Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Series That's Turning Out To Be As Addictive As Candy - And Just As Nutritious For Young, Impressionable Minds

Source: Author Website
Chosen (House of Night #3) by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008, 320pp.)

In Chosen, the third installment in the “House of Night” series, Zoey Redbird tries to help her best friend, Stevie Rae (who has recently become “undead,” for a lack of a better word), return to her lovely old self. Her attempts to restore her friend’s humanity at whatever cost is very sweet, engaging, and makes for a good story. Unfortunately, the quality of the novel as a whole is off-set by the other accompanying story-lines, including a somewhat questionable subplot involving Zoey and her three love interests: Erik Night, her “official” boyfriend; Heath, her human ex who’s still in love with her; and Loren, a handsome professor who takes a not-so-scholarly interest in her. Like its predecessors, Chosen is a book buoyed with a few good ideas, but is made lopsided by the weight of its flaws. It sometimes resorts to stereotypes, and very often chooses the melodramatic over the realistic. Christians, here, are portrayed as little more than narrow-minded idiots. When Zoey’s fundamentalist mother and stepfather make their first, and only, appearance in the story, they start spouting Bible verses and fire-and-brimstone rhetoric like there’s no tomorrow. Zoey, meanwhile, is allowed to stand by feeling smug, secure in the knowledge that she is light-years ahead of them with her hip New Age beliefs. The Casts also show little to no dexterity in handling the matter of Zoey’s love life. The traditional “torn between two” plot device is a little threadbare, but at least plausible. The fact that Zoey is being courted not only by two guy friends, but also one of her professors, is ridiculous. The fact that she ends up giving her virginity to one of these love interests, and then later walks in on him gloating about his conquest with her worst enemy—while they’re in bed together—leads one to suspect that the authors have never encountered the concept of subtlety before, either.

I have surely voiced enough complaints to turn some readers away from the series. However—despite its numerous flaws, predictable Mary Sue elements, and teen melodrama, the “House of Night” series has a tendency to grow on you. This is due mostly in part to two characters who truly stand out from the rest: Stevie Rae and Aphrodite. Stevie Rae, a sensitive, cowboy boot-wearing teen with a tender heart (she cries during Lifetime movies), she’s really the ideal best friend any adolescent girl could ask for. Aphrodite, on the other hand, Zoey’s Queen Bee adversary, is evolving from the flat villainess seen in Book 1 into an interesting, out-spoken young woman with more beneath the surface than previously suspected. So, thanks to a combination of limited POV narration (to maintain mystery and suspense), a well-developed (if not exactly mind-blowing) fantasy world, and some surprisingly memorable characters, the cliff-hanger ending of Chosen will have interested readers springing for the next volume. So, to those interested in pursuing the series further, more power to you. It’s not an outstanding series, but it certainly is turning out to be almost as addictive as candy - and just as nutritious for young, impressionable minds. Recommended for Ages 16-18 for language and brief sexual content.

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