Monday, November 14, 2011

Book Review: Kate Cann's "Consumed"

In many current young adult books, settings include either modern-day reality or fantasy life. Rarely do they include both. Kate Cann's 2011 Consumed tells the story of teenager, Rayne, and her new home at a place called Morton's Keep. When I first began reading, I assumed I was starting a book about witches and spells and evil spirits. Well, I was, but the reader learns halfway into the book that just outside of the main action is regular old London, full of coffee shops and gossip and television. Plenty of normal day-to-day events are happening all over the world.

But in Morton's Keep, ancient pagan spirits are about to be released, after being contained for hundreds of years. No one is sure what or whom is behind it, but one thing is clear. Rayne has some sort of connection with the only one who can stop it: a pagan goddess everyone calls "the green lady." Non-stop action and infinite questions consume the reader until the last word.

Structure: 4 out of 5 stars

From page 1, I was intrigued. When the story begins, Rayne has been caught up in some violent love triangle, which concludes in a dungeon fire. This, however, is only the tip of the iceberg for both violence and love triangles, as well as a mess of confusion, betrayal, and unlikely friendships. Cann keeps her chapters short. There is never a lull in the story line, and the reader continues to get caught up in the ancient myths.

Though I discovered after I finished the book that Consumed is a sequel to Possessed (and I assume much of the exposition is contained there), I would have liked to see a bit more back story for the new reader here. Many characters were introduced and events referenced right off the bat, and I found myself rereading some pages in the intro chapters to stay afloat. The story itself trapped me in a nice way, but it would have been a smoother read with a couple of extra detailed paragraphs bringing the new reader up-to-date. Overall, though, a great story.

Characters: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Rayne and her partner-in-crime, Ethan, lead most of the book, but a group of other characters round out the novel for a fulfilling read. The housekeeper, Mrs. Driver, seems like a background figure, but then takes hold of the last third of the book. The new house manager, Miss Skelton, continues to surprise and aggravate everyone in Morton's Keep until she takes a brutal shift halfway through the story. St. John Arlington, Possessed's antagonist, is an easy write-off as seemingly harmless, having been put to shame at the end of Book One, but then also reappears. And, of course, Ethan's crew of fire festival boys become necessary to the story and to everyone's survival.

Cann gives the reader an incredible group of characters. No one is ever certain who the enemy is, which keeps the cast of misfits on their toes. In a surprising act of agency, the author also leaves the fate of Morton's Keep in the hands of the teenagers; the adults in the story all step back and let the young adults lead.

In the last chapters, Cann references Miss Skelton's eerie past, as well as her niece, Tara's. If the author churns out one more read to make it a trilogy, I would be eager to hear more about some of the darker figures' pasts, and hear the "how" and "why" of their place in Book Two.

Voice: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Rayne dominates as the protagonist. She is confident without being cocky, she is cautious without being a wimp. Ethan relies heavily on her to keep the action moving. While a romantic tone follows the story line like a shadow, Rayne rarely lets any kind of stereotypical teenage girl (the kind often projected by the media) show. She is all business, albeit she doesn't mind the handsome company. While the reader trusts her, we don't quite know what is going on inside her head, particularly when she is consumed by sensations of evil.

That was one of the high points of Rayne's tale, honestly. She could walk into a room and feel something wrong, or approach a person and sense their dark thoughts - she is even drawn to different places in the woods or around the Morton's Keep grounds where help is needed, though she can't explain how. I love the way the reader and Rayne find those answers together. Again, I felt a little unknowing about Rayne for the first past of the book (where is her family, how did she get here, why is she alone - all things that were certainly explained in Possessed), but otherwise enjoyed her as the protagonist.

Cann has given readers a great story that isn't overwrought with romance, spells, or a dominating future government, though pieces of those themes do arise. Consumed is unique its place among other YA novels because it neither rejects nor fully embraces reality or fantasy. I recommend this book to readers interested in dark drama, adventure, paganism, and cultural myth.

Consumed was published in February 2011 by Scholastic.

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