit much that he shows up at her high school, and points at her. And it's just beyond enduring when he arrives in the woods near her house, and she hears him calling her name.

What. The. Heck?

In time, Zara learns that the guy following her is ...a pixie. And pixies = monsters, monsters who have uncontrollable need to feed on human beings. Deprived of his queen, and thus his power, the Pixie King is weak, and the court is growing restless. Somehow, Zara is the key to changing things for him. He's following her. He's calling her. Should she sacrifice herself so no more boys will disappear? Is it right to be controlled by another's need?

There's an allegorical feel to this novel -- a hint of a truth beneath the glittering layers of fiction, about relationships, about the way we control what we think we need, and about choices. Somehow, the glitter hiding bloodshed makes it that much worse.


Fans of the spooky will be thrilled to know that the sequel will be out in January.

Find the very disturbing Candor, the frothy but sweet Goddess Boot Camp, or the doubly disturbing Need at an independent bookstore near you!


Sarah Stevenson said...

I remember hearing about Candor--that one still sounds intriguing. I also REALLY need to catch up on Carrie Jones books. Man, I am so behind. Here I go to the library website right now to make some more requests...

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Ugh! I think I'm way behind on my YA reading - must...catch...up! :)

Thanks for more awesome reviews!