Eleanor (The Unseen)
By Johnny Worthen
Jolly Fish Press, 2014
(I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review)
This is a tough one to describe without giving too much away, so bear with me. Eleanor is trying to slip through life unnoticed. Apart from her less earthly reasons, she and her terminally ill mother, and only confidante, are on public assistance, terrified of being separated by social services. As her mother's condition deteriorates and David, the only friend Eleanor has ever had, returns to town, she has to decide whether to open up and build a real life, or run away as she always has.
Um... let's see... well, David is the boyfriend every girl should dream of, and his patience with Eleanor is incredibly sweet, but just for the sake of giving him a bit more credit as someone in love rather than someone possibly addicted to abuse, she could be a bit less horrible to him at a few points when she’s less consciously trying to drive him away. And when Eleanor really starts to use what she is, maybe the chain of events could have been a little simpler. One plan gone awry fewer. Maybe.
This section was hard to fill. It's a really, really good book.
Eleanor. The book and the character. It's pretty much all upside. The character of Eleanor is written with the depth and absence of condescension I always hope for in female leads but so rarely find. She loves deeply but is more than her love. She’s heroic yet vulnerable. The nature of what she is (which I shall not spoil) seamlessly influences the way she thinks and sees the world, making her distinctive and memorable.
Eleanor isn't all that's vividly realized, either. For example, there's a part in which two characters in the same place at the same time are referred to by the same name for reasons I can't go into without spoilers. There are hardly any extra words used to specify which one is meant in each instance, and yet the whole sequence is far less confusing than this sentence describing it, because everything is so crisply described and the characters so identifiable by more than name or appearance.
The magic is well integrated into the world, without taking over the whole story. The quite grounded drama surrounding the viciousness of the rumor mill, especially its treatment of girls, is cutting, insightful, and painfully relatable. The romance, rocky as Eleanor's struggle makes it, has a beautiful earnestness to it, and no matter how twisting and turning the final act, I was very sorry to see it end.
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