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She Can Control Her Pack, But Not Her Heart

Andrea Cremer's start of a new series, Nightshade, exceeds the (low) expectations set by its snortworthy tagline. 

She Can Control Her Pack, But Not Her Heart

BOOK REPORT for Nightshade (Nightshade Book 1) by Andrea Cremer

BFF Charm: Yay
Swoonworthy Scale: 5
Talky Talk: Dog Whisperer
Bonus Factor: The Pack, Fighting the Man, Mysterious Promotions
Relationship Status: The Book I Went On a Pity Date With, Who Exceeded My Expectations

The Deal:

Calla Tor is a senior in high school. She's also the leader of her very own wolf pack. She's also betrothed to Ren, the leader of a rival wolf pack, and come Samhain, they are going to start a new pack for their keepers (the wizardly humans who created the werewolves).

Enter Shay, the new boy in school, who is connected to the packs in some way they don't understand, and to whom Calla is drawn in a very carnal way. Shay also causes Calla to begin to question her role as a servant to the keepers, and her betrothed, and as the two search to uncover the truth, Calla begins to doubt everything she's been taught to believe...

BFF Charm: Yay

My heart really went out to Calla as she struggled against the brainwashing of her society. Having been raised in a strict male-dominant religious community myself, watching her struggle to break free and concurrently giving in to what was comfortable had me tasting bile in the back of my throat. Many, many times I wanted to throw an arm around her and tell her how it really is in the world.

Also, I LOVED the supporting characters. They felt more fleshed-out than Calla or Shay, and I spent much of the book seriously stressing out for their well-being.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Shay and his quest to make Calla break out of her mental prison made me very happy. It was nice to have a male character in the story who didn't make me want to knee him in the 'nads. Their romance will probably be very swoony-mc-swoon for the younger set, but I wanted MORE. Shay could have been fleshed out a little bit more, and I would have liked to see Calla figure out why she was drawn to him.

The other interesting thing about the swoon in this story is the love triangle. Half the time when Calla's swooning (and her knees wobble more than once- an analogy I'd like to see buried, thankyousomuch) it's when she's making out with Ren, the bad-boy-hot-headed-kind-of-skeevy-so-why-don't-I-hate-him-kid that she's betrothed to. Which brings me to Ren. Cremer does an interesting thing here. See, Ren should be a first class douchewhistle. I mean, he is. Some of the time. Thing is, though, he's been just as brainwashed as Calla, and Cremer gives him moments throughout the book where you realize he could be okay.

Talky Talk: Dog Whisperer

As a person who is obsessed with her dog (not in a creepy Shiver type way) I loved the way Cremer developed her world. In fact, the mythology and supporting characters were fantastic, it was just the leads who felt a little flat at times. Anyway, in other werewolf/pack type tales NO ONE questions the pack leader. Yet, that's not the way it is with pack animals. Pretty much every single thing we tell our dog to do is followed by a thought bubble above her head that reads 'not really...' before she does it.

As I mentioned before, due to my own upbringing, Cremer gave me heartburn a little bit, and part of that was the way she wrote the characters you want to hate, but can't completely write off. It's so much easier when you can say 'this person is bad. this person is good.' So while I feel that Cremer is great with her imagery, and a good writer all-around, the pacing was a little off (plodding but interesting, then it could be just me, but the mother-of-a-cliffie-ending felt a teensy bit rushed.) I also wanted more development from the leads, but that speaks to Cremer's giving me a hint of how interesting these characters could be, and leading me along so I'll want to know more and read the sequel.

Bonus Factor: The Pack

Cremer captured the humans-as-a-pack-thing so well I found myself getting misty-eyed for Principal Flutie.

Bonus Factor: Fighting the Man

Apart from the obvious male/female power dynamic, the young generation in this book was rearing up to fight against the old. In a society where boys and girls are matched at an early age, you can imagine what being gay might mean for you.

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Promotions

This was sent to us at Posh's place of employment. She documented it for us all, and we kept getting emails as she opened it.

I know what you're thinking: Where did she get those shoes?

What could be in this box of mystery?

A key? A USB? WTH?

And it turned out to be a personalized message from "Shay", plus a webisode about how he moved into this creepy mansion. Sort of back story, I guess. But best surprise mystery promotion evs.

Casting Call:

 

Emily Browning as Calla

I normally prefer Emily as a ginger, but I have to admit she looks amazing, in that comic-book sort of way in the stills for Sucker Punch.

I got nothing for the guys. I kept imagining Ren as the werewolf boy, Tyler, on The Vampire Diaries, but I wanted him to be cuter than that. And Shay? He was described as having chiseled cheek bones and floppy hair-- matinee idol looks. Insert your fave British actor here.

Relationship Status: The Book I Went On a Pity Date With, Who Exceeded My Expectations

Okay, you guys. Right there, on the cover, it says "She can control her pack, but not her heart". Seriously! For real! I swear, I did not make that up! (However I did snort beer up my nose when I read the line). So I was actually kind of looking forward to going out with this book, but in that mean way (I never said I was proud of my motives) that I would give my friends a detailed "and then the book said...." that we could all laugh over later. I thought the date might be so bad it would be good. So you can imagine my surprise when I realized it had heart, and that this book and I shared similar childhoods (except for the whole being-in-a-pack-of-animals-thing). Once I spent time with it, I didn't find there was much to laugh about. In fact, I liked it. But it lacks my age and maturity, so our 'date' ended up with me playing the big sister. I'll pick up that role when the sequel comes out, to see how it's doing.

Jenny Bird's photo About the Author: Jenny grew up on a steady diet of Piers Anthony, Isaac Asimov and Star Wars novels. She has now expanded her tastes to include television, movies, and YA fiction.
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