GARDENIA by Kelsey Sutton is such a unique and interesting premise that I was hooked right from the beginning. The story follows seventeen-year-old Ivy Erickson, who happens to know when everyone will die. Unbeknownst to others, Ivy sees numbers floating above people’s heads, counting down their days left on earth. Ivy, herself, is not immune to the clock and her time is limited. She has exactly one month, twenty-seven days, four hours, fifty-nine minutes, and two seconds to live and the same amount of time to uncover her best friend’s murderer. As more girls start to go missing, Ivy feels increasing pressure to find an answer. Will she be successful or will she be next?
Ivy is a compelling protagonist and really drives the story forward in a surprisingly relatable, yet unpredictable way. For instance, while Ivy faces her own morbidity and that of everyone around her, she also maintains a normal semblance of a life, such as going to school and work, volunteering at a nursing home, performing in a play, and somehow making it to winter formal. She has a good heart, but is flawed, especially when it comes to her ex-boyfriend, Myers Patripski. Somehow her voice is distinctive and realistic, despite the sci-fi element of the novel. On the other hand, I had a very difficult time keeping track of the male characters in this book. Their personalities were not as fully developed from the beginning, which took me out of the story every time I had to stop to recall who they were.
I also found that I had to suspend my disbelief at times in order to accept what was happening. For instance, I could not understand why Vanessa, having gotten the note, “Meet me in Havenger’s Woods,” would actually go there. I know she had been drinking and was upset, but it seemed a little farfetched to me that she would randomly go find a stranger in the middle of the night just because. Ivy’s behavior the night of Vanessa’s death also seemed odd. Perhaps if Sutton would have elaborated more about Ivy’s past and how Ivy knew there was absolutely nothing she could do to save Vanessa, it would have made sense. While Sutton discusses how Ivy tests her own fate, she doesn’t address what Ivy has tried to do to change the fate of those around her. After all, Ivy must have done something if she now has a rule against it. Either way, a bit more exposition would have helped here to answer the question, why?
With that being said, GARDENIA is a wonderfully entertaining and gripping tale that had me on the edge of my seat. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book that I am happy to forgive any inconsistencies. Sutton does a great job of blending genres and it will be exciting to see what she does next.