Friday 14 December 2012

Reviewed by Jen: Blackwood by Gwenda Bond.

Product details:
Publisher: Strange Chemistry.
Release date: September 6th 2012.
Paperback, 350 pages.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Ages: 14+
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Jen

On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundreds of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists, a story people tell. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people now, an unlikely pair of 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back.

Miranda, a misfit girl from the island's most infamous family, and Phillips, an exiled teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead, must dodge everyone from federal agents to long-dead alchemists as they work to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony. The one thing they can't dodge is each other.

Blackwood is a dark, witty coming of age story that combines America's oldest mystery with a thoroughly contemporary romance.

Blackwood, by Gwenda Bond was a book that I truly wanted to love.  I have always been fascinated by the mystery of Roanoke and what happened to the 114 colonists who disappeared into thin air.  The premise of Blackwood is quirky and original.  It is a great story to modernize as it remains a mystery to this day and it has not been retold to death.  Unfortunately, within the first chapter I had a sinking feeling that this book would fall short of my expectations.

It has been over 400 years since the mystery of the lost colony on Roanoke Island began when 114 colonists vanished, never to be heard from again.  For the island’s residents this bizarre event is still fresh in their minds, especially for seventeen year old Miranda Blackwood.  Having lived her entire life on the island Miranda’s family is said to be cursed.  As an outsider in a very tiny community Miranda has always known how to take care of herself, but when 114 residents, including Miranda’s own father, disappear overnight she is forced to depend on someone she is not sure she can trust.      

I don’t want to sound harsh, but there was one major issue I had within the first few pages of Blackwood.  The plot was lame.  That really is the best word I can use to describe how I felt as I read.  At times I would start to get caught up in the story and then something would happen that just didn’t mesh with the idea I had in my head of what this story should be.  The first thing that turned me off was when Miranda hallucinates during a play production of The Lost Colony and sees a large, black pirate type ship bearing down on the stage.  She jumps in front of the actress on stage to save her from getting hit by the ship only to realize there was no ship.  This was the precursor to the events that transpire next in the story.  I just thought the whole episode was silly rather than intriguing.  My hope was that this was an isolated event and the suspense would pick up, and it did.  The descriptions of people discovering their loved ones missing were creepy and had me anticipating what would happen next.  Then Phillips showed up and everything just got a bit too hokey.  

Too many aspects of the plot were completely undeveloped.  For example, we keep hearing about this curse, but it takes way too long to get an adequate description of what it is and how it ties into the missing colonists/residents.  Also, when Phillips, whose name I could not stand, first sees Miranda he insists he must get to her to save her from grave danger, but “doesn’t know why” he feels this way.  In fact both characters repeatedly state that they must do something, but “don’t know why.”  The characters were likeable and I wanted to stick with them, but I would have liked their personalities to have been fleshed out a bit more.  Also, the whole romance between Miranda and Phillips is rushed and comes at a totally inappropriate time.  Miranda should be worrying about far more serious things than if her hair looks nice for Phillips.  

Writing for teens is tricky business and it takes a lot of blood and sweat to create a voice that they will find authentic.  They can be the harshest of critics and if a story isn’t sitting well with them they won’t spend their limited attention spans muddling through the haze.  Unfortunately, Blackwood, is a story that seems far removed from its intended audience.  

You can read more of Jen's reviews on her blog:

News Extra:  Gwenda Bond's Blackwood picked up by MTV!

MTV has put in development Blackwood, a drama from Lionsgate Television and Kelsey Grammer’s Grammnet Prods. It is based on the young adult book of the same name by Gwenda Bond, which was published this past September on the Strange Chemistry YA imprint of UK-based science fiction publisher Angry Robot Books. DC Comic book and television writer Peter Calloway (Brothers & Sisters) will write the adaptation. Blackwood centers on 19-year-old Miranda Blackwood who, when 114 people, including her father, suddenly vanish off Roanoke Island, begins to investigate the mass disappearance, teaming with her high school sweetheart. But she makes a chilling discovery when she uncovers that she’s at the center of not only this mystery, but one that traces back to the first American mystery: the disappearance of 114 people at what would be called The Lost Colony. The project stems from Grammnet’s deal with Lionsgate. Calloway executive produces with Grammnet’s Kelsey Grammer, Stella Bulochnikov, and Brian Sher. Grammnet VP Brian Taylor found the manuscript and sought out the rights for Grammnet and Lionsgate TV. WME reps Calloway, who is managed by Adam Kolbrenner, as well as Grammnet. Bond is repped by Andrea Brown Literary Agency and Gotham Group.

Additional info: Press Release.

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