Sixteen-year-old Ethan Wate thinks nothing would ever change in the small town of Gatlin, South Carolina. That is until Lena Duchannes moves into town, and Ethan’s world is flipped upside down. He finds himself instantly connected to this mysterious beauty, and as the two grow closer, he learns more than he bargained for: about her, about Gatlin, and even his own family.
I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. I only looked into it after finding out that one of my favorite actors is playing Larkin in the film adaptation. I thought it seemed a little Twilight-ish, and while there are some similarities, I found this book far more enjoyable.
As far as the similarities with Twilight are concerned, it’s a supernatural romance, only this time it’s the new girl in town who has the supernatural abilities, rather than the boy. Like Edward in Twilight, Lena tries to avoid a relationship with Ethan because she fears for his safety. Also like Edward, she is a part of a family where each member has a distinct ability different from the rest. However that’s where the similarities end.
This book isn't just about the romance between the two leads, it’s also about friendship, bullying, and bigotry. Lena is tortured by the kids at school because she is different and labeled as dangerous by the locals. Ethan loses most of his friends in defending and loving her – making him a strong and endearing character in my eyes. He has a sense of himself and sticks to his beliefs of right and wrong despite what the people around him say and do. I’m glad the authors chose to tell the story from his perspective.
It took a while for Lena to grow on me because she was so closed off. We get to know her as Ethan does, and despite her early reservations we see her fall as much for him as he has for her. Their relationship is sweet and above all else, healthy. Neither one tries to control the other, and they work together to help solve the mysteries surrounding their connection and to keep her safe from what she ultimately fears – being claimed by the darkness.
Link is a true best friend to Ethan, never abandoning him, even when all of his other friends do. He accepts Lena as a friend and aids Ethan in defending her against the bullying students of their high school. Ridley, Lena’s cousin, is lovable despite the fact that she’s dark. She still seems to have feelings, at least for her cousin, despite the fact that once she was claimed by the darkness she wasn't supposed to feel anything for anyone. She takes matters into her own hands when Lena wont, and her actions against the snotty popular girls are hilarious.
While the writing isn't phenomenal, it’s decent. There were a few repeated details that weren't necessary, like constantly telling the reader that Lena has green eyes, black curly hair that twists in a nonexistent wind, and is beautiful. The writers also had a way of making characters seemingly disappear in a scene, such as Larkin at the climax of the novel. There is so much focus on the main villain of the story that Larkin isn't heard from for at least three pages even though he is also in the scene. I began to wonder where he was for a while. I did, however, like the homages to To Kill a Mockingbird and Carrie, both modern classics in my opinion.
The story was cute and a fun read. The characters all have distinct personalities and, if I didn't love them right away, they grew on me as the story progressed – with the exception of the bullies and bigots in town, of course. Despite my reservations about reading this book, I enjoyed it, and am looking forward to getting my hands on the next entry in the series.