Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Author: Dean Murray
Publisher: Self-Published (via Smashwords)
(Review copy provided by the author.)
I was not too enamored of Torn to begin with, but at the end it did something that outright infuriated me. By now regular readers know that I'm not a fan of books that tell half a story and leave the rest for the sequels. Well, Torn is like that, but worse. It's one side of a story that is intended to be seen from two sides. In other words, there's a complete story here, you're just not getting it. For that, you have to pay for another book. And if Torn by itself is any indication, both together get you a story barely worth the price of one book.
Our hero is Alec Graves, teen shape-shifter and leader of a pack headquartered in Southern Utah. Since his father's death years ago, they've been feuding with a rival pack led by a vicious alpha named Brandon. Amidst escalating tensions and territorial skirmishes, the mysterious Adriana Paige moves into town. Adriana's has a mysterious aura which resembles a shifter's, but she shows little sign of being an actual shifter. Alec is intrigued. Enough so that Brandon becoming Adriana's girlfriend is cause for concern, since Brandon has little regard for human life.
The Author's Notes indicate that Torn is a companion piece to a forthcoming novel called Broken, which is supposedly the same story told from Adri's perspective. I don't see this as being an intrinsically bad idea. (I have visions of a Rashomon-style collection of novellas, each book telling its own story, and the whole series telling a greater story in the background.) My problem is that it's completely unnecessary. Bluntly put, there's barely enough material in here for a half a book to begin with. In fact, the story drowns in piles of filler and useless scenes. We know Alec is having trouble leading the pack, we know Brandon's pack is hassling Alec's at every opportunity, and we know Alec is a master manipulator and blackmailer. Each of these factors requires one scene to set up, just one. Yet the author throws in fights and chessmaster bits at every opportunity, all of which are redundant and pointless. We know already, get on with it.
When the actual plot does poke its head out, it's cliche. There's not a single plot twist here that you haven't seen a dozen times before, usually in a very familiar context. Supernatural creature's touch is addictive to mere mortals? Seen it. Bad Guy manipulates love interest so as to outmaneuver hero? Been done. Girl and Boy dance the tsundere dance for while, then she comes around after he saves her life? Please. And the things that could offset this -- compelling world-building, characters with depth, engaging writing style -- are absent. Even at its best, there's absolutely nothing to elevate Torn over your standard boiler-plate Twilight knockoff.
The pacing doesn't do the book any favors either. In fact, Torn could be exhibit A for why authors need to outline their stories. For pages upon pages the plot barely moves, but the twists come in an instant, usually falling flat. Alec spends a good portion of the book trying to figure out whether Adri is a shifter, then once he has his answer it's dismissed and the plot moves on. A love triangle between Adri, Alec, and Jasmin comes in about thirty or so pages from the end after Alec and Jasmin have been just friends for most of the book. Adri's swing from hating Alec's guts to being his girlfriend is sudden and unrealistic. Yeah, okay, he just saved her life, but it still rings false. It feels like the plots moving on to the next station and the author's yelling out "All aboard!" It all feels very, very first draft.
I've railed on the obnoxious one-for-the-price-of-two gimmick, but honestly, it wouldn't annoy me anywhere near as much if I thought the story was worth it. It isn't. The author could easily cut out all the B.S., do the same for Broken, and put them together into a single novel with two viewpoints. It's been done before, rather successfully too. But even then, Torn wouldn't amount to anything but another teen PNR with the same tired old plot we've seen before. To sell a book in such a crowded genre, the story has to be either fairly original or exceptionally well-crafted. Torn is neither.