I wasn't planning on reading this book when I did, but I found myself requesting it from the library a bit on a whim. As it turns out it was rather serendipitous. The Replacement takes place the week of Halloween in a small town plagued with damp, overcast weather for weeks, maybe even months on end. This month has one of the worst Octobers I've seen and to top it off we had a damn hurricane. At least Gentry came out of it with fewer downed trees.
Brenna Yovanoff is my new best friend. Her writing has a beautiful rhythm to it, it really does read like poetry, I would love to hear it spoken aloud. She very quickly establishes the ghostly atmosphere of Gentry, but not through overwrought descriptions. Yovanoff is intriguingly economical with her words. A lot of imagination is left in what she leaves out, which I thought was clever, and suited the teen voice very well.
Mackie Doyle is a very real protagonist, which is interesting because he's not a real person, and I don't just mean in the sense that he is a fictional character. He's not human, but he's playing the role of one, because what else can he do? Up among the people of Gentry nearly everything he touches is poisonous to him, and down below he is missing all the things that are most important to him. As the story begins, Mackie is flickering in and out of his own life, barely able to function at school, and sleeping through most of his days, and that is the breaking point, along with the death of his classmate, Tate's, sister that jump starts the action in this book.
I think I'm slightly fascinated by that concept of fake people, holes in families that are filled in with artificial life. Mackie is defined by how self-conscious he is about the fact that he does not belong, even though no one will say it out loud. That's one of the things that gives the atmosphere of this book, this knowing but not saying. When the people of Gentry refuse to speak of what's clearly going on in their town, the folklore, the superstition germinates in their collective consciousness, and becomes more powerful. It becomes magic.
I love how sincere this book is. The characters are much more raw than they are in most young adult books. They are not always brave, and they don't always do the right thing and if they do they may not do it for the right reasons. But they are true to themselves and they are true to each other. The love between Mackie and his sister Emma is beautiful, and the budding relationship between Mackie and Tate is both crude and sweet at the same time, which I think is how teen romances should be treated more often. And Mackie's friends are wonderful, they're unique and individual as well incredibly faithful and strong.
I will admit The Replacement did not quite stick the landing. Not a lot of books do, even the great ones, so I'm not too miffed about it. I had a feeling about what was coming - there is a theme of sacrifice and intent, and we all know where those roads lead - but it ended up being a little vague. Basically, good form but there was a little bit of a wobble. Nonetheless it was very satisfying, touching, exciting and creepy all at once. I am very much looking forward to reading more Yovanoff.