Saturday, July 27, 2013

Review: Autumn by Sierra Dean

Title: Autumn
Author: Sierra Dean

Genre: YA Paranormal Fiction
Publishing Information: 263 pages; January 1st, 2013 by Sierra Dean
Series: Dog Days #1

Where I got it: NetGalley

Synopsis from Goodreads:

"Cooper Reynolds’s life is going to the dogs… literally.

As if being a high school senior in a small Texas town wasn’t hard enough, Cooper has bigger things to worry about than who he’ll take to prom and whether or not the Poisonfoot Padres will win homecoming. He has less than a year before his eighteenth birthday, when a curse placed on his family will doom him to live in coyote form forever.

The last thing he needs to complicate his already messed-up life is a girl, but fate has other plans in mind for him when it brings Eloise “Lou” Whittaker to Poisonfoot. She’s grouchy, sarcastic and has no love for her new Texas home, but she might be exactly the right person to help Cooper break the curse.

The clock is ticking, and Cooper will have to decide if he’s willing to let Lou in on his dirty little secret before it’s too late.

Main characters: 2.5/5

Lou was an enigma at times. I didn't feel like I was getting a lot of personality from her until a good part of the way through the book. The fact that she was diabetic and a baseball fan started to give me a better idea of some of his quirk, but I still felt that she was lacking some of the depth that I've seen in other main characters. Thinking back, it's tough to come up with a defining way to describe her, which I think shows some weakness in conveying the character to the reader. She was described as being shy, but she seemed at home partying after the football game (which is fine, but not what I would expect a shy high-schooler to be doing) and she was very forward in her relationship with Cooper. Maybe it was simply that the descriptor of "shy" was inadequate for Lou. I think the times I liked her best was when she interacted with Cooper because she gained some spunk and their banter was perfect. 

Secondary characters: 3/5

Cooper was a doll. I really liked him as the male romantic interest because he had the perfect mix of sensitive and slightly tortured (the whole no friends thing) and manly and athletic (you know, the whole football thing). I only wish that I'd had a little more insight into his mind and more depth. I felt bad for him due to the social outcast status and curse, but I didn't see how that affected him to the extent that I wanted. I have to say though that the chemistry between Lou and Cooper was fantastic!
Overall, the remainder of the secondary cast of characters was so-so. Granny Elle was a gun-toting, etiquette-following, church-going riot, but most of the other characters were very stereotypical. Marine, for instance, first interacted with Lou in a way that reminded me of the movie Mean Girls. You know, the scene where Regina is talking to Cady and says, "So you agree, you think you're pretty?". But I liked that she fit some of Lou's Texas stereotypes and not others. I've seen characters like Archer around before, but he still mystified me and made me curious about what sort of person he'd be- and I wasn't disappointed! 

Writing style: 2.5/5

There was a great deal of exposition to start out with, which was informative but unfortunately very boring. I would have preferred the information to be more spread out and subtle. Dean did a good job of bringing in the action early, but Lou's reaction seemed artifical in some parts. She ran through a list of all these questions, but I didn't think they were relevant and I didn't understand what she was thinking. Beyond some of these more minor problems however, I enjoyed reading Dean's writing. I was rarely jolted out of the story and some of the descriptions were spot on. For example, Lou's Grandma's house "looked like it had fallen out of a Gothic horror novel and been transplanted into West Texas". I could totally see it in my head. I think what bothered me about the writing was that it lacked a sense of urgency. I was curious about the conflict but the writing didn't give me that sense that I needed to continue reading to find out the answer to the mystery. The end seemed to gain some momentum but I wished the middle would've had the same purpose in writing.

Plot: 3.5/5
It's hard to argue that the set-up for this novel is original: the new girl moves to a new school and meets a mysterious boy with some kind of powers. But what I liked about Autumn was some of the subtle details: the fact that Cooper was a bit of an outcast too, the fact that he turned into a coyote (how unique is that?), etc. The Texas setting pervaded the novel, and I love the fact that it went hand in hand with the plot points. Some parts of the plot reminded me of Maggie Steifvater's Shiver, but there was enough different that it wasn't obnoxious. I liked the mystery about Cooper's curse and how it dealt with Lou's family; it mixed together a lot of different aspects that I've always liked: revenge, forbidden love, family history, ghosts and more. Ultimately, I liked the fact that Dean took some old themes and plot devices and made them new, and integrated so many of my favorite things to make an exciting world.

Ending: 3/5

Arggghhhhh, that cliffhanger of an ending! You all already know by now that I am not a fan of cliffhangers, or sequels in a lot of cases. That makes the ending of this novel unfortunate. I'll give it this, it left me emotionally invested in the outcome and the cliffhanger was a good one. But still a cliffie...

Best scene: The very end scene. Despite the cliffhanger, it was explosive.

Positives: The worldbuilding and updates to old plot devices and premises, Cooper, some of the unique aspects of Lou (her interest in baseball and her diabetes)

Negatives: Some of the pacing (the middle dragged a bit), some stereotypical characters, the cliffhanger

Cover: It doesn't have the "wow" factor, but I liked the simplicity of the cover. My only nitpick is that I hate when a cover says "A XXX novel". I don't know why but it bothers me.

Verdict: A quick and entertaining read with some new updates on old ideas, but ultimately nothing life-changing

Rating: 5.8/10 (3 stars)

Bloggers note: Just for fun, here's one of the songs I was listening to while reading this book. No connection to themes or anything, I simply have some eclectic tastes in music and like to share them. 

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