There were no surprises in Gatlin County.
We were pretty much the epicenter of the middle of nowhere.
At least, that’s what I thought.
Turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
There was a curse.
There was a girl.
And in the end, there was a grave.
Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.
Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.
In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.
I couldn’t get into this book. I tried, I kept reading it, then I’d put it down for awhile, and then I’d read it again. There were things I liked. The story was narrated by a normal human boy who was mooning over a supernatural teenage girl instead of the other way around, but I was kind of wondering why it wasn’t just narrated by Lena.
The thing I couldn’t get past, and this is a silly thing that is no reflection on the author and the writing, but I am so tired of the depiction of THAT south. I’ve lived in the South almost all my life. Heck, I went to school in Phenix City, Alabama, a city so southern that it’s spelled wrong. (Don’t tell me it’s not, their whole reason for choosing the name was to grab hold of that “out of the ashes metaphor. I took Alabama State History. I know). There was definitely some Civil War fascination, and now that I think about it, in history that was pretty much all we focused on. But that’s not the attitude of the whole south. That’s not even the attitude of a whole southern town. The kids are tired of it there too. My husband lived in a city so small that he is literally related to over half the town. They can be closed minded, sure, but not every single person. What does this add to Southern Literature? I’m not saying to ignore the bigotry, but don’t make is SO one dimensional. There is more to us.
This story, to me, seemed like it grabbed on to every negative southern stereotype in every direction. We have a black maid/cook/wise woman of the swamp who dabbles in Voodoo type magic. Rabid Southern church-goers, gossiping judgmental Daughters of the Revolution. Mysterious shut ins who get referred to as Boo-Radley. Bitchy cheerleaders. Annoying jocks. I mean really, there couldn’t have been a single other positive female role Lena’s age? Our protagonist has known these kids his entire life. Wouldn’t he know there was more to them? The only good people in the entire city are either out of towners or magic users or the MC? I couldn’t get over how offended this made me on behalf of my whole region to get into the story. I had to put the story down every time I got to a line that started like “In the South, we…” And that happened a lot.
And can we talk about the fact that one of the “evil” female characters defining characteristics was that she acted slutty? Can we sending girls the message that their sexuality is evil and can overpower an otherwise good boys judgement and make them do things they otherwise wouldn’t? Intimacy with Lena literally hurts/can kill the MC.
Lena has to be saved. This is Ethan’s mission from his very first dream. That kind of redeems itself since she is the one who saves him and she’s got powers, but there’s kind of an undertone that Lena wasn’t strong enough without him.
I loved the message of claim yourself, that there is good and evil in all of us, but I wish for once, “evil” for a woman didn’t have to be expressed by how promiscuous they act. How is THAT attitude any different than the attitude of those evil, close-minded southerners that get jabbed at so much in this book?