Sunday, November 13, 2011

After Obsession Book Review

Author: Carrie Jones & Steven E. Wedel. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Bloomsbury USA Childrens. ISBN: 9781599906812.
Annotation:  Seventeen-year-old Aimee Avery is still struggling with her mother’s death years before, especially because she is worried that her prophetic dreams and strange healing abilities will make people think she’s as crazy as they thought her mother was. Her recent dreams have been pointing to impending danger in her small Maine town and the arrival of a boy with dark hair and tan skin. When Alan Parsons moves from his home in Oklahoma and meets Aimee, she soon realizes that he is the one she has been dreaming about, and that he is in danger.
Personal thoughts:  Although I did find myself genuinely spooked out from time to time, my overall feeling after finishing After Obsession was that it was simple okay. I really liked the River Man/possession concepts, but I was a little too distracted by the overwhelming hokey vibes that Alan’s Navajo rituals/traditions gave off. As a huge fan of Navajo culture, I think it would have been much more pleasing to not chalk up Alan’s faith in his heritage to frequent visits to websites that apparently instruct readers in how to be a proper Native American. I really felt like this put a damper on Alan’s powers, and since they are such an important part of the plot, kept me from really enjoying the novel. As a sidenote, the Cheeto in the shape of Marilyn Monroe was utterly out of left-field in an otherwise serious storyline.  
Plot summary: Seventeen-year-old Aimee Avery’s seemingly happy existence is a facade: still struggling to cope with her mother’s apparent suicide years before, Aimee must now help her best friend, Courtney, who has just lost her father in a tragic fishing accident. To make matters worse, Aimee’s often prophetic dreams have become more and more intense: she senses that danger is lurking nearby, ready to pounce on everyone living in her small Maine town.  Aimee has also been dreaming of a boy her age with dark hair and tan skin, someone who is important but in as much danger as she is. In the meantime, seventeen-year-old Alan Parsons has just moved from Oklahoma with his mother to help his cousin, Courtney (Aimee’s best-friend), and Aunt Lisa following the death of Courtney’s father. Alan immediately stands out in the small Maine town: he is half Navajo, has long dark hair, tan skin, and wears a medicine pouch full of sacred items at all times. Like Aimee, Alan can also sense what’s coming with the help of his spirit guide, a cougar he calls Onawa. Onawa has been showing him visions of a girl his age with red hair and piercing green eyes. When Alan and Aimee finally meet in school one day they realize the truth: they have been dreaming of each other. Despite their immediate attraction, they also realize that their meeting signifies that the danger they both sense is also real. It seems that the small Maine town has been plagued for decades by an evil spirit, one many refer to as simply the “River Man.” Aimee is convinced that the River Man is the one who killed her mother, and, when Courtney begins acting strangely, that he has decided to possess her best friend next. Will Aimee and Alan be able to use their powers to stop the demon once and for all?
Review:  Told in alternating voices between its two protagonists, After Obsession offers an often muddled but frequently creepy collaboration between two successful authors. The high and low points of the novel are easily distinguished. An appropriate amount of suspense is created by the many spooky moments in the story: dark figures appearing in windows, phantom dust storms, knives standing on end and spinning, and more. The gradual deterioration of the town is also unique: it seems that the evil entity does not limit itself to one person, but instead affects everyone in the vicinity. These positives, however, are a bit hampered by some of the weaker elements of the plot. In terms of character development, Aimee and Alan live a bit to be desired. Aimee’s strange abilities never seem to be explained, only that she thinks they might be genetic. Alan’s transformation into a Navajo warrior is chalked up to a heavy amount of internet research into the practices of his “ancestors.” The romance between the two seems a bit forced at times. At the start of the novel, Aimee is described as having dated her boyfriend, Blake, for “a long time.” After Alan arrives, however, she quickly shrugs off her steady beau (fortunately, he makes some racist remarks that justify the break-up), and immediately begins to date the new guy in town. In fact, the events of the entire story transpire over roughly a week, making the intense “spiritual connection” between Alan and Aimee seem unlikely, even for a young adult novel. Thrown into the mix are some other oddities as well: there is a running plot line about a Cheeto in the shape of Marilyn Monroe, for example. Despite the moments of lag, After Obsession does, when it is all said and done, prove to be, at the very least, entertaining. No mention is made of a sequel, though the ending does leave it somewhat open to continuation.
Genre: Fiction/Horror
Reading level: Grade 7+
Similar titles: Soul Screamer series by Rachel Vincent, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin, Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake.        
Themes:  Ghosts, demons, possession, death, murder, supernatural powers, rivers, Maine, Navajo, dreams.  
Awards/Reviews:  Written by best-selling authors.   
Series Information: No mention of sequel.   
Discussion questions: 
- Did you like the dual perspectives style of narrative in the novel? Why or why not?
- Which character did you identify with more: Alan or Aimee? Why?
- Do you think that Aimee’s mom was crazy? Why or why not?
- Alan is described as having learned most of his Navajo traditions and rituals online. Do you think the internet is a reliable source of spiritual information? Why or why not?

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