Saturday, March 10, 2012

Review: Still Waters by Emma Carlson Berne

Title: Still Waters
Author: Emma Carlson Berne
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: December 20th 2011
Pages: 212
Genre: YA; mystery
Source: Bought
Find out more: Amazon | Goodreads

Goodreads description:
Hannah can't wait to sneak off for a romantic weekend with her boyfriend, Colin. He’s leaving for college soon, and Hannah wants their trip to the lake house to be one they’ll never forget.
But once Hannah and Colin get there, things start to seem a They can't find the town on any map. The house they are staying in looks as if someone's been living there, even though it's been deserted for years. And Colin doesn’t seem quite himself. As he grows more unstable, Hannah worries about Colin’s dark side, and her own safety.
Nothing is as perfect as it seems, and what lies beneath may haunt her forever.

First sentence:
Hannah Taylor leaned her finger on the doorbell of Colin's house, listening to the silvery chimes echo inside the sprawling Victorian.

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I had high hopes for Still Waters. I hadn't read a mystery in a while, and I was excited for that thrill you always get from reading a good mystery. And while I thought the creepiness was well-done and it did provide a nice change from the books I normally read, I was really disappointed by Still Waters.

From the first page on, the writing annoyed me. The sentences are choppy and the writing style is amateurish and cliched. It gets better towards the end of the book, but I still didn't like the writing.

The characters are what I disliked most about Still Waters. I know this isn't the emotional contemporary kind of book I normally read, so I shouldn't expect as much character growth and all of that, but Hannah and Colin don't even have real personalities. The narrator tells us a few things about how Hannah supposedly is, but her actions and thoughts don't fit to those descriptions at all. I never felt like I really got to know her, and I wanted to smack her for some of the stupid decisions she makes. The same goes for Colin - I think we should have seen some more of how he normally is in order to be able to really understand how different everything is at the lake house. Their relationship is pretty bland, nothing special or memorable about them. I also disliked the lack of fully-developed secondary characters or storylines other than the main one. There's Laurie, Hannah's best friend, and there's Hannah's family, but none of them have real personalities, either. Hannah's family's situation is described at the beginning, but we never hear anything about their problems again - I would have liked to see, at least in the end, whether anything changed for them.

I'm split on what to say about the plot. I liked how mysterious and creepy it is, and that's what kept me turning the pages. The resolution, though, I didn't like at all. It's hard to talk about this without spoiling it for anyone, but I think a lot of the clues don't make sense with that ending, and the ending is just very weird and unrealistic.

***This paragraph contains spoilers!***
I liked how we got so many clues about what was going on, since that made me want to try to find out on my own, but a lot of those clues don't work with the ending. What does the town not being on a map have to do with Colin going crazy? And what was the whole thing with the house looking like some has been living there supposed to mean? Was that supposed to be because Colin's family came there for one year longer than Colin remembered? Really? That just doesn't make any sense. The creepiness at Colin's house before they leave doesn't make sense either with this ending. What's happening with Colin is just really, really weird. I knew it was going to have something to do with Jack - how it was mentioned in the first chapter that Colin has a dead brother and then never referred to again made it pretty obvious.

I don't know enough about psychology to judge whether something like that is possible, but the reasons for Colin acting strangely are really, really weird. I think the explanations are a little too simple, and I didn't like how the characters handle the secret they find out about it. I would have liked to see some kind of confrontation, to read about some lasting effect that this trip and revelation had on Colin's family and Hannah.

If you're looking for a creepy atmospere and thrilling story, you should give Still Waters a try. If you're looking for more than that, though - good writing and characters, a solution to the mystery that actually works with the clues the author gives readers, and a deeper look at what the secrets the characters find out about really mean, I don't particularly recommend Still Waters. Asides from the creepy atmosphere, I couldn't really enjoy this book.

If you've read this book, what did you think?


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