If you're looking for a creepy story with otherworldly creatures, THE REPLACEMENT is for you.
Brenna Yovanoff takes the mythology of the Norse changeling and turns it just enough to set it apart. Mackie Doyle is different - we know it from the moment we meet him. Everyone else in town knows he's different too, they just ignore it to different degrees.
Watching Mackie start to falter, to struggle with himself physically and emotionally as things change, is actually as interesting as the (spectacular) world building in this debut. His differences don't pull away from the fact that he's also a teen boy (who acts like a teen boy) who is trying to figure things out when it comes to girls, school, family and life.
This book threw me off in an excellent way - leaving me feeling unbalanced as I read. If you're a fan of Holly Black's fairy stories, you'll love THE REPLACEMENT. The world is dark, but the story has hope at the end. You'll hope for a sequel - I sure do!
So this review is coming straight at you from the depths of my two-sizes-too-large heart. Take it as you must.
I heard mostly negative things about The Replacement prior to picking it up—consensus declares Yovanoff’s newer books to be better. So it is possible that my low expectations where what triggered the Grinchiness. In any case, I was immediately struck by the gloomy, dark atmosphere that pervaded Mackie Doyle’s life and his small town. While I wasn’t particularly struck by the style in which this book is written, there is no denying that it’s very atmospheric. For a paranormal novel that’s rather horror-esque, that setting of the mood was pivotal.
Yovanoff’s take on changelings and the fey was unique and interesting as well. There was no defining moment where I could say, “This is a book about fairies” and certainly, the creatures portrayed in The Replacement aren’t fairies at all. They’re monsters, and they exist outside the sphere of human morality. As such, sometimes they do good, sometimes they do bad. I was quite impressed with the way the author managed to portray these monsters using shades of gray, and the way Mackie tried to reconcile his identity with the life he wanted to live.
Mackie, in the big picture, was a fairly good narrating protagonist. His motivations are a little questionable, and his “romance” was a little odd. However, he never declared undying love for his love interest, so I was more or less okay with it. This novel isn’t a stunning action-packed drama; it’s about character growth, redemption, self-worth, identity. The reader is able to watch Mackie come to an understanding of himself through the lense of Yovanoff’s brooding setting and plotline.
Of course, who really sold me on The Replacement were Emma, Mackie’s older sister, and Roswell, his best friend. Those two characters brought the Grinchiness out in full force. I like romance and kissing as much as the next person, but a book that portrays solid, meaningful platonic relationships holds me tighter and longer.
Emma knows who Mackie is—she watched the monster come and take away her baby brother and replace him with an unwanted monster-child. She loved him anyway, her whole life revolved around making sure that Mackie was loved and felt protected. Because of her love, Mackie survived childhood (he was “replaced” because he was sick and dying).
Roswell, on the other hand, has always known there’s something off about Mackie, but he didn’t care. He was loyal to a fault, didn’t care what crap Mackie pulls, and was willing to do all sorts of crazy stuff because Mackie wanted him to. At one point, when Mackie confesses to Roswell that he’s just like the monsters that are invading the town, Roswell says: “Don’t be a jackass. Nobody’s like you.” and then goes on to explain how Mackie can’t let things outside his control define him, yadda yadda, mooshy best friend stuff. Be still my oversized Grinchy heart.
Basically what I’m saying is: I’m green and furry and live on Mount Crumpit. The Replacement is likely not a book for everyone, but it’s definitely a book for me. I can already tell it’s going to stick with me and creep around the back of my brain for a while. And while I’d love to give it five stars, I’m not going to, because I’m not completely Grinched yet. But it was a very close shave for Ms Yovanoff. Very close indeed.
This review doesn't even do the book justice. Brenna is a genius with mad talent. You have to read her to understand. What are you waiting for?