May 19, 2012

Review: Through Her Eyes

By: Jennifer Archer
Published: April 2011 by HarperTeen
Format: Hardback, 374 pages
First Reviewed: November 2011
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
Add it on Goodreads

Every ghost has a story to tell.

The last place Tansy Piper wants to be is stuck in Cedar Canyon, Texas, in the middle of nowhere, with a bunch of small-town kids. But when her mother decides to move to the desolate West Texas town, Tansy has no choice but to go along. Once there, Tansy is immediately drawn to the turret of their rickety old house, a place she soon learns has a disturbing history. But it's the strange artifacts she finds in the cellar—a pocket watch, a journal of poetry, and a tiny crystal—that have the most chilling impact on her.
Tansy soon finds that through the lens of her camera, she can become part of a surreal black-and-white world where her life is intertwined with that of mysterious, troubled Henry, who lived in the same house and died decades earlier. It seems their lives are linked by fate and the artifacts she found, but as Tansy begins spending more and more time in the past, her present world starts to fade away. Tansy must untangle herself from Henry's dangerous reality—before she loses touch with her own life forever.

Rating: 3.5/5

It took me way too long to finally finish this book. Life just got in the way. So after a two week break a third of the way through, I finally got to sit down and read it to the end. Even now, as I sit here and contemplate, I can't completely decide how I feel about this book. Luckily it's a battle between liking it and really liking it.

While I didn't think the writing was stunning or unique or a style that stands out in the crowd, I did like it. Archer, for me, crafted commercial narration in a way that didn't feel cheesy or annoying or unrealistic. She gave a strong voice to Tansy, giving her realistic thoughts that weren't overbearing or ridiculous and an attention to detail that was believable. It felt as though it came from Tansy and not from the author just trying to throw details out there.

What else I enjoyed about Archer's style was her ability to create the atmosphere that somehow managed to stay away from cliches. Even with the general setting seeming overdone, Archer made it her own and also quite eerie. I liked that I was able to connect with the creepiness through the descriptions and believability Archer gave her narrator.

What bothered me a tad was that Archer seemed to relay on certain elements. Ones that would be funny the first time or two around, but after a while became a little annoying. Like the names. Did they all have to have weird names? I didn't mind the names, but it became annoying when Tansy would always comment on them. Probably doesn't make too much sense unless you've read the book. Anyway, I don't have many nitpicks. It was solid writing, just not amazing or a style I'll remember.

Overall, the characters were good. Tansy was a strong lead, in my opinion, realistic and interesting to follow. I was intrigued by her lifestyle as well as how she handled it. She was believable in how she reacted to things, and wasn't the stereotypical, dumb idiot who couldn't connect things that are throw right in her face. So that was refreshing. I also loved, loved, loved Bethyl Ann. For me, she was the most developed. Shakespeare-loving, thirteen-year-old geek. She was great. Loved her lines. She also stayed away from stereotypes.

But it was many of the other characters who fell into the stereotypes. Not all of them, but many of them were characters I felt I'd read a thousand times before, or characters that felt unneeded. I'll go into this a bit in plot. Misunderstood, popular girl with a past. Snobby for no reason popular girl's best friend. Popular, football-stud who secretly hates football and isn't really stuck up. However, Tate, said football player, wasn't too bad, though. While I did feel like I'd read his type of character a lot, I didn't mind too much. He became a very likable character in the end.

Also, while the other, non-cliched characters were good, and I liked them--the characters from the past as well as Tansy's mother and grandfather--I just never felt entirely as connected as I would have liked. Looking back, I like them more now that I can reflect on some of the scenes, but I also wish I would have seen more of the mother/daughter relationship, as I thoroughly enjoyed those scenes, as well as grandfather/granddaughter times. I wanted to see more of the relationship we kept hearing about. Nonetheless, I liked the characters.

Let's get my issues with plot out of the way first: Like with the characters, there were elements that were just overdone in so many other books, like the "moving to a new town and starting off on the wrong foot with people" thing. You know, the "automatic outcast" ordeal. Or the popular crowd, etc., etc. Also, like I'd mentioned earlier, some of the characters felt unneeded. Sure, sub-plots are great, but I felt some of the sub-plots in this that developed because of secondary/tertiary characters couldn't have been thrown out to make room for more development dealing with the past characters/scenes, in my opinion.

However, other than those main things, I really enjoyed the uniqueness Archer bought to this. Overall, it was different. Much different from the typical paranormal reads that have been coming out. There wasn't any instant romance; the romance was actually done in a very interesting way. The creepiness factor was actually creepy and intriguing, and I loved Archer's use of the ghost. It wasn't a traditional haunting--which I probably would have loved as well; you all know me--and even involved time travel and possession.

Save for a few chapters here and there, I was thoroughly engrossed. The mystery of it all held me and made me think. I kept wondering if others were in on something or if I had everything figured out. Though I would have liked a bit more twist to the ending, I did like it. That's probably the main thing keeping me torn between liking and really liking this.

Other: Can I just say that I hate the cover? Because I do. Grr! It reminds me of the covers people make for their writing online, you know? No offense, anyone, I promise. It's just, it looks like all they did was grab a picture, stick some Microsoft Word regular font on it, and blur our the text on the sides (which drives me the most insane! I keep thinking someone got water on my book). Ahem, anyway, I just don't like the cover. But something else I should mention: This book was very clean, and I appreciated it.

Overall, I liked this. I even really liked a lot of it. Think of my rating as a 3.5. Archer's style fit for this book, in my opinion, and had me feeling the creepiness. Tansy was a strong, solid narrator, and I loved the overall premise of this. Many elements were refreshing, interesting, and I found myself intrigued throughout most of the story, and while it fell just a tad flat in the end and had a few cliches, I still enjoyed it. I recommend trying it out.

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