Monday, April 28, 2014
Review: The Taking by Kimberly Derting
Review: The Taking by Kimberly Derting
Release date: April 29th, 2014
Series: Yes, #1 in The Taking series
Source: e-ARC via Edelweiss
Length: 368 pages
Rating: Eh? Not bad. Not great. Gag. INTRIGUE. Rage. Gag. Oooooh.
When sixteen-year-old Kyra Agnew wakes up behind a Dumpster at the Gas ’n’ Sip, she has no memory of how she got there. With a terrible headache and a major case of déjà vu, she heads home only to discover that five years have passed . . . yet she hasn’t aged a day.
Everything else about Kyra’s old life is different. Her parents are divorced, her boyfriend, Austin, is in college and dating her best friend, and her dad has changed from an uptight neat-freak to a drunken conspiracy theorist who blames her five-year disappearance on little green men.
Confused and lost, Kyra isn’t sure how to move forward unless she uncovers the truth. With Austin gone, she turns to Tyler, Austin’s annoying kid brother, who is now seventeen and who she has a sudden undeniable attraction to. As Tyler and Kyra retrace her steps from the fateful night of her disappearance, they discover strange phenomena that no one can explain, and they begin to wonder if Kyra’s father is not as crazy as he seems. There are others like her who have been taken . . . and returned. Kyra races to find an explanation and reclaim the life she once had, but what if the life she wants back is not her own
The best thing about this book is the set-up. After a huge fight with her father, Kyra hops out of the car, stumbles a few steps, and is blinded by a white light. She awakens, confused and alone, behind a gas station and stumbles home--only to discover fight years have gone by. And she's sill sixteen.
Talk about grabbing. And I was grabbed. I loved the beginning of this a lot, even if I was still mostly meh on Kyra's character. I figured this was going to be an action-packed, intrigues twisty plotty alien sci fi thing. And it kinda was... but also not. I really enjoyed the beginning, the actual "taking", and Kyra's confusing reappearing. Watching her figure out that something is quite, quite wrong... seeing the moment she realizes she's missed out on five years of her life, and, oh yeah, some things have changed a bit, was well done. The problems come after that inital rush of awesome when the plot stagnates and my credibility is stretched.
Oddly enough, it's not the aliens and the sci fi I didn't believe. That was pretty cool, actually, even if the final reveals are not really surprising. It's kind of exactly what you think it is. Even though I LOVED the end and especially loved the set-up for book two, which there's a good chance I'll read.
So what's the problem? This all sounds pretty positive, right? Well. Let's get started, kids.
So in the five years that Kyra has been missing, her family has fallen apart. Her parents divorced, her mother has a new husband and son, and her dad is a drunk conspiracy theorist. He witnessed Kyra's disappearance, and it has him firmly on the path of "It was the little green men!". Basically, he is this guy.
Not only that, but the boyfriend she planned on spending the rest of her life with has moved on... with her best friend. Which is a GIGANTIC plot point that is stupid. Oh, my god, Kyra, they thought you were dead. I get it's been only one day for you, and that would suck sooooo much. But I kind of wish Kyra had been more excited to talk to her best friend again and reassure her she was alive rather than get all upset about her dating her ex-boyfriend after five years and hanging UP on her the first time they chat on the phone. Give them a little credit. You VANISHED and they thought you were DEAD.
The only two people I thought I'd wanted to talk to were now the enemy, camped out together and colluding against me. Despite Cat's tearful pleas, I couldn't help picturing them together, having a good laugh over the way I'd called up and thought we'd pick up right where things left off.
Yes, it's reasonable to hear Cat's tearful pleas towards the friend she thought died five years ago and then assume she is probably laughing at that friend's folly. I'm sorry, I know it's only been a day or you, but that is cold. CALL YOUR GOD DAMN FRIEND. And then there was the ex-boyfriend himself, who also was not quite behaving the way one would if one's girlfriend/ex-best friend (which is what she was to Austin) reappeared from the dead. I don't know. That lengthy middle portion where she angsts around is quite turgid.It took too long for the actual sci fi mystery to start building. The stakes didn't show up until a solid 50% of the way through.
It's the parts of this book that most closely mirror a contemporary that didn't work for me. Namely this: WHERE ARE THE REPORTERS? THE FBI? THE POLICE? This girl was sixteen when she disappeared. She was underage, and a massive state-wide manhunt endured for months. But when she abruptly reappears out of freaking nowhere five years later, the only people who seem to care are her parents and a shady NSA agent who shows up on her doorstep four days after she returns. What. No. That's just not how the world reacts to missing white girls suddenly reappearing.Think of Jaycee Dugard. Elizabeth Smart. The women confined by Ariel Castro. MEDIA FREAKING CIRCUS. I didn't buy it.
And then... then, ladies and gentlemen, there is the romance.
Which is equal parts adorable, eye-rolly, and... GROSS. So before Kyra disappeared, her bf's littler brother, Tyler, was twelve years old, aka four years younger than Kyra and her bf. When Kyra returns, Tyler is seventeen... and smoking hot. And Kyra thinks and talks about this... constantly. And. I... I just...
I mean, Tyler is adorable. Unrealistically sincere, but cute. Don't get me wrong. But it takes so long to reveal that Kyra actually is still sixteen, but they're being all flirty even thought they think she's twenty-one and he' seventeen and aaaargh, she last knew him when he was twelve! Arrrgh! Also, he is a wee bit creepily persistent, considering that, to Kyra, she was dating his older brother a week ago. Plus, the Tyler infatuation comes MIGHTY fast. Literally the moment she sees this person who was twelve years old yesterday to her, she's lusting all over him. Ewwwwwwwl
This book feels a bit like untapped potential. The beginning is kind of amazing, but then it never quite kicks into overdrive. For a bit there it is mostly just "Man, is my boyfriend's little brother super hot now!" and "Tyler's eyes are green just like Austin's, but it's a slightly different shade of green. Let me explain the shades of green to you in great detail". I'm good, Kyra. Honestly, I am. Let's worry a bit more about WHERE YOU'VE BEEN FOR THE LAST FIVE YEARS AND WHY YOU CAN'T REMEMBER, HUH?
Yeah, then there's Kyra herself, whom I liked, but whom I wanted more from. I wanted to feel more of her pain and loneliness and the side effects of her ordeal. I do like how she becomes obsessed with knowing the date and the time all the time. But beyond that, there's not enough depth of feeling and memory and grief. The bits that Derting does throw in hurt my heart so much, but there should have been more. Kyra's whole life and softball-playing future evaporated. She remembers it like it was yesterday, but she doesn't mourn it quite as much as I would if I woke up tomorrow and I was a stranger in a life that no longer fit me. If I was tossed out of time. The moments Kyra dwells on the ways her friends have matured and changed compared to her, the milestones she missed, are the ones that hit me most. When she's heartbroken about the desperate, splintered man her dad's become and the stranger her mom's become with her replacement family
But none of that mattered, standing there in the last place where everything had been normal. Where I'd been Kyra Agnew, superstar pitcher, only child, teammate, and unquestionably sixteen.
That's what I wanted more of from the emotional parts from Kyra.
"If I hadn't vanished that night, then I wouldn't have had the chance to know you now. Not like this."
And that is not what I wanted more of. No. I get Tyler's the best thing happening to you now, but don't be grateful your whole life was put through the crapper because it helped you bond with your new love interest. No. That's the silver lining, but it can't outweigh the fact that your old life is over, you missed five years of history and pop culture and personal milestones and your brother being born, and your family has fallen apart and your friends have moved on, all of which are things you should be a teeeensy bit sadder about.
So, yeah. The very beginning is great, and then comes the contemporary-like stretch which is... less successful. But as the mystery and the intrigue start to build, so did my interest. Then things happen! Yay things! Sciencey plotty conspiracy theory things!STRANGE THINGS. Like people dying. Like her suddenly being a lot... stronger than she remembered. And mysterious people following her. And then we get a story. 50% of the way in. It becomes a whole different book after that, but I sadly can't say much, because spoilers. Spoilers you'll figure out quickly, but still. Spoilers.
I did chuckle when the mysterious out of state area code on the phone was... 310. Aka MY area code. Lolll we West Los Angelenos are RIGHT DANGEROUS. BE AFRAID
It's a pretty engaging read, and at no point was I bored with it, despite the parts that are, objectively, probably a little boring. I wanted to know what was going on, damn it! And that kept me turning the pages very quickly. I liked her love of softball and the way she knows she's sixteen because of the muscle memory and how fit her body is (but oh my god, Kyra, metropolis is not a big word, do not be impressed that a boy pulled out all four mighty syllables).
So, yeah, very mixed bag on that one. And Tyler is adorable. I just wish... well, I wish I didn't gag whenever they kissed, to be honest. Oh well.