Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mercury by Hope Larson

What You Need to Know: This is a beautifully drawn, historical romance with a modern twist, that might be a hard sell for some teens.

Summary:  Tara is returning to school, following a fire that destroyed her home, a family farm, forcing her (odd) mother to move away for work.  A strange necklace found in a box unwittingly connects her to Josie, a distant relative of Tara's from 1859.  Josie lives on the same farm, and like Tara, watches over her high-strung mother.  A stranger finds gold on the family farm, but can he be trusted with the gold, much less Josie's heart?  And, hundreds of years later, how can Tara keep her mother from uprooting her and loosing their heritage? 

What Worked: Larson is an amazing artist, and this black and white novel is beautifully illustrated, with expressive characters and a quiet charisma.  Josie's love story is charmingly told, bittersweet and poignant.  Larson also does a great job of involving you in Josie's story -- you desperately want everything to work out for her.  This book also has one of the most arresting and unique covers that I have ever seen.  It becomes more and more interesting the longer that you look at it.  

What Didn't:  Larson counts on the parallel structure to do a lot of heavy lifting for her.  We don't ever see Tara's mom, she's just a voice on the phone, and an offhand comment from others.  We see a lot of Josie's mother though, and can extrapolate from there about Tara's mom.  I admire an author who trusts her audience enough to let them connect the dots; however, I'm not sure that it worked as well as it could have.  Tara's romance is a little more obtuse, and didn't add much to the story.  Also, the more overt supernatural elements in this book -- such as the animal spirits --  felt slightly out of place, and a little tacked on.  

However: My tolerance for supernatural flourishes is very low.  Your mileage may vary.  

Who Would I Give This Book To?  Teens looking for a different sort of paranormal romance, and those who like their historical fiction with a twist. 

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