Author: Kelly Creagh
Publication Date: August 31st, 2010
Publisher: Atheneum Books
Rating: 4 Stars
Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due—so unfair—on the day of the rival game. Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can’t help but give this enigmatic boy with the piercing eyes another look.I'd seen good ratings for this, so I decided to try it out, especially since I'm a fan of Edgar Allan Poe's creepier works. I'll admit I was wary about reading it because of the cover. But it's funny how the floofy pink dress Isobel is wearing on the back cover comes into play.
Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.
As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind. Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares.
His life depends on it.
Damn, I loved the atmosphere in this book. Maybe not in the beginning fifty pages of the book, but the tone became really haunting. When I think about Nevermore, I can't help seeing smoky swirls of gray that resemble the background of the book. The entire thing is just really creepy and shivery, and it did a great job of bringing back the darkness of Poe's stories.
I'll admit, the beginning annoyed me because it seemed like the beginning of any cliche YA novel about the pretty, popular girl getting involved with the wrong guy and losing her friends in the process. But Isobel pleasantly surprised me. I liked her snarky comments because they added a degree of realism to the shifty dream world that composes the rest of the book. It really seems like two parallel stories going on at the same time, and in the end, when reality and the dream world begin to converge, I really felt it. Anyway, Isobel shows an interesting amount of spunk for a heroine, although there were times when she may have been toeing the line between cool and stupid (ie. when she leaves Reynolds's scythe there instead of picking it up, when she watches Reynolds and Death fight even when she should've run ten minutes ago, and when she attempts to sit by Varen. Really, what did she expect, that he would welcome her with open arms?). All in all, though, I was pleased by her behavior.
I can't say much for Varen. I honestly don't know much about him, and there's not much of a difference between him and any other angsty male who scribbles ranty poetry and glares at everyone, except his angst has literally created a world of its own. He was gone for most of the time, and Isobel was left to fight his battles for him. He retaliates once or twice, but I never really see him presenting himself strongly at any time in the novel. I was especially disappointed in the end, when he's sitting in his couch and all depressed and trapped. The book really is more about Isobel than it is about her and Varen, which is why I don't sense much character development on Varen's part. The only place where he's truly a person to me is when his dad catches him at home with the Chinese food. That was when I was crying for him (slightly), even though that scene isn't mentioned again.
The plot itself is really interesting. Isobel begins hallucinating, hearing voices and seeing people, and then she plunges into a figurative rabbit hole into Poe's/Varen's world. Things get really creepy once that starts to happen, and Creagh describes everything from the Nocs to the floating objects in Isobel's room with vivid detail. I especially liked the scene from Masque of the Red Death, when Isobel is inside Prince Prospero's multicolored rooms of doom. That scene really came alive for me, and I was pretty disappointed that Isobel didn't stay longer.
I can definitely see why this book got the good ratings that it did, but I do hope that some of the topics are explored more, and that Varen's character is developed further in the next book. And the Poe references sure help!
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