Reading Level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Razorbill (September 21, 2010)
Source: Won an ARC!
Cover: There is nothing not to hearts and kisses about this cover. Seriously! It's one of the most interesting and unique covers I've ever seen. I immediately want to know what this story is about and what could possibly possess someone to hang sharp object over a baby carriage and how a replacement has something to do with any of this. It's a win in my book!
First Sentence: "I don't remember any of the true, important parts, but there's this dream I have."
The Mini-Review: Mackie is one of the most developed and interesting characters I've met in literature up to date and with a plot as fun to match, it made it hard for me to put this book down.
Mackie Doyle is the Replacement. Thought he lives in the small town of Gentry, Mackie comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement--left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is slowly dying in the human world.
Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with an oddly intriguing girl called Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.
I would hesitate to call Mackie Doyle a hero. The truth of the matter is his friends kick a lot more butt than he does. But the fact that he isn't makes him real in a way that was so brilliant and addictive that I'll take a serving of more main characters like him. The world building, the plot and the character really shine through in Yovanoff's debut The Replacements.
The thing about Mackie is he's so busy trying to pretend to be normal that he notices every little thing people do so reading through his perspective was a true insight into the way people try to act. I loved that Mackie was fragile, always working to pretend that he wasn't sick or scared crapless of not blending in with the crowd. There were many chances for him to play the hero where he simply can't because of his physical weaknesses to normal things like blood and iron or where he simple won't so he doesn't stick out. Haunted by an old tale (which turns out to be true), he refuses to allow himself to live and anything going against completely average cripples him. But, for all of this, Mackie knows exactly who is and never pretends to be something he's not or physically incapable of being. It his brutally honest to himself and towards others that makes him such a lovable character.
Enter broken, stubborn Tate. A girl who isn't afraid to turn against the grain of the entire town and call out the bullcrap while everyone else turns the other way. Babies disappear every seven years and are replaced by something not quite human. Not malevolent per say but the thing in the crib isn't your darling baby sister. Turns out they stole the wrong little sister and now Tate is mad. She's willing to fight, shout and explore herself into a world she has no idea how to handle. And she knows Mackie got something to do with what's happening and she'd rather destroy them both than stop searching for the truth. Tate was one of the best characters in this book. She takes on guys and girls with a reckless disregard for her own safety and kicks their asses for getting in her way. She doesn't give up but she's not dumb about how she plays things. I loved her!
Mackie's three pals were a great set of characters too. Roswell was a particular favorite of mine. I have never felt that two characters were as connected as besties as I did with Roswell and Mackie. Even at the worst of times, they had an easy understanding that was tested again and again. There is a scene where they are talking at a park picnic table that, in my opinion, was the single most best scene in this novel, because in that moment, I believed in these two characters like I believe in my own friends. Also, Mackie relationship with his sister was an interesting part of the novel and felt really believable, especially since they're not exactly siblings but have a bond just as strong.
I liked the world building, Mayhem was interesting and topsy-turvy a la Tim Burton but I wanted a bit more about the back story and the citizens of Mayhem. Mackie asks repeatedly what the citizens of Mayhem are and I felt the question was never really answered. The more I read, the more hazy these creatures, what they do, and what they want became even hazier. It just felt a bit underdeveloped and in a novel with such developed and believable characters, these holes really stuck out. I also felt like I needed a little bit more clarification on his mother's story. It wasn't enough to ruin the story but it did leave me with some questions I'd really liked answered at the end.
I loved the underground inhabitants of Mayhem from the adorably creepy the Morrigan to Carlina and Rasputin Sings the Blues to The Cutter. There was something almost like beauty about all of them that made them like a knife, glistening and deadly sharp. Their existence really pushed the story into the creepy territory but in a good way, like something you just have to touch.
The dialog felt realistic but at times, I found myself retracing words to see if I'd missed something. The answers didn't really fit with the questions or some sentence came out of the blue that didn't mesh with the flow of the conversation. This only happened a few times but was a little jarring.
Yovanoff's writing flowed like smooth like butter. Every sentence had a flavor all it's own and really worked towards developing Mackie as a character. Take this passage for instance, when Tate is yelling at Mackie:
"You don't get to tell me what I should do. That's what I should have said. You don't get to be self-righteous, because you have no idea what it's like to be me. People get beaten to death for being me. People have close, personal relationships with lynch mobs for being me. I am on the outside all the time, with no chance at a normal life, no way to be average or to fit in. Free weights in PE constitutes a medical emergency, food poisoning means anything that comes in a can. Oh, and by the way, there's a really good chance I'm dying, so that's pretty awesome."There didn't seem to be wasted words even though this novel was 352 pages. I would have actually preferred another to just clarify some things.
The Replacement isn't a novel to be forgotten. With it's twisting tunnel settings and plot, it's train wreck cast of characters (all slightly disturbing but too fascinating to look away from) and a very different sort of main character, it's well worth the read and I'm eagerly awaiting Yovanoff's next release.