I adore a dark and twisted story. I suppose it started in 6th grade when someone gave me a dog-eared paperback of Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews. Today, her name conjures up a very different type of novel, but back then (when they were still actually written by her) they were perfect for me: narrated by a girl my age, a world that was at once fantastic and realistic, and black as an angsty teenager’s heart.
My parents (and specifically my Mom) never forbade me to read anything. But she was aware of what I was reading and would often read it too and then talk about it with me. Because of this I have always been of the opinion that it doesn’t matter what you read, it is what you take away from it. Yeah, I read a lot of stuff that was adult but I will tell you it never led me to bad behavior because it gave me ideas. I think a lot of it went right over my head anyway.
Kim Liggett came on my radar through Twitter. A few weeks ago Blood and Salt was released and there was a launch party in New York. Jodi Kendall, another author who is represented by my agent (Alex Slater @ Trident Media Group) tweeted pictures from the party, which looked amazing. So the title was in my head and when I was at the bookstore last weekend, I saw it on a table of spooky reads in the YA section, so I bought a copy.
(Can I just make a small digression here? I am so thrilled with the way YA literature has exploded over the past decade. When I was of the age there was very little in that area, hence, me reading V.C. Andrews. But now there is an ENTIRE TABLE of YA books that are just of the creepyspookyscary nature and I think that is outstanding. It appeals directly to the dark side of being a teenager. And let’s be honest, that’s a significant chunk of a teen’s personality, no matter what it’s dressed in.)
But to the book at hand: I loved it. Kim’s writing is lovely, and she doesn’t dance around the edges of darkness–she plunges right in. Ash Larkin and her fraternal twin Rhys live in New York City with their mother. Right from the beginning we realize there is something strange about Ash: she has been seeing the vision of the same dead girl, hanging from her feet and dripping blood, since she was very small. She connects it to the cult her mother escaped as a young woman and she isn’t wrong. When her mother disappears she and her brother head straight for Quivira, hidden on the cornfields of Kansas. From the moment the twins step foot inside the isolated community mystical occurences, unexplained deaths, and deadly whispers from the corn itself surround them. Ash, who has always been the alpha twin, realizes she needs to find out what’s happening fast or risk both of their lives.
But let’s throw some romance into the plot, shall we? Ash has never met a guy who made her feel anything but nausea. But when she clamps eyes on one tall, dark and handsome named Dane, everything changes in a bolt of proverbial lightning. Everyone in the small community is connected by blood, and the connection Ash has to him is a very interesting one indeed.
Kim’s writing is funny and snarky with a uniquely original voice. To give you a taste, here is one of my favorite lines: “I had no idea what my face was doing, but inside it was complete hormonal anarchy.”
See? It’s lines like that which make books worth reading. I hate it when I hear people scoff that YA books aren’t real literature. It’s not just teens who are reading them these days. My reading diet has a steady supply of them and I can say unequivocally that there are some amazing, deep, thought-provoking, adventerous, scary, real books being written for this age group by some very talented writers.
Teens, like any human being, don’t like to be talked down to. They don’t need you to shield them from all the scary things out there in the big bad world. Most likely they have already been acquainted with some of them. Kim Ligget doesn’t hold back when she tells her story, and I am glad for it. Ash’s story is thrilling, scary, and heartbreaking and you really need to read it.