Thursday, July 23, 2015

Book Review: The Crossing by Mandy Hager

Title: The Crossing
Author: Mandy Hager
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Publisher: Pyr

Pages: 280
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The Crossing is the first book in a stunning new trilogy that follows the fate of Maryam and her unlikely companions - Joseph, Ruth and Lazarus. This is fast, suspenseful drama underpinned by a powerful and moving story about love and loss.

The people of Onewere, a small island in the Pacific, know that they are special - chosen to survive the deadly event that consumed the Earth.

Now, from the rotting cruise ship Star of the Sea, the elite control the population - manipulating old texts to set themselves up as living 'gods'. But what the people of Onewere don't know is this: the leaders will stop at nothing to meet their own blood-thirsty needs.

When Maryam crosses from child to woman, she must leave everything she has ever known and make a crossing of another kind. But life inside the ship is not as she had dreamed, and she is faced with the unthinkable: obey the leaders and very likely die, or turn her back on every belief she once held dear.

I was browsing my library recently when I cam across a book spine on the "new" shelf with some really eye-catching font! If you don't already know this about me, I'm a sucker for a good cover. In fact, I will basically never pick up an ugly book, which may go against THE most important lesson of my childhood. What can I say? I'm a rebel. Regardless, I picked up this book (originally published in New Zealand), which led me on the hunt to find the first book in the series. Lucky me, it was available!

The Crossing is the story of Maryam, a teenage girl who has grown up on a remote island with the knowledge that she's one day go to live with the Chosen in the Holy City. Apart from knowing this is a special honor, Maryam knows next to nothing about what all this entails. But upon "becoming a woman" she is finally able to leave to join those who have gone before her!

Maryam is an interesting character and I was never entirely sure how to feel about her. As most are, Maryam was a strong heroine. At the same time, I was frustrated with her overwhelming need to help everyone else instead of taking care of herself. Perhaps this is a desirable trait to most, but in a situation such as that described here, it seems to me that getting oneself away from danger might be the top priority. Despite this, Maryam nearly gets herself killed because of her inability to help herself. Still, I found myself sympathizing with her and did enjoy her overall as a character.

I also really liked Joseph and could really understand his guilt over not understanding everything that had been going on around him. I thought he was a good character, but I didn't really completely buy the romance. This is a classic case of instalove, which happens far too often in YA literature. All of the bad guys (Lazarus, his father, and the other Chosen) were exactly what they were supposed to be - despicable. Ruth, though, I couldn't stand. Her along with most of the other women in this book. While I can appreciate that they were raised to have a certain meek attitude and do exactly as the Chosen commanded (cult life), it infuriated me to no end that they were totally unable to do anything to better their situation. Then again, this really worked to further the feeling of a brainwashed society, which brings me to the story itself.

There were things I really enjoyed about the plot of The Crossing. I love a good post-apocalyptic story! I love all the different ways that authors have come up with for how the world will end (I might have a problem...) and what comes next. This one was just awesome! I loved the idea that a cruise ship was the Holy City and that the crew of the ship brainwashed the entire island into believing their nonsense. However, I wish that a little more background had been given to establish how exactly this happened. I also would have liked more information on the disease that has been plaguing the population. Those answers will probably come in subsequent books, though.

Despite the problems with the background given for the story, I felt like the world building of their little island was really great! I can't pinpoint any particular thing that Mandy Hager did to make it excellent, but I feel like I can imagine the islands and the cruise ship pretty much perfectly. The smaller island where the girls were raised was different from the main island, which had multiple villages. The author did a great job making all of it authentic and memorable.

My main problem with The Crossing was the writing. It felt very strange and that could be to establish how weird this cultish island setting is. It just really didn't work for me. I felt very disconnected from the characters because of the odd dialogue and the way the entire book was written.

Overall, I felt like this was a great story with fantastic world building and characters that I mostly enjoyed. I really am dying to know what happens next - to know if the world really DID end or not! But the really weird writing has put me off from continuing the story right away. I actually did read a bit of the next book, but put it aside for now. It's almost like I can only take it in small doses... I definitely would recommend this book and definitely plan to continue it! Just be prepared for the odd writing style.