Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody

Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody

First published in 1987 (this copy was 2008), Paperback, 244 pages.

This premise is a mix of fantasy and science fiction. From Goodreads, the description reads:

For Elspeth Gordie freedom is-like so much else after the Great White-a memory.

It was a time known as the Age of Chaos. In a final explosive flash everything was destroyed. The few who survived banded together and formed a Council for protection. But people like Elspeth-mysteriously born with powerful mental abilities-are feared by the Council and hunted down like animals...to be destroyed.

Her only hope for survival to is keep her power hidden. But is secrecy enough against the terrible power of the Council?

Sounds fascinating, right? Post-apocalyptic young adult fiction and people with strange powers who are feared. The synopsis doesn't really go very far, though: Her powers are found out soon in the book and she moves to a mysterious place for Misfits called Obernewtyn. For a few pages, I thought it might be some kind of Hogwarts, but it definitely wasn't. Obernewtyn is full of dangers and Elspeth and her friends are soon trying to figure out what kind of experiments the doctor is doing on their friends.

Right off the bat, it's obvious this isn't modern fiction. The voice is different, the pace much slower. It took me a while to get into the book and to even decide that I liked it. The narrator, Elspeth, is quite dry, and sometimes I wasn't even convinced she was scared when she definitely should have been. We don't find out anything about her appearance until almost the end. Had there not been a girl on the cover, I'm not sure how I would have imagined Elspeth. 

There is a lot of telling instead of showing. Part of that makes sense because the book takes place over a long period of time, but I kept thinking of JK Rowling. In Chamber of Secrets, instead of saying something like, "Rumors flew, especially among the Hufflepuffs, that Harry was the heir of Slytherin" she shows us conversations among the Hufflepuffs where they are theorizing that Harry could be the heir. I wish Isobelle Carmody had done something like this, because I knew very little about the Misfits at Obernewtyn except for about five of them. 

That was another thing that I didn't like -- I felt like she didn't give me much information about the characters. I wanted to know more about Matthew and Dameon and Cameo. It's like the author suddenly expected me to root for them and believe in their friendship with Elspeth even though it seemingly came out of nowhere.

All of that said, the last hundred pages were great. I was lying in bed last night and I just had to finish the book. Carmody has such a great premise, and it's neat how she pulls together the Beforetime machines and the Misfit powers. It's really interesting since this book was written in the 80s, so she wasn't even aware of all the crazy machines we have today! But she can write a great action scene. I was on the edge of my seat at the end. I'm really rooting for Elspeth and Rushton. I believe Rushton has some more secrets that the author hasn't told us yet. 

In the end, it's revealed that Elspeth has a bigger purpose than just protecting her friends who are being experimented on, and I will search out the second book. I think my library has the entire series. I actually picked it up because I wanted to get invested in a big series like this. Perhaps the writing style will get better as it goes on. I gave it 3/5 stars because I did like it, it just wasn't an amazing read for me. 

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