Saturday, June 2, 2012
Cornerstone, by Misty Provencher
Nalena's story captured me from the first sentence. The image of a girl living with a mother who writes constantly, filling the house with piles and piles of paper covered with small, neat writing, was addictive. And Nalena herself is beautifully realized. Like Harry Potter in The Order of the Phoenix, she is adolescent and angry.
Her anger is understandable. She is bullied at school, and she has to lug home those reams of paper for her mom. She's pretty, and she could be popular, but because one girl saw the inside of her home, her nickname is "The Waste."
It isn't until she meets Garrett Reece that her life begins to change. He is gorgeous and kind, and his family takes Nalena and her mother in. More importantly, he seems to understand her mom and why Nalena herself is starting to experience some strange episodes of her own.
Provencher insisted on including the fantasy element in the book, to the point of rejecting agents' cries for a rewrite into a more realistic book. The fantasy is well-done, although the ending does feel a bit rushed. (As a fellow author I can sympathize; endings are incredibly difficult to pull off.) Still, it's satisfying and makes me want more.
Keystone will be the next in the series, and I shall certainly look for it.
Here's what I liked about the book:
1. The writing is fantastic. "A wave of hot, rancid stomach soup rolls through me." I remember that stomach soup feeling from my own teens. That little sentence captures that feeling of dread perfectly.
Another example: "There's a whole library full of empty tables up front, but this boy, with hair that would probably feel like soft twine between my fingertips, has to sit here." Great description, and I'm very thankful that she resisted the urge to use the Jewel Words: topaz eyes, etc.
2. Nalena herself. She's a well-drawn, conflicted character.
3. The tensions between Nalena and her mother. It's perfect and logical.
4. Provencher is self-published, and the format and edit are just about perfect. Too many self-published novels roll into cyberspace with myriad errors, and Cornerstone is clean of those. Again, as an author with a small (tiny) press, I appreciate this. Self-publication is an art form, and Provencher has pulled it off beautifully!
A few quibbles:
1. You know that I love female friendships. Nalena and Garrett become friends, but she doesn't have a girlfriend to chat with in the book. The one girl who hangs with her in school, Cora, is depicted as a physically repulsive, not-very-nice person. I would have preferred to see a friend who could be counted on throughout the story.
2. Garrett was just a bit too perfect. He's gorgeous and kind, as I said, but he really would have sprung to life if he had a few flaws.
Perhaps these will be addressed in the next book. And I'm being very picky. For those quibbles, I give Provencher a 4 out of 5 stars, and I definitely recommend this as a great read.
You can buy Cornerstone here: on Amazon and on Barnes and Noble Nook
and find Misty Provencher here: http://mistypro.blogspot.com/
She is also on Twitter: @mistyprovencher