Thursday, January 19, 2012

Crossroads by J.J. Bonds

Title: Crossroads
Series: Crossroads Academy
Author: J.J. Bonds
Length: 3913 Kindle units
Rating: 4 stars

The Plot

Katia is far from thrilled to be headed to Crossroads Academy. She knows it will be full of snobby rich teen vampires who will only be friendly to her in order to curry favor with her powerful uncle. Still, she’s determined to learn all she can, especially about becoming an elite fighter.

In spite of herself, Katia begins to make friends and settle in at Crossroads, until tragedy strikes the nearby town of humans. Suddenly the vampires are afraid for the exposure of their world, and Katia must face a much more personal threat – the truth about her past, which she will do anything to keep secret.

The Good

In spite of the fact that Crossroads features two potentially overdone tropes in the YA paranormal world – vampires and boarding schools – I found the book enjoyable and compelling. Crossroads definitely has enough that is unique to keep a reader engaged, from the cutthroat vampire politics to the oddities of the blood disease.

I liked Katia a lot as a character, largely because she was not a cookie-cutter YA heroine. She establishes fairly early on that she does not care whether other people like her, and at no point does she alter her decidedly negative attitude in order to please anyone else. Yet she demonstrates that she can admit when she is wrong and manages to form bonds with select few others. I admit that at times her hostility toward everyone got on my nerves, but I was able to push past that and like her overall.

The kindle version of a book also has full chapter formatting, with a table of contents and the ability to flip between chapters. I cannot possibly describe how much I appreciate it when authors take the effort to do this.

The Bad

For the majority of Crossroads, the narrator Katia is keeping a very large secret about her past from the audience. This is made especially irritating because she constantly hints that there is something that she is not telling us. In a first person narrative, we as readers should feel like we are in the character’s head, and this effect is ruined when we are constantly reminded that the narrator is withholding information from us.

I conducted a brief and informal survey of people I know to determine whether everyone else found this device as irritating as I do. There were a variety of responses. Some felt, as I do, that if you want to keep a secret from the audience, you write in the third person. Others said that they did not mind this technique when it is done well. I think even those in the latter group would agree that this is not one of those cases. I nearly stopped reading the book a few times because I was getting tired of Katia’s attitude. But then when I reached the big reveal at the end, where we found out what had happened in her past, my response was, “Oh. Oh, wow. That totally makes sense. I now completely understand why she is the way she is.” I feel as a reader, this background information would have given me a better appreciation of the story as it developed, and there was still plenty of room for a surprise ending.

The Romance

Before Katia is at Crossroads for very long, Nikolai, the most popular boy in school begins to show an interest in her. In spite of all her rebuffs, he continues to offer overtures of friendship and volunteers to tutor her in martial arts. Basically, he is perfect – cute, smart, talented, rich, patient, tolerant of his friends’ foibles, etc. I actually find myself wondering why he puts up with Katia, and especially why he wants to pursue a romantic relationship with her. I cannot stress enough that the reasons for her unfriendliness are totally legitimate, but I would think that it would curtail her having any sane and rational suitors worth having. But, then, if she didn’t, the book wouldn’t really be worth reading, so we will just have to accept that Nik can see past her gruff exterior to the shining person within.

Will I read more?

I’m thinking probably yes, especially now that the reasons for Katia’s hostility are made clear. I’m curious to see how the revelation of Katia’s past influences her interactions with the other characters in the book, as well as with the reader. Some people may say that YA stories about vampire boarding schools are overdone, but I say as long as long as they’re good, feel free to keep ‘em coming.

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