Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey
Yes, I finished this is one sitting finishing at 4 am. Yes, that means I loved it. Someday I will catch up with all the books I have (yeah, right). This one is signed hardcover from ALA, swoon (wish I could go this year). I like the cover of this book, it is relevant but mysterious, just like the title. The thing that truly set this book apart and intrigued me was the New Zealand setting with the Maori flavor. Not only do I have a thing for tattoos and thus a curiosity about the Maori culture but I also just love to read about mythologies that are unfamiliar to me.
Ellie is seventeen years old, insecure about her body and stuck at a boarding school while her parents travel the world. Most of her time is spent with her best friend Kevin, but when running into her crush Mark triggers something inside of her, life begins to change quickly. Maori myths are alive around her but some of them mean her harm. Who can she trust and who can she protect?
I liked Ellie, I saw a lot of myself in her, but I’m going to go ahead and cover the one thing that felt weird to me: appearances. Ellie I started out seeing as maybe a little farther into the “my life style has changed and my clothes aren’t fitting as well as they used to” stages than I currently am. However I felt like as the book progressed her self-esteem got slightly better but the descriptions made her seem larger. Also Reka and Mark have their reasons for being so gorgeous but everyone is gorgeous: the entire cast of the play, the teacher… okay yes the dorm officer and some of the people at the gathering aren’t but its a little much. I mean I can remember being in high school and thinking that so many people were prettier than me, but this is a bit extreme because we know that Ellie may not be gorgeous but she is not horrendous. Okay my brief rant over. Honestly this didn’t bug me that much but it did irk me a little.
Everything else I loved. I loved the friendship with Kevin, we’re not sure how we got here but it doesn’t matter because we’re here and the rough times balanced with the power of their trust. The awkwardness with Mark was so good that I relived all of my awkward middle and high school crushes at once, particularly the ones where I said things without thinking. I think all of Ellie’s emotions were done really well: the moments of fear of things both supernatural and natural, the jealousy, the attraction, all dead on. The mythology was total win. Healey points out that this is only a very narrow take with an unreliable narrator on a small sampling of this rich culture. If she were to have tried to give us in depth knowledge there wouldn’t have been room for the story I get that and the way she made the mythology work, not as the only one but as one of many makes the interpretation of it all through the eyes of someone like Ellie all the more valid.
Okay gushing complete. Now I am off to read my ARC of The Shattering by Karen Healy (I’m just a little behind *ahem* almost a year).