The River by Mary Jane Beaufrand (February 10th 2010—Little Brown)
Grade: 3.7 stars out of 5
Summary: “Veronica Severance feels cut off from the world. Forced to move from the city to rural Oregon with her parents, she is haunted by loneliness and by the chilling sounds of the Santiam, the river that runs through her backyard.
Through the fog of isolation, Ronnie finds herself becoming close with Karen, a young girl who she babysits. But when she discovers Karen's body on the banks of the Santiam, the victim of a supposed accident, Ronnie feels compelled to uncover the truth.
As she becomes increasingly obsessed with solving Karen's death, Ronnie is led deeper and deeper into the woods surrounding the river and to the dark secret hidden within its midst.”
Review: Despite The River starting off with a dramatic entry of a sudden death the storyline began to settle down and I had to crawl through the rest. From that point on it was a jumbled mess of a regular teen life with an abnormal connection to the river spirit. (Something that the author never fully explained on. Did Veronica have a sixth sense or was this all a delusion?) I had gone in expecting a mournful, heartbreaking, book of a death but instead gotten something…not that. Then we reached midway and came across Gretchen, another plot. I could not imagine the ties these two situations had, a river death and an illegal drug use? I was a bit peeved some might say—the author was clearly biting off more than she can chew.
Some chapters after that scene, Beaufrand did something I could only smile about, she connected these scenarios together. She then carried the reader through a monsoon of actions and emotions. A high stakes game of resolution, revenge, and a runway that lead almost to another death. I had devoured the last several chapters of the book in the time it took me to say “no way”. In spite of this I still did like not some elements of The River.
I had already mentioned the slow crawl of the book and the randomness which is where Tomas’s relationship with Veronica stands. While I accepted Beaufrand’s attempt to humor the story, it did little for the actual plot. I did, however, find it amusing and gave a chuckle here and there but ultimately felt that it distracted the reader from the essence of the book. I found Tomas’s relationship with Veronica cute and endearing but had a weak foundation. The author barely cemented their affection to the reader before thrusting them to a love cocoon. Although it ties in with Karen and some of the background information of the characters it stole some of the spotlight of the heaviness of the topic.
Overall: The River will surprise will the reader for sure. Expect a tale that is similar to that of Stephanie Kuehnert—raw and emotional at times.
FTC: copy from HipLit Program was exchanged for review