From the BLURB:
When Callie Pierce was ten, her mother disappeared without a trace. On the eve of her disappearance twelve years later, the earth seemingly comes alive. The elements speak to Callie, and that's only the beginning. Everything she has ever known was a twisted fabrication to protect her. Now the truth is set free. Callie and her sister are more powerful than any Faerie ever born. Now they have to use their powers to save their mother and family from the evil hands of fate that threaten to tear them apart. Welcome to her elemental reality.
Callista ‘Callie’ Pierce hates birthdays. They are the day when she remembers her mother’s vanishing and the growing strangeness within her . . . but her 22nd birthday is shaping up to be better than the one’s before. Her best friends and blissfully happy couple, Ady and Emery, have thrown her a surprise party, complete with a night of dancing where Callie meets the dangerously sexy Cayden, and admires from afar her lovely Australian next-door-neighbour Oliver ‘Oli’.
But these two men in Callie’s life prove to be the harbingers of change. As Callie falls for Oli’s laid-back charm, she starts to notice those changes within herself grow and alter into something strange and other, something Fae. Along with her sister, Lola, Callie will learn more about her mother’s disappearance and where she sits caught in the middle of two worlds.
‘Elemental Reality’ is the debut YA novel from Cesya MaRae Cuono, and the first in a new paranormal romance series.
Not surprisingly, the cover art of ‘Elemental Reality’ was what hooked me. It’s stunningly unique and drool-worthy – eye-catching and hinting at fabulous supernatural shenanigans within. And the cover art does not lie.
‘Elemental Reality’ is a book about Fae or ‘fairies’ (faeries). It’s YA, but leaning towards the older end of the spectrum for 17+ readers with a protagonist whose 22. I loved that the book was oriented towards older-YA readers, a group who are often forgotten when books frequently have protagonists who can’t drink or drive and for whom sex is taboo. I loved this different age-range, because straight away the book is unique. There’s no ‘meeting in biology’ clichés or stealing lust-filled glances in the hallways. Phew! Cuono and Revolution Publishing seem very readership-savvy and understanding that as much as young adult is about ‘reading up’, it’s also a genre that older readers still enjoy coming back to.
The Fae storyline is very well done. It’s not a revolutionary subject (Melissa Marr, Maggie Stiefvater, Aprilynne Pike having charted this fictional territory) but I appreciated that Cuono didn’t get bogged down in Gaelic mythology or strict legendary Gothicism. She really put the fun into the fairy subject as Callie and Lola discover the joy of their powers and take their change in stride.
Something that did grate throughout the book was the poorly written Australian love interest, Oliver ‘Oli’. As an Aussie, I started out mildly amused by Oli’s clichéd speech and Paul Hogan-esque appeal. But it did get to the point where he was so far off the mark it became a little annoying. Take the exchange below, for example.
“Would you like to come in for some tea?” The words tumbled out of my mouth before I could stop them.
“It’s very nice to meet you too,” he said, looking like some Aussie God. “It’s a little too early for a cuppa tea isn’t it?”
“What?” I asked, confused. “It’s never too early for tea.”
“Oh.” He chuckled. “Sorry, I keep forgetting I’m not home anymore. When someone invites you over for tea in Australia it means supper. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to these Yank customs.”
He’s invited inside for some tea thinking that Callie means ‘supper’ – yet he clarifies by calling it a ‘cuppa’ tea? ‘Cuppa’ means ‘cup of’ – so he’s assuming that Callie means “come inside for a cup of supper”. Um, huh? Never mind that I, as an Aussie, would never use the word ‘supper’ (what is this, the 1800s?) I would call it ‘dinner’ – and we call tea tea over here, plus if it was eleven o’clock in the morning why would he think this crazy American girl is offering him a really early-bird dinner instead of the hot leaf-based beverage his countrymen also refer to as ‘tea’? I know, a flippant little exchange – but those trip-ups were so far off the mark that it did give me pause and took me out of the story while I sat there trying to interpret this pigeon-Aussie-English. Not to mention it had me thinking Oli was a complete moron. He also used the word ‘sheila’ (only a backwoods sheep shearer or thoroughbred bogan would use this word . . . not a young Australian male) and called Callie ‘mate’ at every opportunity (Urgh. You never want a guy to call you ‘mate’, it means he doesn’t like you as anything other than a ‘mate’). And he said ‘Ace’ a lot . . . a lot! I think he was written purely for his Aussie appeal (I get it, people love the Aussie accent, and our guys are pretty smoking!) but his characterisation was that of an Aussie parody – written by someone who has never spoken to a living, breathing person from the land down under. Mind you, all of the above could be explained as Oli being Tasmanian . . . enough said.
Okay, so the love interest didn’t really gel for me – but it’s a testament to Cuono’s dramatic storytelling that even when the very important ‘romance’ element of this paranormal romance didn’t work for me, I still came away from this book with a smile on my face.
Cuono writes high drama for her protagonists’ with a joyful supernatural bent. There are twists and turns through the plot, as Callie learns of the price she must pay for being different. I loved that this was a book for older young adult readers, who are often an after-thought in a genre that is only just starting to realize it has a varying readership!