Gwenda Bond's Blackwood is part mystery, part ghost story, and part romance. The cover (shown to left) captures, I think, the feel of the book, moody and speculative, and a little bit creepy. It's the perfect book to curl up with on a windy fall night.
Miranda Blackwood has lived her whole life on Roanoke Island. Literally. She's never left the island. Her only outlet lies in her internship at a summer production of The Lost Colony, a dramatization of the disappearance, hundreds of years earlier, of the 114 original colonists of the island. When 114 modern-day citizens of Roanoke Island disappear, Miranda finds herself working with the last person she would have expected, trying to find the truth.
Miranda is a believable character, a bit beaten down from spending her life as a town freak and caring for her alcoholic father, but determined not be weak or silly. Her reluctant foray into romance feels real, too. Definitely not overdone. Her love interest, Phillips, is resourceful and swoon-worthy. Who could ask for more?
Roanoke Island is as much a character as in Blackwood Miranda and Phillips are, from the standard touristy downtown to the overgrown rural areas. The closed-off setting (only a couple of scenes take place off-island, and those are early in the book) lends the book an immediacy. One feels quickly immersed in the story. And, in fact, I kind of feel now like I've really been there.
Here are a couple of quotes I especially enjoyed (chosen from early in the book, to avoid spoilers):
"Basketball was the closest thing North Carolina had to a state religion." (Chapter 1)
"Downtown Manteo, the island's main drag, was packed with tourists on a warm summer Wednesday. The town center resembled a perfect model of itself, preserved Victorian houses and Colonial-style storefronts with the Sound's peaceful waters as scenic backdrop. Gelato shops and fancy restaurants were tucked next to pricey B&Bs that offered tickets for fishing expeditions and dolphin spotting." (Chapter 1)
"A sleek-haired blonde reporter launched out of the van toward him, snapping her fingers for the cameraman to follow. She had giant blue eyes like an anime deer's." (Chapter 2)
I found Blackwood's plotting to be suspenseful and intriguing. I thought that the author did a nice job taking the seed of an actual historical disappearance, and spinning out "what if?" questions into the modern day. The scenes in which people disappeared were downright spooky. I did find the pacing of the climax of the book a little drawn-out, but that gave more time to appreciate the atmosphere of the book.
Blackwood is an excellent choice for anyone looking for paranormal YA, mystery, or just something a little bit different. Unlike a number of other recent YA titles, the romantic elements are fairly low-key. I think this makes Blackwood particularly boy-friendly, and also a good crossover title for adult readers. Recommended for anyone who has ever wondered "what if" (13 and up).
Full disclosure: I am on an email list with Gwenda Bond. I don't believe that this has impacted my review, though it did contribute to my decision to purchase the book.
© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).