Publisher: Simon Pulse.
Hardcover, 448 pages.
Release date: October 28th 2014.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Three plantations. Two wishes. One ancient curse.
All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lives with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead--a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.
Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who knows what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family's twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn’t what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.
Billed as Beautiful Creatures meets The Body Finder, Compulsion, the debut novel from Martina Boone is a sumptuous Southern Gothic that is packed full to the brim with secrets and lies, curses and gifts, romance, unexplained mysteries –and ghosts.
Life hasn’t been easy for Barrie Watson. Living with her reclusive mother in San Francisco was no walk in the park; and now that her mother is dead –she dropped dead of a heart-attack when Barrie’s fabulously flamboyant Godfather, Mark, announced he was terminally ill-Barrie is on her own. Or at least that’s how it feels. Barrie has been sent to live with her Aunt Pru on the Watson family Plantation in South Carolina. Aunt Pru who thought Barrie’s mother, Lula, had died years before in a fire, aunt Pru who never leaves the Watson plantation, seemingly confined to the place by the character quirks that define her. Moving from San Francisco to Watson Island is a culture shock for Barrie, but she’s not one to let things get her down, deciding instead to embrace the island, the old house, and her aunt, whom she bonds with immediately. Watson Island has many attractions; not least a boy from a neighbouring house –he’s called Eight –and let’s just say he catches Barrie’s eye from the get go.
Watson Island holds many secrets –strange fire carriers, Yunwi (mischievous spirits that protect the island) and voodoo curses -and it’s also the key to Barrie’s ‘finder’ gift. As a Watson, Barrie can find anything that’s been lost, something that her ‘poor’ cousins, the Colesworth’s are banking on. Cassie Colesworth is as beautiful as she is exuberant, welcoming Barrie into her inner circle immediately. But is Cassie to be trusted? Eight thinks not. Aunt Pru is also disapproving, but as for Barrie, she’s just happy to finally have family to call her own.
Compulsion is a beautifully written charmer of a book, wonderfully atmospheric, with a myriad of plot strands that all weave together beautifully on conclusion. That said, I felt that certain plot points were a little far-fetched at times, and the story took its sweet time to get going. Compulsion is a slow burn of a book – it’s not until the final one hundred pages or so that Boone really ups the ante in terms of revelations and spooky happenings. I would have liked things to move a little faster at times, although I can appreciate that this book really has its roots in its Southern setting, and that in itself is something to be savoured.
Barrie is presented to us as a headstrong and somewhat feisty, but sheltered protagonist. She has never kissed a boy before, and when she sees Eight she can’t help but crush on him. That’s all fine. Eight is totally crush-worthy. I, myself, was charmed by his impeccably good manners. And we’re told that he’s really hot – so that’s a win all round. However, I felt that the romance between Eight and Barrie was maybe a little forced here at times. Or just too textbook maybe? I dunno, maybe this will be explored in later books, and maybe it can be explained by some Beaufort/Watson family history/binding curse, but Barrie and Eight seemed to go from zero to hand holding and pet names in all of sixty seconds flat; all of this while Barrie found herself constantly annoyed by Eight’s behaviour and bickering with him to that effect. I think that this was meant to highlight Barrie’s sass or whatever, but it just made her annoy me a little bit especially since Eight is pretty much perfect and really not annoying at all.
p.s. Eight calls Barrie ‘Bear’ which pretty cute, but if I recall correctly nobody ever comments on the fact that he’s christened Barrie with a pet name after, oh, all of three days. Well, no boy ever deigned give me a pet name after three days. And if anyone ever had I can imagine the eye-rolling that would have ensued. But maybe that’s just me, hey? Sometimes, though, Barrie seems annoyed by the fact that Eight even breathes the same air as her, so I thought this would be a thing. But no.
Overall, Compulsion is a winner, and it’s a great start to what is sure to be a compelling series. The unique premise and the enviable setting are real winners here, and I can’t wait to find out more about all the Gothic elements and family secrets that make Watson Island the special place that it is when the next book in the series, Persuasion, releases in 2015. I haven’t read a whole lot of paranormal YA this year, but Compulsion stands out as a well-written, enjoyable read. Also, I have to mention that Compulsion is very refreshing in that it does not end on a cliff-hanger and can happily be read as a standalone – a rarity in YA these days!
Like the sound of this? Then you’ll love The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni.
*ARC review. Some details may have changed in final copy.