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YA, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, 290 pages, Ignite Books
- Series: I don't have the details, but there's definitely setup for a sequel here.
- Pub date: March 2012
- Disclosure: Received a review copy from the author. Thanks, Neesha!
Pammi has a Secret--she is an Able. At night, she travels through time to an ancient city called Zanum. She's been visiting Zanum since she was seven and she's kept it a secret from everyone--including her own mother. Especially her mother. Everything's been fine...until now.The Long...
On the night of an important Zanum ceremony, Pammi follows her gut instinct and defies an elder's orders, inadvertently leading evil directly to the door of the city she loves. Now the evil that plans to wipe out the city is coming after her. Can she save herself, and Zanum, before it's too late? Or will she seal the doom of all Ables and witness the annihilation of everyone she loves?
A short history of Neesha Meminger's YA: first, she wrote and traditionally published Shine, Coconut Moon, a coming-of-age story about a Sikh girl who has to come to terms with her heritage in the wake of 9/11. (I'm embarrassed to say I haven't read it.) Then, she started work on Jazz in Love, a romantic comedy with an Indian heroine (also featuring plenty of Bollywood and bad boys), but was told it wasn't "marketable" enough. Jazz in Love marked Meminger's first foray into self-publishing, and Into the Wise Dark is her second: with both, Meminger proves that she is an exceptionally talented, funny, fantastic writer for a new world in perpetual culture clash.
Anyone who read Jazz in Love will recognize Pammi, our new heroine, as the little girl whose mother Jazz and company helped rescue from an abusive ex-husband and propel straight into a TV superstar's arms. Into the Wise Dark picks up a few years after Jazz in Love left off, and here's where the lines between reality and fantasy start to blur: where Jazz in Love was a straight up contemporary rom-com, Into the Wise Dark is a harrowing fantasy epic. And once you can get past the abrupt shift in gears, it's terrific.
In many ways, it's more of a superhero story than a fantasy, and Meminger goes straight for the tried-and-true tropes we know and love. There's an academy for Able girls, and an evil force under the guise of "psychology" that's out to destroy their powers. There's a mind-reader, and a sort-of shape-shifter, and much discussion of training and using their powers for good and not evil.
Where Meminger succeeds is not so much in doing anything extraordinary with the story--it's pretty formulaic, and executed in a kind of sturdy, no-nonsense way that doesn't draw attention to itself--but rather in her characters, who shatter every norm in the book and then some, and are kickass and lovable besides. Pammi navigates tricky personal problems with as much grit and gumption as she battles supernatural forces that want to steal her soul-energy, and the girls of the academy are all prickly, courageous, and just plain true-to-life by turns. Meminger knows what makes teen girls tick, and she makes us believe it every step of the way. I also enjoyed the people of Zanum, who were more two-dimensional but provided an interesting foil to all the modern angst.
All in all, it's a struggle to sum up everything I liked about this book. It's offbeat and fun, and a great way to spend an afternoon; it's got all the things I loved best about Jazz in Love in a very different sort of package. It's nothing earth-shattering, but it's lovely anyway, and I recommend it to anyone tired of the same-old, same-old in YA.
...and the Short:
True-to-life, memorable characters and an offbeat style make Into the Wise Dark the perfect rainy day story for anyone looking to shake up their reading routine.
The Final Word: Liked it!