Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Category: Young Adult
Page Count: 343
Release Date: September 2010
Source: ARC edition
Challenge: Breathless Reads Tour Mini Challenge
Quick Rating: 3/5
Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, Mackie comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement - left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is slowly dying in the human world.
Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with an oddly intriguing girl called Tate. But when Tate’s baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, know as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.
Edward Scissorhands meets Catcher in the Rye in this wildly imaginative and frighteningly beautiful novel about an unusual boy and his search for a place to belong.
Based on the synopsis on the back of the book, I went into The Replacement expecting a cool, almost reverse Labyrinth. But alas, there was no magical David Bowie, and no dance numbers. All I found was the same problem I’ve been having with a lot of paranormal books lately. I end up liking the world, and a lot of the secondary characters, more than the main plotline and characters.
For me, the world that existed below the ground was beautiful, horrifying, and absolutely fascinating. I could picture the House of Mayhem, and the Morrigan, and the living dead girls in such vivid detail, I found myself sorry to return with Mackie to the normal human world. I wanted so much more of this mysterious world. The Morrigan especially! She was so cute and childlike, yet adult and sinister all at once. Her snuggly closeness quickly made her, without competition, my favorite character in the whole book.
As for the human world? Well, it was just a whole village full of scared people in denial. Nothing really appealing about it. The best advice you can give your kid is to not be unique, but blend in. However, for everyone so seemingly steeped in denial, it struck me as really strange when some of the characters didn’t bat an eyelash at some of the weird stuff going on. Little zombie girl? I’d freak. Doors popping out of garbage heaps? I’d run the other way. A freaky queen who likes to eat babies? I’d check myself into an institution. But no one seems to question the strangeness of it all. Maybe the teens in Gentry are immune to the denial? Or, at least a select few.
One thing I really did appreciate, however, was the realism of the way the teens spoke. I liked that there was a bunch of swearing, because it felt so much more real that way. In a lot of YA, it seems the intent is to be a “clean” read - no cussing, no physical contact beyond kissing. Well, The Replacement got it right. The kids swear when they’re mad or confused, and there’s quite a bit of inappropriate touching and staring. Most books from a boy’s perspective (especially those written by women) tend to skim over some details about where their minds are. But no, the author just flat out lets you know Mackie isn’t really paying attention to the teacher, he’s staring at some girl’s boobs. I laughed. And it made me feel like the characters were a little more real.
As for the characters themselves? The secondary cast stole the show to me, especially “Them”, the underground folk. Mackie annoyed me occasionally - he came off a bit whiny, weak, and pathetic in some scenes. I really found myself just honestly wishing he’d grow a spine and do something. Tate was likable enough, though I felt no chemistry between her and Mackie. She felt like a convenient plot point. No interest in her until her sister vanishes, then suddenly, it’s all about her. Something just didn’t click with that relationship to me. Roswell was an awesome best friend, though his lack of asking questions and demanding answers about all the weird stuff going on was a little strange. I would have actually liked a little more detail about him and his family, though.
*Spoiler* I was also totally confused by the end. The Cutter gets hit by a crowbar (and by the way, where did she pull that from? Did she really hide a crowbar in her boot?) a couple of times and backs out? What kind of villain is he? I was expecting epic fight to the death - not a quick surrender from the man who apparently loved pain! And what a bunch of lame servants the Lady has. No one defended her at all! The ending to me felt really rushed, and sort of anti-climactic. It just didn’t flow right. *Spoiler*
The Final Word: All in all, a pretty good supernatural read. The prose is elegant and haunting, and the world is beautifully creepy. I appreciate that this is a standalone novel, but I think I could have stood it to be a little longer. Some parts ended up feeling rushed. Mackie is a bit of a wimp, but a strong minor character cast make up for it.
Tea: There is a local shop in my town that makes their own teabags, and I would definitely pick their Jasmine Green Tea to go with this. It’s a very earthy, rich tea that makes me think of rainy days and dark corners. Perfect for such a creepy book about magical underground societies.