Published in: 2010
The protagonist: Nastasya, an Immortal who is over 400 years old but supposedly looks like she’s in her late teens or early twenties. Immortals are everywhere on Earth, mostly living among us, pretending to be mortal and relocating every generation or so and ignoring/failing to cultivate their mild-ish magical powers. “Nasty” is a party girl with no real human connections, and when we meet her she is living in London as a socialite with a particularly reprehensible group of friends.
The gist in 100 words or less: In the opening scene, Nastasya’s most objectionable friend, a male Immortal, brutally injures a cab driver and leaves him to die. Nastasya begins to question her lifestyle and, based on the advice of a woman she met decades ago, flees to River’s Edge, a rehab center for “wayward Immortals” located in New England. As she begins to learn the lessons of this working-farm-and-rehab-center, she meets Reyn, a “Viking god-like”, gruff, distant Immortal that she somewhat recognizes; and Nell, a manipulative go-getter who wants nothing to do with Nastasya.
Great stuff: River’s Edge is a thinly-veiled rehab center, and I really appreciated that residential treatment for “addiction” took such a central role in a popular YA novel. Nastasya reacts to being there as I’m sure many addicts do–denial, wanting to leave, being irritated by everyone, finding reasons to stay, enjoying more of the experience, and continuing to learn why it’s good for her. It’s healthy for kids to read about treatment like this, and River’s Edge is certainly portrayed as a productive, positive, life-altering place.
Meh: The writing…is pretty terrible.
Nastasya is so incredibly annoying, immoral and whiny that I really never cared about her, and coupled with the fact that I struggled mightily with the writing, I had a really hard time pushing through this one. Tiernan (real name Gabrielle Charbonnet) breaks the cardinal rule of show-don’t-tell, and the writing is repetitive, irritating and somewhat insulting to the reader–everything is explained explicitly, and descriptions are repeated ad nauseum (if you thought the 239847298347 references to Edward Cullen’s alabaster skin were annoying, the repetition of the identical phrase “Viking God” will make you physically nauseous).
As we’ve seen in other series of the same genre, Nastasya has apparently learned nothing in over four hundred years of being alive and her maturity reflects her physical age only. This is unrealistic and frustrating.
Best quote: I left the book at camp and have not retrieved it yet.
There is a part early on where River explains to Nastasya why a year seems so much shorter when you are older (because it comprises a much smaller part of your overall life). I hadn’t really ever thought about it, and it was pretty cool.
Parent/teacher alert: Nastasya does a lot of drinking, a fair amount of drugs, tons of casual sex (none of which is really described explicitly) and engages in a party-girl lifestyle that is altogether too prevalent in Hollywood and pop culture today. Yes, the point of the story is that she renounces (or starts renouncing) that lifestyle, but it takes a loooong time and she’s such a ridiculous character that her rejection of her former life is not all that believable.
Read it if you liked: Twilight. Gossip Girl/Pretty Little Liars, maybe.
Not good for: Those who like good writing and solid character development or have just finished reading a book that has either. People who were annoyed by Twilight. People who are annoyed by whiny party girls. People who are easily insulted when the author explains every. little. thing. outright. fourteen. times. People who don’t feel the need to have the same person/thing/feeling described the exact same way every time.
I’ll stop there.
What my students think: The girls love this one. Sigh.