|Cover Design by Kenneth Tupper|
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Darren Simon's Guardian's Nightmare Totally "Gets It."
Protecting two worlds
From total chaos and suffering
At the hands of a ruthless and powerful sorceress.
That's not too much to ask of a middle-schooler, right?
The YA urban fantasy Guardian's Nightmare is the first installment of the Last Princess of Latara series, written by Darren Simon.
So what's it about?
Charlee just moved to San Francisco. She's thirteen, the new kid at school, and feeling pretty miserable about it. In an effort to make her feel better, Charlee's father decides to give her a bike that he discovered at the college campus where he works. Unfortunately, it's an old, rusty thing... and she hates it. He may call it a "classic," but she sees it as yet another thing to set her apart from everyone at her new school. Even worse? No matter how hard she tries to get rid of the thing, it mysteriously returns to her.
And now she's having nightmares. The everything-about-them-seems-real kind of nightmares. Can things possibly get any worse??? As a matter of fact, yes. They can... and they do.
I really liked this one.
Charlee was, to put it in a rather egotistical manner, me at age thirteen. Charlee didn't even come close to being perfect:
She was never sure of the right thing to say or do, second-guessing herself.
She felt as though life was going to swallow her whole.
She didn't have the perfect body.
She was constantly upset at her parents, even when she didn't need to be.
And she just couldn't seem to fit in.
In other words, she was a normal middle school girl.
Darren Simon totally got it. It felt as though he understood exactly what it was like to be a girl going through puberty.
Middle school sucked.
I'm not sure I've ever met a single girl that disagrees with that statement. Nobody walked with confidence, we all had pimples erupting like ant holes shooting out from the main colony, and we were all miserable a good portion of the time. If you don't remember feeling that way... you blocked it out.
Simon clearly didn't block it out. He brought it all out loud and clear, and held nothing back.
And then he added some extra stress into the equation.
Like Charlee's discovery that she has a pivotal role to play in the battle to bring down a powerful sorceress bent on destroying everything she loves dear. She's a guardian of the gateway between worlds... and she may be the last one. And the evil sorceress? It's her great-aunt.
And we think we have problems!
Charlee doesn't handle it all with pizazz. She gets herself and others into trouble. She constantly messes everything up. She has absolutely no clue what she's doing, and it's pretty obvious.
But she has guts.
Even though everything is way above her head, and even though she has absolutely no idea how to make things right, she tries. Charlee pushes through, intent on not giving up.
I really flipping like that girl.
It's not a perfect book, though, understand. While Simon truly creates a character that anyone can identify with, there is one thing about this story that really bugged me.
The dialogue felt wrong.
While each statement made by a character made sense, and I have no desire to say otherwise, the dialogue felt forced, as though the author was trying to convey too much with each statement. I wouldn't have been able to read the discussions within this ebook out loud. They just wouldn't sound true.
I know. I tried it.
Keep in mind, though, that I'm a dialogue fiend. I mean, I minored in theatre in college, just so I could spend time with all of the glorious dialogue within each play. I love dialogue, and it makes me picky.
The narrative within Guardian's Nightmare, however, was spectacular.
There was never a dull moment. Scenes were vivid, and even the grammar was spot on - not a single error. I never once doubted the use of any words within the narrative text. It was all right.
And as I mentioned, Charlee was easy to identify with. She was 100% real.