Book Reviews: The Look by Sophia Bennett and The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney

The LookThe Look
Sophia Bennett
Chicken House, M arch 2013
ISBN 978-0-545-46438-3
Hardcover

I love this book.  So much, in fact, that this review is surprisingly difficult for me to write.   I don’t want to just gush about how much I enjoyed it, and I most certainly don’t want to give away too much.

The Look is an outstanding tale of two sisters, each experiencing life-altering changes that no one could have predicted.  They turn to each other. Seeing the evolution of their relationship was tremendously satisfying. While the girls are completely different, they are both charismatic and loveable, making the whole story almost tangible.

Ted Trout is tall, lanky with constantly disheveled hair, and a uni-brow.  For most 15 year old girls, this would be a nightmare. She accepts it and goes about her business.  Immediately, I loved Ted.  Her matter-of-fact way of dealing with things is unique and intriguing.  She often cracked me up. I think everyone will admire this cheeky girl who tends to go with the flow, without being passive.  The reader almost feels proud as Ted begins to realize, then embrace, the fact that she is a strong and confident girl.

Ava is the older sister.  She is gorgeous, sweet and totally smitten with her simply awesome boyfriend.  All is right in her world until she learns that she has cancer.  But wait—this is not a “cancer” book.  Ava is intricate to the story, yes, but she is not the main character and her disease is not the central theme.  Ava won’t allow herself to be consumed by this, so she focuses all of her energy on Ted and the changes she is making.

To me, this book is about self-discovery.   Learning that you can hear peoples’ opinions, but you get to choose which advice to follow; most importantly, you get to determine the impact the words have on you.  Mistakes will be made, but acknowledgment and an effort to correct will go a long way.  Leaving your comfort zone is imperative for growth.  You can try something new, hate it, yet still garner valuable insight.  When you are honest with yourself and you follow your heart, you won’t be wrong.  We all have a confidence and strength inside of us, we just may need to work hard to find it.

Please, read The Look.  I like everything about it, and I bet you will too.

Reviewed by jv poore, March 2013.

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The Iron WitchThe Iron Witch
The Iron Witch Trilogy #1
Karen Mahoney
Flux, February 2011
ISBN 978-0-7387-2582-6
Trade Paperback

We’ve all heard “don’t judge a book by its cover”; although I can’t seem to help myself.  Apparently, you can’t judge a book by its title either.  Both the cover and the title of The Iron Witch intrigued me.  Of course, I adore all things witchy, from the cauldron stirrers to Wiccans and all things in between.  I expected some version of a “typical” witch in this book.  I was wrong.

Donna Underwood is a typical teen in many ways, but her peers are not interested in seeing that.  She stands out because she wears long gloves.  Always.  This small differentiation is enough to bring out the meanness in her class mates and she is taunted and teased relentlessly.  Luckily, she has her best bud, Navin.  He is really the only friend she needs.

As if the hell of being the brunt of jokes and pranks at school isn’t enough, Donna’s home-life is a mystery, even to Donna herself.  Technically, she lives with her aunt, but mostly she is alone.  She remembers very little about her father’s death, although she was there.  Her mother in an asylum and Donna can’t really understand why.

The largest peculiarity is that Donna is “in training”.  She is being groomed to be a full member of an incredibly secret Order.  So secret, in fact, that she knows almost nothing about the Order, which means she can’t really trust them.

Despite Navin, Donna is totally alone.  Oh, and she is being pursued.  By faeries.  Okay, nothing about the title (or cover) prepared me for the Fey.  What a pleasant surprise!

By chance, and because of Navin, Donna meets Alexander (Xan).  It is quickly apparent that the two share similar secrets, but can they build enough trust to share them in time to save themselves?  We shall see.

Ms. Mahoney has created an intriguing and quite original story.  Her characters are rich, with depth.  There is humour, strength, support, and unparalleled loyalty; the kind you see in teenagers that are still sweetly naive.  The book pulled this reader in abruptly, and held me until the very end.  Each chapter shares a bit more information, and because the characters are so compelling, I felt invested in their adventure.

This book is the first in a trilogy, and since it was released in 2011, I was able to promptly purchase the following books, The Wood Queen and The Stone Demon.  This luxury is one of the best things about discovering a book that has been out for awhile.  As Karen Mahoney is not necessarily a well-known YA author (in the US), I highly recommend this for the readers that say “I can’t find anything to read”.

Reviewed by jv poore, June 2013.