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Thursday, August 18, 2011

'Hunting Lila' by Sarah Alderson

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

17-year-old Lila has two secrets she's prepared to take to the grave. The first is that she can move things just by looking at them. The second is that she's been in love with her brother's best friend, Alex, since forever. After a mugging exposes her unique ability, Lila decides to run to the only people she can trust - her brother and Alex. They live in Southern California where they work for a secret organisation called The Unit, and Lila discovers that the two of them are hunting down the men who murdered her mother five years before. And that they've found them. In a world where nothing and no one is quite as they seem, Lila quickly realises that she is not alone - there are others out there just like her - people with special powers -and her mother's killer is one of them…

If you really want to know, it all started with murder. . .

Years ago, Lila’s mother was stabbed to death; her killer never found. Her mother’s death wrenched the family – with Lila and her father moving to London, while Lila’s older brother, Jack, remained in the States to live with his best friend’s family.

From that moment on, nothing was ever the same again. Lila’s life became filled with everything that wasn’t said, and by the people who were no longer around. Her mother dead. Her father working abroad and never home. And Jack, a million miles away. . .

But the worst part was losing Alex. Alex, Jack’s best friend and the boy who has held Lila’s heart since she was ten years old. Losing her father and Jack to grief and separation was one thing, but losing Alex too? That’s just unbearable.

And then the change started. When Lila was cut adrift from her family, she started to notice things about herself . . . the movement of a pencil, scissors embedded in the wall and a jam roly-poly becoming a flying missile. Lila could move things with her mind.

The more Lila’s powers grow the more she fears losing control. When a mugging incident in South London leaves her shaken and guilt-ridden, Lila hops onto a plane to sunny California – wanting her big brother’s comfort and Alex’s soothing presence.

But her brother and beloved are tangled up in their own lives and careers, and have little time for Lila’s runaway routine. Alex and Jack are black ops marines working for the mysterious ‘Unit’, and they hardly have time to be babysitting little sis. But when Lila discovers that their mother’s murder is a part of Jack’s secret mission, there will be no getting rid of her.

‘Hunting Lila’ is the debut novel and first in a new supernatural-thriller series from Sarah Alderson.

I have to admit that when I saw the cover of ‘Hunting Lila’ I was underwhelmed and slightly confused. It didn’t scream ‘YA’ to me, and I initially had it pegged as an adult romance, because of the retro Donna Reed dress and red pumps? But the name was quite jarring and didn’t fit this ‘romance’ assumption; ‘Hunting Lila’ isn’t exactly an easy-breezy, lovey-dovey title. I was confused, and stacked it to the bottom of my TBR pile. . . But then the tectonic plates of the blogosphere started shifting and causing an almighty rumble. Whispers spread, five-star-ratings cropped up and recommendations were made. I begrudgingly took heed of these urgings and retrieved ‘Hunting Lila’ from the pile and started reading . . . and then you couldn’t have pried the book out of my hands with crow-bar and baby oil.

‘Hunting Lila’ is superb; it’s adrenaline-fuelled and packing paranormal punch with a brilliant family drama and romantic saga at its centre. The book is ‘X-Men’ meets ‘Heroes’ and ludicrously unputdownable.

Lila is a young woman with a secret – she can move things with her mind. When a dangerous near-miss leaves her shaken and distrusting of herself, she hot-foots it to California and the big brother who has always been reliable in a crisis. Jack is a Lieutenant in the marines, definitely the guy you turn to when in need. And of course there’s also Alex – Lila’s first and last love since she was ten years old – he’s also a lieutenant working alongside Jack in the marine black ops unit. But Lila is greeted with begrudging open arms; Jack and Alex are working a mission and they fear that Lila’s familial ties could put her in danger and a hostage situation.

Lila, feeling rejected and dejected, has no intensions of being babysat and resolves to leave for London . . . until she finds out the details of Jack and Alex’s mission;

“Have you told the police? Shouldn’t you be telling someone? The FBI, maybe? So they can do something?” I wasn’t leaning on the boulder anymore, I was standing looking up at him, shouting. “If you know who killed her and you know why – why aren’t you involving them? Why aren’t you leaving it to the professionals?”
Alex was looking at me and his half-smile returned again. I didn’t get it.
“Lila, what do you think we are?”
I was confused.
“Jack and I are professionals. We’re more highly trained than the police and the feds. We have better equipment and more intelligence than any other government body. We’re using all that to help us find your mum’s killers.”

Alderson’s book is beautifully balanced. Between the action-packed thrills of Lila’s ‘psy’ abilities and the ‘whodunit’ surrounding her mother’s murder, there’s also an emotional family drama and romantic entanglement playing out below the surface. ‘Hunting Lila’ is a prism of plot – it’s multi-layered and churning to keep readers biting their nails and utterly invested from the word ‘go’.

Lila is a wonderful protagonist, and part of the reason I loved her so much was her grace under fire. Throughout ‘Hunting’, Lila has a plethora of emotions raging through her mind. She feels alone in the world, between her freakish new abilities, brother’s abandonment and father’s withdrawal, not to mention her unrequited love; Lila has a lot going on in her life. She pushes her emotions down and buries them deep – scared to rock the boat, she seems reluctant to confront Jack about his cold relationship with their father and is horrified by the thought of revealing her true feelings to Alex, for fear of being laughed away. Lila is an interesting and complex character – she definitely has her issues, particularly where her father and Jack are concerned, and her fear of upsetting the status-quo and being abandoned again. But when push came to shove and Lila’s Psychokinesis abilities have her running scared, she steps up and becomes a formidable character. She revealed a wealth of bravery to be bubbling below the surface and I loved that duality of emotional fragility and awaiting strength.

The other big draw-card of ‘Hunting Lila’ is the romance. Alex is a young, hulking black ops marine who stole Lila’s heart when she was ten years old and he helped rescue her from a tobogganing accident. He’s sweet and macho, compassionate and deadly. There’s a lot to love in Alex, and he’s definitely swoon-worthy. The ‘childhood crush’ romance is tried and true in YA, as is the ‘crushing on brother’s best friend’ angle. But Alderson heats things up and boils the blood by tightly weaving the romance with action.

‘Hunting Lila’ deserves the whispers and rumblings – it is a phenomenal debut novel and a superb supernatural story. Sarah Alderson is a welcome new superstar in the paranormal YA genre; and she’s now an automatic-buy author for me. ‘Hunting Lila’ ends on a BANG! By book’s end Alderson leaves readers looking over the edge of a giant cliff-hanger, and I find myself more than willing to leap off the edge into the sequel!


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