Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Haven ~ Carol Lynch Williams (earc) review

The Haven
St Martin's Griffin
March 4, 2014
224 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

I tried my best, but the review likely contains some minor spoilers.

For the teens at The Haven, the outside world, just beyond the towering stone wall that surrounds the premises, is a dangerous unknown. It has always been this way, ever since the hospital was established in the year 2020. But The Haven is more than just a hospital; it is their home. It is all they know. Everything is strictly monitored: education, exercise, food, and rest. The rules must be followed to keep the children healthy, to help control the Disease that has cast them as Terminals, the Disease that claims limbs and lungs—and memories.

But Shiloh is different; she remembers everything. Gideon is different, too. He dreams of a cure, of rebellion against the status quo. What if everything they’ve been told is a lie? What if The Haven is not the safe place it claims to be? And what will happen if Shiloh starts asking dangerous questions?

The Haven is one of the few books where I have liked the uncertainty, the not knowing. When the novel starts, we know Shiloh and the others in The Haven Hospital and Halls are Terminals. We don't, however, know just what Terminals are. It's clear that the way Shiloh interprets several things are due to what she's been taught to believe but as readers we see things more realistically. Not having an immediate, up front explanation of either The Haven or of Terminals did pull me more into Shiloh's story.

I noticed the differences in her interpretation of events and of the little, everyday things she saw so differently because I was still working to figure out The Haven's world.

In The Haven there was not quite enough plot for me. Even as it became clear that something big was going to take place - or, at least, be attempted - the how was never discussed. It's understandable, with the Terminals limited knowledge, but any sort of 'after,' even in their imaginations was so vague. I wish we had been given some idea as to what may happen - especially as this book is the only one.

The story tried to focus on the characters - something I usually love from the author - especially on Shiloh as she uncovers more and more of the truth. While this worked brilliantly in Williams's previous novels Miles from Ordinary and The Chosen One the premise seemed to get in the way a bit. The Terminals are supposed to be almost like mindless drones. They follow their rules, keep a strict schedule, don't rebel and lack emotion. Even Shiloh who is slightly different thanks to the memories she shouldn't have, can be very flat. It's hard to have an emotional connection with characters who don't have emotions.

If the plot of The Haven had been stronger, with more of a look at the outside world either through narration or information gathered in The Haven or, perhaps, a slightly different ending, I would have liked it more. As it is, there was not quite enough plot or quite enough to the characters to really work for me. I love the premise and really enjoyed how the book started - and that readers were a bit out of the loop to start.

Rating: 7/10

thank you to the publisher for my egalley to review; received through NetGalley

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