White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick
|White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick|
|Reviewer: Stefan Bachmann|
|Summary: If you don't mind the slow start and loads of confusing philosophizing, there are some thrills and edge-of-your seat suspense to be had later on.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 192||Date: July 2010|
Rebecca is not happy to be leaving London. She's not happy with her dad, she's not happy with her boyfriend, and she just generally an unhappy person. Having to move to a dead-end place like Winterfold doesn't help at all. Her only friend there is a strange girl named Ferelith who one hot summer's day shows her an abandoned mansion where two hundred years ago a priest performed horrible experiments on human corpses. He wanted to learn something from the dead. But what was it? And what does Ferelith really want from Rebecca?
"What?" Only three and a half stars for a Marcus Sedgwick book? Yeah. It wasn't easy. I'm a big fan of his historically-tinged books and I thought his last one was nothing short of genius. This book seems to be a new direction for him, but I'm sorry to say it isn't all the way up there with his other ones.
It does have a lot of good points, though. Sedgwick is a skillful author no matter what he writes, and even though the plot does take longer than I would have liked to get going, it's never dull. About a hundred pages in, the tension really starts to mount, and I honestly did stay up until all hours of the night to finish it. The small-town atmosphere is good. Rebecca is a realistic teenager, and Ferelith is a sort of hippie/anarchist/goth hybrid which is interesting in itself. Their uneasy friendship forms a solid emotional centrepiece for the book.
So here's my problem: Sedgwick spends so much of his word-count trying to get a message across to his readers, and by the end I wasn't even sure what that message was.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for putting deep thought into YA. But I think with messages more than anything 'show, don't tell' should be the rule, and in White Crow it's telling all the way.
The book tackles a bunch of big questions like what comes after death, is there a God etc. That's all very well and good, but when I closed the book I realised I still didn't actually know what his conclusion was. Maybe I'm just way dense and all the other teens who read it will understand it right away. Should that be the case then just ignore those last few sentences and believe me when I say there's a lot of philosophizing going on here. If you like some heavy religious commentary with your teen-horror then this is definitely the book for you. If not...
...it still might be. I did enjoy reading it, especially the second half. It's a good summer spooker, has strong characters, plenty of chills and thrills. Had the author focused a bit more on storytelling than on moralising it could have been even better.
Many thanks to Orion for sending Bookbag a copy.
Further reading suggestion: If you like contempo-urban horror I'm going to recommend Sarah Reese Brennan's The Demon's Lexicon, mostly because it's the only comparable book I've ever read, but also because it's a fairly fun. Triskellion by Will Peterson is another scary story set in a small town.
White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick is in the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2010.
White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick is in the Carnegie Medal 2011.
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