I truly underestimated this book. You know how when you first read a book's blurb and it totally catches your attention as something different and unique? You know that feeling right afterwards that can only be described nothing short of "Gimme Syndrome"? Yeah, that's how I felt with The Archived. But for whatever reason, I got distracted and started picking up other books (you know how it is). Well, one day I was frolicking through my bookshelf, re-read the blurb and engaged the family in a battle of epic proportions for peace and quiet.
I won. Obviously.
It was a good thing that I had managed to find this rare thing called reading time, because once I started reading The Archived, I didn't want to stop. Oh boy, Schwab. I am a fan! The premise is so fascinating and fleshed out in the book, that you can't help but to drink the descriptions in. Just imagine a library existing for people who die with the sole purpose of preserving their memories. Then you'd have these Librarians who would catalogue the dead and Keepers to Return the Histories (the dead) to the Archive (library). Like I said, truly fascinating and I think Schawb really pulled it off well.
Mac was a fantastic main character. She was smart, resourceful and very relatable. In the beginning, we learn that she has lost both her grandfather, who she refers to as "Da", and her younger brother. The pain and grief that she feels for her brother, in particular, felt very realistic to me. There were scenes where she was desperate to hold onto her brother's memory by clinging to items that once belonged to him. Her feelings of guilt for not being able to protect him, anger at her parents for attempting to move on, frustration at herself for not remembering every detail about him, all resonated with me quite a bit due to my own personal experiences. I thought Mac was brave for dealing with her grief while still upholding her Keeper duties and coming in contact with Histories everyday.
Speaking of Histories, I thought that was a really creative way to show a new kind of paranormal character. I would almost classify them as a ghost/zombie hybrid. They look exactly like their human selves except for their eyes. They talk, walk around in corporeal forms and are generally confused about their whereabouts. They also don't know they are dead. (Yikes! Talk about being the bearer of bad news...) Because of that little complication, Mac has to sometimes fight the Histories, forcing them back to the Returns. If you are having trouble with picturing that scenario, just think of Cas hunting ghosts from Anna Dressed in Blood and you'll have a pretty good idea.
The plot is where a lot of the magic in The Archived happens. Schwab really wove a great mystery together that had me flipping pages without letup. Since she created a world so different from what I usually seen in YA lit, I was completely surprised at the twists and turns. The ending to this murder mystery is something I never saw coming.
Oh and *high fives Schwab for the love interest* I LOVED Wes. Even though he didn't get a ton of page time, I enjoyed the refreshing comical flare he brought to the story. I especially love how his existence didn't take over Mac's life. 'Cause the girl had bigger fish to fry, like, say hunting Histories, making sure they didn't escape into the real world and murder people in their sleep. Kinda important.
What Left Me Wanting More:
The only reason why I'm not giving out 5 stars is due to the beginning. It was a little slow and complex with the narrative mode switching back and forth. Sometimes Mac is narrating to the audience and other times she's chronicling her past Keeper lessons with her grandfather, but it's like she's narrating to him (ex. "We used to do this or that together, Da.") I adjusted to this style pretty quickly, but I can see it throwing off other readers a bit. However, hang in there because the flip-flopping tapers off pretty quickly as the story progresses. Not to mention the second half is simply phenomenal.
Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. I definitely highly recommend people check out The Archived. It's the perfect murder mystery to keep you on the edge of your seat. It's the kind of book that had me thinking about the events long after I finished and now I'll be desperately waiting for book 2.