Review : Stranger (Rachel Manija Brown)

16034526Title : Stranger
Author : Rachel Manija Brown
Published : Novembre 11th, 2014
Series : The Change, #1


Many generations ago, a mysterious cataclysm struck the world. Governments collapsed and people scattered, to rebuild where they could. A mutation, “the Change,” arose, granting some people unique powers. Though the area once called Los Angeles retains its cultural diversity, its technological marvels have faded into legend. “Las Anclas” now resembles a Wild West frontier town… where the Sheriff possesses superhuman strength, the doctor can warp time to heal his patients, and the distant ruins of an ancient city bristle with deadly crystalline trees that take their jewel-like colors from the clothes of the people they killed.
Teenage prospector Ross Juarez’s best find ever – an ancient book he doesn’t know how to read – nearly costs him his life when a bounty hunter is set on him to kill him and steal the book. Ross barely makes it to Las Anclas, bringing with him a precious artifact, a power no one has ever had before, and a whole lot of trouble.


Rating :

3starsA cast of characters you’re not used to see anywhere else


• my thoughts •


“Ross felt the tree before they saw it, moonlight reflecting crimson off its gemlike facets. He knew where it was like he knew his own left hand. He could even sense how far the shards could reach. And he knew it wouldn’t loose those shards at him. “

I completely breezed through that book. Though it’s a little over 400-pages (child’s play, really), and it reads super quickly and easily. A lot of chapters are pack-full of action, and those that aren’t, are just main characters furthering their own little stories. So, lots of things to see here.

Despite all that, I couldn’t help but feel like the whole execution was a little clumsy : the plot is there, but the details go by too fast, and like, not enough time is given to the important things. There are too many inner monologues which just feel like the characters are talking out loud to themselves without any purpose whatsoever, like it would be if you’re reading someone’s diary. That sort of writing really doesn’t appeal to me, at all.

There are way too many characters. It’s great that the whole universe seems to be so clear inside the author’s head, but from a reader’s point of view, it’s impossible to keep track of everyone. Like, it’s great that each character that appears in the book, however briefly, has a name, an identity, but is it really useful to the reader to know that one’s name (mentioned in passing, by the way), when they won’t appear again in the story ? More importantly, should you really keep introducing new characters, present in the story for a only a couple chapters, when the main cast is more than enough to get the plot going ? The answer is no, by the way.

The end result is like when you’re trying to do too many things at the same time : none of them gets done well. It feels like the plot is scattered and the story suffers from that. I can assure you that most readers would prefer a small band of characters that’s developed well, than a big group of people you only get brief glances at.

I mean, it works in real-life, where everything doesn’t have to be tightly brought together, but in terms of storytelling, it isn’t really compelling.

But, even if the characters are too numerous, they’re really what sold the story, for me. For all those who crave diversity, this book brings it tenfold : disabled characters, a character on the asexual spectrum, hints at possible polyamory (I will never stop hoping, okay ?!), gay and lesbian couples everywhere, all of the couples are mixed-race, the large majority of the characters isn’t white … It’s just beautiful and I wish more books were so explicitly inclusive, you know, because it’s too easy to say “Yeah, that particular thing was never clear, so everyone can read whatever they want into it”. In this book, it’s all very clear, you can’t imagine Jennie as anything but a black young-woman, or the Vardams as anything but Indian. There’s no hiding, the diversity is right there in your face, and it’s good ! It’s even better than no one bats an eyelash at it. “Yeah, Becky likes girls, no big deal” (*shrug*). That’s the kind of book I’ve always wanted.

I’m still hesitating on whether I want to read the sequels, but in the end, no matter the flaws, this book still left a good impression on me.


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