Friday, September 30, 2022

Today's read... Ember Burning by Jennifer Alsever

I'm squeezing in a review today (because my pile is that high and schedule is that tight). Plus, I've been wanting to share this one with you guys for a bit now. Back in...ummm...July! Well, back in July, I reviewed a book by Jennifer Alsever and absolutely loved it. It even hit my possible favorites of the year: Burying Eva Flores. Jennifer offered a peek at some of her other works because she has more than one or two out in the world. So, of course I took her up on the offer and dove into today's novel. Want to see if she's becoming one of my more liked authors...because I think she might be just that.

Oh, and this one does ring with shadows, mystery, and darker tones fitting for the upcoming month, too.

Trinity Forest, Book 1
by Jennifer Alsever
Sawatch Publishing
YA Paranormal
265 pages

Senior year was supposed to be great—that’s what Ember’s friend Maddie promised at the beginning of the year. Instead, Ember TrouvĂ© spends the year drifting in and out of life like a ghost, haunted by her parents’ recent, tragic death.

At home, she pores over her secret obsession: pictures of missing kids— from newspaper articles, from grocery store flyers— that she’s glued inside a spiral notebook. Like her, the people are lost. Like her, she discovers, they had been looking for a way to numb their pain when they disappeared.

When Ember finds herself in Trinity Forest one day, a place locals stay away from at all costs, she befriends a group of teenagers who are out camping. Hanging out with them in the forest tainted with urban legends of witchcraft and strange disappearances, she has more fun than she can remember having. But something isn’t right.

The candy-covered wickedness she finds in Trinity proves to be a great escape, until she discovers she can never go home. Will Ember confront the truth behind her parents’ death, or stay blissfully numb and lose herself to the forest forever?

GOODREADS   /    B&N    /    AMAZON   


Note: This read does hit drug abuse, some violence, and a rape scene

Ember's world has shattered with the death of her parents, and while she's trying to keep things together, it's like swimming upstream against the world. She no longer fits in, but then, her hobby of collecting pictures of officially missing individuals from around the country has always made her a bit different. Suffocated by her grandmother, she takes a chance to turn things 'off' and finds herself in the not-so-great-crowd agreeing to visit the forbidden Trinity forest, an eerie place where people disappear more often than they should. Drawn by something she can't explain, she wanders too far in and discovers a paradise. With a group of people, who enjoy having her around, and finding her every heart's desire delivered to her door, she's tempted to forget the world beyond the forest and stay. But the place holds secrets, and when she does try to leave, she discovers there is no escape.

This is quite the complex read in the sense that it weaves teen problems, battling through the loss of  loved ones, ancient myths, magic, mystery, hard topics, releasing of spirits, and a touch of Hansel and Gretel all together in under 300 pages. So, it packs a fast-paced punch and definitely lays down enough ground for the series. I did find the mystic/magic side very foggy through most of the read, which could have used a bit more clarity, but then, I'm pretty sure this is intentional, since the book ends with revelations in that direction and uses these to catapult into book two. So, everything is nicely flipped on its head, promising a completely new adventure and excitement for the next read, while leaving off in a cliff-hanger. While I'm not usually a fan of cliffhangers, the huge change the plot brings does seem to be best handled by entering an new novel.

When we meet Ember,  she's in a bad place. And that's fully understandable. Her choices aren't always great, but they do make her more realistic. The other characters are mostly fleshed out with personalities to love, hate, and doubt. I did wish to get to know some better, though, like the grandmother. But they add a wide array, which feeds toward the plot well. 

There are more than a few harsh themes in this read. First, Ember's dealing with the loss of both parents. Her attempts to cope hit failure, since there doesn't seem to be really any help, and that drives her need to escape. The drug abuse builds into the plot with purpose and even foreshadows at things to come. The rape is built in with care, hitting as a memory flashback, which is summed up quick and slightly graphic-ish without going overboard. I wasn't a huge fan, but then, it's really a personal thing on that one, since it was also well handled and did work into some character relationships later on (not only the romance, which was refreshing). All of this does form and shape Ember as she heads into the paranormal mystery and danger, and I'm sure, it will hold more meaning as the series continues.

This is a harsher, darker read and packs bite. I do recommend it to darker YA fans, who love to dive into characters and face inner struggles as much as outer ones.

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