Monday, April 14, 2014

Book review: Teardrop by Lauren Kate

What would you do if you were told to never, ever, under any circumstance whatsoever, cry?

Disclaimer:

This review also appears on Women24.com, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section.

Oh, and look out for a lovely Q&A with Lauren, which will be up on the blog tomorrow evening!


Teardrop by Lauren Kate (Doubleday)
I've been reading a lot of YA novels for a good couple of years now. In all this time, I've often encountered books that draw on ideas from others; some obvious rip-offs and others beautifully imagined retellings.

When I first heard about Teardrop, the book certainly gave me pause.

Not only have I not heard about a book that deals with a girl who is under strict instruction not to cry, but I was curious to see what kind of mythology this book would incorporate, as well as seeing how it would tie in with the story and title of the book.

Also, having long been a fan of Lauren Kate and her Fallen series, I was keen on finding out just how different a direction Teardrop, which is the first novel in a new series, would be in comparison to the prior series.

It turns out that Teardrop, while somewhat similar in terms of the fact that the atmosphere and settings in this novel also has that southern feel to it, couldn't be more different in terms of plot.

The other aspect it has in common with Fallen is that it's as slow to start as Fallen is.

I know that for many this is often not a good thing, but if you're the kind of reader who prefers a slow build up to events, then you'd probably appreciate this more than those who would rather focus on a plot that is fast-paced and action driven.

Admittedly, I nearly gave up on the novel, but am glad that I persevered, because I did end up enjoying it more than I thought I would.

Lauren Kate has a knack for creating a world that's languid and sultry, while simultaneously imbuing it with the sense that underneath that lazy stillness, an epic storm is brewing.

Add to the fact that this novel is set in the Louisiana bayou, and you get the sense that you're being lulled into a false sense of security.

17-year old Eureka has been struggling to move on with her life after losing her mother in a freak accident that should have left both of them dead, but only Eureka alive. With nothing left to live for, she spends most of her days functioning as an automaton, trying to fight her suicidal urges almost every single day.

When her path crosses with that of Ander, a boy who seems to be everywhere she goes, her life takes an unexpected turn; especially when she finds herself discovering more about an ancient tale that tells the story of a girl who cried an entire continent into the ocean; a tale that she herself, may have more of a connection to than she realises.

Soon it becomes clear that there's more to her mother's death than what she was led to believe and that unlocking the mystery of her heritage, while bringing her some much-needed answers, will also put her life and those of hers closest to her, at risk.

The events that soon unfold will test everything she thought she knew about her mother and herself.

First books in trilogies or series are often hard to get right.

On the one hand, as an author, you need to make sure you engage your target audience with enough information, a strong plot and interesting characterisation without giving anything away in the first book.

On the other hand, you need to develop the book in such a way, that it not only makes readers want to invest in this new world they've immersed themselves in, but also have them begging for more at the end of it.

Teardrop is a book that, for me, falls somewhere in between the two.

Lauren's created an interesting cast of characters; they're not necessarily all likeable, but their roles are suitably filled for it, both in terms of the readers' perspective and how the characters perceive other characters.

Eureka, in particular is a rather complex and complicated character. I mostly found myself sympathetic towards her, given that her home life hasn't been easy following the death of her mother.

With a stepmother who spends most of her time trying to control her and a father who seems to be too busy to really find out how she's doing, Eureka feels like she's just drifting through the day.

However, there were a number of times she really frustrated me.  Her interactions with Ander, veered between outright mistrust to a weird closeness, that at times, felt a little too contrived for me.

Having said that, she does grow on me as the novel progresses, especially towards the end when she proves that she'll do anything to keep her loved ones alive.

What I loved most about Teardrop though, is the story behind the story.

While I certainly had some theories behind the story, the mythology explored in this novel was something that was both tragic and enchantingly romantic.

Lauren teases the reader with snippets that are spread out throughout the book and that are translated by another interesting character, Madame Yuki Blavatsky, a fortune-teller who is quite versed in translating ancient texts written in languages that no longer exist.

The mythical element of the novel becomes more pronounced and reveals a story of a time and place that are filled with magical folk that are looking for a way to revive a world that once existed before.

The most surprising thing about this is that, I would never have figured that Louisiana as a setting would be a place of origin for the myth. In fact, the little that I know about Louisiana and its climate, makes it a bit of an anomaly.

And an interesting one at that.

On top of that, Ander's history and how it affects his role in Eureka's life, combined with the undercurrents of a mounting supernatural and malevolent force trying to rise to the surface, adds a dynamic that makes Teardrop the unique offering that it is. One that's definitely worth reading!

I, for one, can't wait to read Waterfall, the next instalment in the Teardrop trilogy.

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