ask me

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 |
I’m on a bit of a reading streak when it comes to young adult fantasy that incorporates elements of Greek mythology (Promise of Shadows, Antigoddess, Cruel Beauty).  And that’s awesome, because mythology has always been a particular favorite of mine, along with fairy tale retellings.  I feel the need to interject here: DON’T STOP READING IF MYTHOLOGY ISN’T YOUR JAM! Kimberly Pauley’s latest release Ask Me is much more than that.  It’s a contemporary fantasy that is part thriller, part mystery, part first brush with romance, and wholly absorbing.

ask me by kimberly pauley book cover
Ask Aria Morse anything, and she must answer with the truth. Yet she rarely understands the cryptic words she‘s compelled to utter. Blessed—or cursed—with the power of an Oracle who cannot decipher her own predictions, she does her best to avoid anyone and everyone.

But Aria can no longer hide when Jade, one of the few girls at school who ever showed her any kindness, disappears. Any time Aria overhears a question about Jade, she inadvertently reveals something new, a clue or hint as to why Jade vanished. But like stray pieces from different puzzles, her words never present a clear picture.

Then there’s Alex, damaged and dangerous, but the first person other than Jade to stand up for her. And Will, who offers a bond that seems impossible for a girl who’s always been alone. Both were involved with Jade. Aria may be the only one who can find out what happened, but the closer she gets to solving the crime, the more she becomes a target. Not everyone wants the truth to come out.

Aria Morse can’t help but answer every question she hears with the truth, even if it is sometimes obscured or deeply offensive.  She doesn’t have control over what she says, and the deep truths physically drain her.  Her ‘condition’ has marked her life ever since age twelve: Aria has lost friends and family, and her prophecies have driven her from Michigan to small-town Florida, where she lives in a small shack with her grandparents.  When tragedy strikes her high school, Aria can’t avoid questions, or her truths.  Someone is capable of murder, and Aria may be the only one who can tell who, where, and why.

Two word reaction to this book?  So good!  It’s compulsive reading about a strange girl in a tiny Florida community (that is described to a T, by the way).  Aria has come up with coping mechanisms so that her everyday life isn’t constant torture, or at least she’s tried to.  The arrival of real danger means Aria must decide who to trust: the town’s golden boy Will, an outsider-turned-popular-jock named Alex, or one of the girls who has always kept her on the outside, Delilah.  One question might mean the difference between death and life, and that’s a heavy burden to bear, especially for a teen who can’t interact on any social level, forget normal.

So much of Aria’s life is consumed with avoiding people and their questions that she doesn’t really know how to live – she lets life tow her along and waits for the day when she won’t have the compulsion to spew prophecy any longer.  This means that friends and boys are forbidden – until Aria begins to ask her own questions and question her responsibility for her community.  This change comes through beautifully in her thoughts, her knee-jerk reactions, the way she responds to crises (both her own and others’).  Pauley has written a believable, flawed heroine who can tell anyone else their future but not her own.  It’s quite an accomplishment.

My favorite bits in the book were Aria’s interactions with her grandparents (sweet and tart at the same time), her complicated relationship with her ‘gift,’ and the descriptions of Florida life.  Of course the prophecies were interesting too, along with the slow unraveling of what they meant, and the ratcheting up of danger and tension as a result.  This is no cotton-candy story – there’s violence hidden in Lake Mariah.  The only ‘con’ I can think of is that I figured out the mystery before Aria did, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book at all.

In other words, Ask Me is wonderful entertainment.  It’s also skillfully constructed, and there’s feeling, tension and mystery in the writing.  As I said, so good!

Recommended for: fans of contemporary fantasy and thrillers, those who appreciate a story well-told, and anyone who likes the work of Sarah Rees Brennan, Holly Black, or Rick Yancey.

Fine print: I received an ARC of Ask Me for honest review from the publisher.  I received no compensation for this post.

No comments:

Newer Posts Older Posts Home