Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Review: Chime by Franny Billingsley

Finished: December 30, 2011
Pages: 362 (Ebook)
Add It: Goodreads
Publisher: DIAL (Penguin)
Source: Purchased

Before Briony's stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family's hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment. Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He's as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she's extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn't know.

Read an excerpt of Chime at Franny Billingsley's website.

Quote: “If you say a word, it leaps out and becomes the truth. I love you. I believe it. I believe I am loveable. How can something as fragile as a word build a whole world?”

Cover Love: I am not in love with the cover but I think it's a good idea of what Briony might look like.

Thoughts: Chime came highly recommended to me by the wonderful Anna at Ya in the Second City. So it is while begging her forgiveness that I say I just didn't like it. Hear me out! Let me explain! Anna, put down that torch! Just a moment...

Franny Billingsly can write circles around a great many YA authors. This woman can write. I saved many passages from the book just because I enjoyed them so much. She has a way of making words come to life that not many authors are capable of. She says things in new ways instead of relying on standard sentences. This I appreciate. Here are some examples:

"I want the soft-pillow feeling that I associate with memories of being ill when I was younger, soft pillows and fresh linens and satin-edged blankets and hot chocolate. It's not so much the comfort itself as knowing there's someone who wants to take care of you."

"He reached through the window, his beautiful hand, his five beautiful fingers outspread. If I were a poet, I'd write about hands, nothing but hands. I touched the whorled petals of my fingertips to his; our hands made the roof of a house."

"Now a kiss, deep and soft, and deeper still. Eldric was never hard and crushing; he was only soft and deep. Only that. Time flew by on fringed moth wings. I was blooming, petals unfurling, soft as cream. Those silk-and-butter lips slid down my neck, traced the margin of my neckline. Only that."

"If there were such a thing as a vampire-puppy-dog, it would be Cecil. Big pleading eyes, asking for an ear-scratch and a nice warm bowl of blood."

Pretty, no? While we're talking up the positives I'd like to also commend Franny Billingsly on crafting a very original story. I am also very pleased with where the story ended up. The subject of emotional abuse from a parent, and fighting the resulting self-hatred that inevitably stems from being told you are terrible over and over at such a young age, is something that I am unfortunately intimately familiar with. I felt that Briony's inner thoughts and actions made sense and were an entirely accurate representation of what the lasting effects of emotional abuse can do to a person. This is not something I've seen approached much in the books I've read, and I enjoyed seeing it here, because it happens more often than you'd like to think it would.

So why didn't I like this book? Don't get me wrong, I did really like some things (as you can see above) but overall, I just didn't enjoy the story. It felt like torture to read and I had to push myself forward. This was largely in part due to the voice the novel is written in. The language was odd, to say the least, and I often found myself confused. There were two instances in this novel where someone's hand was either mangled or lost and I still couldn't tell you how or why it happened. Perhaps Franny just assumed her audience would be familiar with certain terms and ideas that she presented, so she did not need to be clear and elaborate on certain things, or maybe it was just part of the quirky thing she was going for. I'm not sure, but I do know that she lost me as a reader. I think it's important to make your book accessible. What about a new young reader who might stumble upon this book? I mean, I had a very high reading level in school. I know because I toted around those books with the AR sticker that declared my "college reading level" like a badge of honor in middle school. I mean, when I wasn't busy sneaking copies of Nancy Drew. I did very well on reading comprehension tests, I swear! Yet, I was entirely lost here. I generally love quirky but this book was just too much. I wouldn't recommend it to others because I know several of my friends would likely be just as lost as me, and I honestly did not really enjoy it at all, so how could I recommend it?

So, to sum it up: Great writing. Wonderful approach to the subject of emotional abuse. Weird plot and pacing and dialogue and everything else. Just too weird for me. Maybe not for you?

Recommendation: Not from me, dear.


Chime is on sale now in hardcover. You can purchase it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository and other retailers.

Extras: Want to check out some different perspectives on Chime? Find other reviews at Bibliomantics and The Library of Minds.


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