REVIEW: The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars, Genre: Fiction/ Young Adult/ Horror, Pages: 352, Level: Easy

Book Description from Barnes & Noble:

Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he 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 fighting to survive in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, 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.

Edward Scissorhands meets The Catcher in the Rye in this wildly imaginative and frighteningly beautiful horror novel about an unusual boy and his search for a place to belong.

I tried really, really hard to enjoy this book.

The plot is intriguing. Unfortunately, the execution was lacking. For those who remember the short story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” The Replacement is a similar theme. There is an underground of walking dead and demons. In a small town, one of the demons kidnaps a child once every seven years and devours it. That child is replaced with a sickly child from the underground, who usually dies shortly after. As a result, the demon ensures the town enjoys prosperity and is not affected by natural disasters.

The main character is a Replacement but because of the love of his sister, who witnessed the exchange when she was 4, he was able to thrive and live into his teens. But now he is getting sick and must finally meet the underground and help them in exchange for his health/life. Since the underground feed off the town’s love and admiration, they have a rock band that performs and is very good. As a result, the underground gets the admiration they need to survive.

Yes, you read that right… a rock band. It is just too cheesy. The author had such a great premise and then ruined it, for me that is. The author could have even kept the rock band as long as it was a part of a bigger picture, like the arts. They feed off the admiration of plays, movies, art, etc. and the field of the arts is filled with the underground. Many of the themes of the works of art could have been the characters and history of the underground. That could have worked. But it took the alternate route, which I thought was a bit too cheesy.

The writing is not the best, in my opinion. And it seemed very inconsistent. There were parts that were interesting and flowed nicely, but there were a lot of parts that were confusing and just awkward. I re-read many sections, which didn’t help, and then just gave up because they didn’t seem integral to the story. There were also a lot of typos, which is a little distracting for me, especially when I am having a hard time getting into the book to begin with. I would get to an interesting part, get into the flow and then a typo would stop me in my tracks because I would have to go back and figure out what word should not have been there. It may be nitpicky, but those kinds of things bother me when they are frequent.

What would have made it better for me- First, the editing clearly should have been better, not just to eliminate the typos or grammatical errors (in some places I’m not really sure which it is), but to smooth out some of the awkward parts or to make better transitions between some scenes. Second, I would have liked to have seen more history of the Underground. Maybe the book could have started with one of the scenes from long ago when a warrior sacrificed himself. The whole first chapter could have been about that and then chapter 2 starts with Mackie. Later, there could be flashbacks or conversations with others that reveal more of the history. Third, I wanted more details on what happened after the Mackie switch. I wanted to see how the parents reacted, how he was treated, how the town reacted, how Emma played a pivotal role in Mackie’s survival. I don’t know. There just seemed to be so much missing that it left me unsatisfied.

If executed better, this book could have been a great book for discussion. Is it morally okay to sacrifice one individual to ensure the happiness of many? Why would a whole town just turn their head the other way and not band together and do something? Why would people stay in the town? Is it morally acceptable to treat a Replacement with less care after your own child was taken? None of these were adequately explored. The plot was so intriguing that the author could have fully developed these points of discussion without losing the interest of a Young Adult.

The reading is very easy and if you get into the book, it’s a quick read. I didn’t and found myself distracted by laundry, the squirrels playing in the backyard, FB updates that were surely there, etc. This book should have taken me one day to read but I ended up trudging through it. The only reason I didn’t put it down is because I wanted it to get better and by the time I was ready to call it quits, I was three quarters of the way through. By that point, it seemed like a waste not to finish.

Reviewed by Christina

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