Sunday, December 23, 2012
Review: Blood, She Read by Sara Hubbard
Title: Blood, She Read
Author: Sara Hubbard
Rating: 3 Stars
It isn't unusual to come across a book, every so often, that you read and simply know that you'd have loved it, if only your expectations had been a little different. In fact, one of the best things about reading those types of books is the knowledge that you'll go back to it in the future, maybe a couple of months or years down the line, and truly just love it. It happened to me very recently, with Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier, and seems to have happened again with Hubbard's debut, Blood, She Read.For me, the main factor preventing me from enjoying Blood, She Read more than I did was the mere fact that I was constantly anticipating for the plot to focus more on the alluded murder mystery in the synopsis. Now, don't worry - it's certainly there and very present - but unlike other novels, it isn't the sole focus. Instead, Blood, She Read is a paranormal mystery that is more character-driven than anything else and this unique change made it an extremely interesting read, to say the least.
Hubbard's debut opens up by introducing us to Petra Marras, our protagonist who has descended from a long line of witches and has the power to read people or objects with a mere touch. When the trail of the murder of a teenage girl goes cold, the police come knocking on Petra's door for help. Petra, whose father is estranged from her family, has been forced by her father to use her powers for a variety of evil deeds. As such, she feels responsible to use her powers for good and help in any way she can, but, as most good deeds, this winds up backfiring. Not only do the police nab the wrong guy, the murdered girl's secret boyfriend, but Petra begins to be threatened by his older brother in school, not to mention the police officer keeps blackmailing her for more information and accidentally gets fed a love spell by her mother. Just to make matters worse, though, strange Petra who is usually given a wide berth in school makes a new friend, only to have him be the best friend of the murdered girl and a rival of the girl, Josie's, boyfriend, Finn, who happens to like Petra. In a world so confusing where Petra doesn't know who to trust, the killer could be lurking right around the corner and maybe, this time he's coming after her...
Although the driving force behind all the events in Blood, She Read is the murder of Josie, a local teenage girl, it isn't the main plot thread at all. Instead, as I mentioned before, this paranormal mystery is more character-driven than anything else. Petra's life has been far from normal with a father who has exploited her powers and a mother who shies away from affection. Thus, finally away from her father, all Petra wants is normal. Yet, since her mother inherited the house of Petra's aunt, who made it publicly known that they were a family of witches, Petra continues to be the odd one out. One of the first things that struck me about this tale was how complex the relationship between Petra and her mother is. It isn't your usual mother-daughter relationship and although they could behave like best friends at times, there was an undercurrent of tension throughout the novel for here are two women who don't know how to relate to one another. More than anything else, their interactions and their journey was a driving and compelling force behind this tale that, in my opinion, truly captured the heart of the teenage girl.
In addition to Petra's relationship with her mom, her friendship with Dylan, the best friend of Josie, was a vital aspect of this novel. In Dylan, Petra finds someone she can trust and rely on and for her, this is a huge deal. I love that Petra was very strong outwardly, exhibiting a cool exterior that showed others that their dislike of her didn't bother her in the least, while inside, she was every bit as vulnerable as expected. It was Petra's constant growth throughout the novel that was so realistically portrayed and really made me a fan of her. Even Petra's romance with Finn, although going through its ups-and-downs and not being the main focus of the plot, was very sweet and nicely done. It allowed us to see both Petra and Finn as individuals before seeing how their interactions together made them better people. Furthermore, Hubbard addressed issues such as Finn being a suspected murder target, not to mention someone who might simply be using Petra or taking advantage of her because they too were now un-cool, very well.
Nevertheless, despite my adoration of the characterization in this novel, I did have some minor qualms that, when added up, took away from this story. For one, there is no real plot to Blood, She Read. Now, that doesn't mean it's a haphazard novel, but it isn't focused on finding the murderer and nor is it focused on romance or friendship. It's a little bit of everything, which is fine, and it never lags or bores the reader, but it does leave a slightly more solidified plot thread to be desired. In addition, for a novel that is marketed as a murder mystery, there is a shocking amount of world-building that is lacking. We never even realize that we need this until the last fifth of the novel, but after finishing the book, I am increasingly curious about Petra's world. Furthermore, I found that Blood, She Read was excruciatingly predictable. On one hand, it was never irritating to wait while Petra figured out the murderer that the reader had already known, for it was a difficult choice for Petra to really acknowledge and accept, but at the same time, I can't help but wish that it hadn't been so obvious. In my mind, there were way too many clues strewn about and constantly repeated, which simply detracted from the novel. Even the plot twists surrounding Finn were deceptively easy to figure out, all making for a read that lacked a shock-factor.
Ultimately, however, with some altered expectations about the murder mystery, Blood, She Read is a debut that won't disappoint. In Petra, we find a heroine that is strong, yet realistically vulnerable and a mother-daughter relationship that puts most others to shame. It is these character dynamics, explored so vividly and with such attention to detail, that make this novel the gem it is. If you're a fan of paranormal romance with a dash of mystery and a heavy dose of characterization, Blood, She Read is the definite book for you.
A huge thank you to Sara Hubbard for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.