Genre: YA fantasy
Pages: 454 (paperback)
Published: 2010 by Simon Pulse
Recommended for: If you want to read something very different (a wacky yet delightful fantasy, perhaps?)-- this is your book.
Having effectively shaken off her overbearing aunt-- via hitting her over the head with a rolling pin, no less-- seventeen year old Hanna heads to Portero, Texas to meet the mother she's never met. Over the years, Hanna's been diagnosed with every disorder and flavor of crazy in the psych books, but Hanna's an optimistic kind of crazy, at least. After all, how can crazy be so terrible if it lets her see and talk to her beloved father-- who's been dead a year-- and hallucinate things which are as vividly beautiful as they are utterly impossible? But it's when her mind weighs on the other end of the scale, leaning towards depression and even the darkness of suicide that Hanna needs somebody to love the most.
She's used to being the outcast, but in Portero, Hanna discovers she is far from the most bizarre thing in this little town of secrets and oddities, run by a mayor who can control everything you do... even after you die. In Portero, children play with living dolls, monsters lurk within window panes, and Hanna's hallucinations seem plain to everyone. Hanna's mother Rosalee is reluctant to take her estranged daughter into 'this crazy town', but finally promises a delighted Hanna that she can stay forever, if only she learns to blend in... and manages to survive the first week in Portero.
I think Dia Reeves might be a little kooky. Actually, a lot kooky, but that's fine with me-- and so is her novel Bleeding Violet. I thought it was a very fine read, indeed. The most important thing when reading this book is to not treat it like a detective novel where all the pieces fit together and everything makes logical sense at the end, and if the beginning has you perplexed and wishing everything would be explained, you'll really just have to get used to it. There aren't a lot of fantasy-system type explanations in this book; everything just is what it is... even though everything is rather what it isn't, if that makes sense. (Yep, it doesn't.)
The best thing about this book is that a reader can literally never guess what's going to happen next. Through Hanna we meet a host of characters both zany and grotesque... and often lovable despite it all. I found it impossible not to love Hanna-- despite all the things plaguing her, I didn't pity her for an instant, but was always cheering her on. Her mother Rosalee was another favorite character. I wanted her to love and accept Hanna soo badly, and it's easy to see where Hanna got her crazy from. Wyatt, Hanna's sort-of-boyfriend, was kinda just okay for me-- not because he wasn't a great character, just didn't love him the way I did Hanna and Rosalee. There are twists and turns around every corner in the maze of this book, and you likely won't be able to finish it fast enough. I certainly couldn't-- read the whole thing in less than 24 hours!
This is the kind of book you just have to experience for yourself. I can see how a lot of people would be put off by the sheer wackiness of everything, rather than intrigued and delighted by it, but as for me, I want to take my next vacation in Portero! On second thought, the lures would eat a 'transy' like me alive... so I think I'll just settle for grabbing the next Portero book, Slice of Cherry, as quickly as I can!
Plot: 5/5Overall Rating: 5/5