Friday, May 14, 2010

Review: The Clearing by Heather Davis

The Clearing The Clearing by Heather Davis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overview of Book (from Goodreads):
Amy, a sixteen-year-old recovering from an abusive relationship, moves to the country to start a new life with her aunt–all she wants is for everything to be different. In the clearing at the back of Aunt Mae’s property, she makes an amazing discovery—Henry, a boy stuck in the endless summer of 1944. Henry and his world become Amy’s refuge and she begins to learn that some moments are worth savoring. But when the past and present come crashing together, both of them must find the courage to face what is meant to be, even if it means losing each other forever.

My review:

I was really interested in reading this book because it sounded like something very interesting and unique given the fact that there is so much vampire/werewolf type YA out there right now. I was interested in reading a different kind of YA - something a bit more traditional but still unique enough to make it stand out. And, ultimately, I think that this novel delivered that! I really enjoyed every moment of the novel.

First and foremost, I thought it was very well written. When you take a book that has elements that are a bit outside of the norm, it can be easy to verge into the unrealistic and weird. Heather Davis did an excellent job of keeping the book feeling both based in reality and feeling otherworldly. It was a really interesting combination for me as a reader. I loved the sense of time and place that Davis created in this novel. I think she also did a great job with the pacing of the novel ... particularly since the novel essentially takes place in two different time periods. It never felt choppy to me. Not once. The interweaving of the two time periods was an effective plot tool.

One of the things I loved most in the book was the characters. I really enjoyed taking this journey with Amy. I thought she was complex and her circumstances written very realistically. It would have been easy for Davis to overwrite this particular character but she didn't. In the end, I felt that Amy was very sensible and her decisions/thoughts made perfect sense to me in the larger context. Another character that I just adored was Mae. She was an outstanding character ... one of those that I wish I could pull into my own life. I'd love to have had a great-aunt like Mae! Their relationship was so well written and really gave the novel texture and emotional interest. Henry was such an interesting character to me - very traditional, old-fashioned, and just plain NICE. All that you'd expect from a farm boy raised in the 1940s. The interactions between him and Amy came alive to me as I read.

I think this book was a great story in and of itself. However, it was also so much more. It said a lot about relationships, love, self-respect, and individuality. I felt that it ultimately sent a really good message but wasn't in any way preachy. I do, however, wish that the 'relationship violence' component of the book had been fleshed out a bit more. It was merely adequate when it could have been a great way to explore it more deeply.

I thought the romance aspect of the novel was well done. The relationship between Amy and Henry was very compelling and quite engaging. It wasn't overdone or underdone ... it was executed perfectly, in my opinion. It made sense to me. It felt real to me.

At first, I wasn't sure what I thought about the ending (which I'm not going to spoil for you!!!) but after thinking about it, I think it was very satisfying. I felt it brought the story where it needed to go.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed this book and found it to be quite unique and compelling. I would recommend it to those interested in a nice YA love story with a bit of a twist.

(Disclaimer: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt provided me with the galley proofs of this book for review.)

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