Nevermore, by Kelly Creagh
Genres: Young Adult, Horror
“Learn to awaken within your dreams, Isobel,” he called after her, “or we are all lost.”
The third star that I give this book is given very, very hesitantly. I’ve been very generous with my ratings lately, and part of me worries that I’m losing my nerve. Still, I always put entertainment above any other factor – because what’s the point in reading fiction if you don’t enjoy it? – and there is no doubt in my mind that I enjoyed Nevermore.
I did not at first. The most negative thing I can say about this book is that the beginning is absolutely terrible. It’s cliché and so “high school” that it’s straight out of a bad fanfiction – and I would know this because I probably wrote it five years ago.
Isobel is so blatantly a cheerleader that it makes her one-dimensional. Every time she said “the crew”, I swear to god, a part of me died. Her friends are the same way. Even Varen is drawn so deeply as The Goth Kid that at first, I had no respect for him whatsoever.
Resigned, Isobel rose and collected her notebook. She fumbled for her backpack strap as her mind repeated all the whispers she’d ever heard linked with his name. There were rumors that he sometimes talked to himself, that he practiced witchcraft and had an evil eye tattooed on his left shoulder blade. That he lived in the basement of an abandoned church. That he slept in a coffin.
That he drank blood.
After surviving 150 pages of Isobel’s spiral down the Social Food Chain, things gradually started to get better. My favorite thing is how much things develop. Not only does Isobel turn around, but her relationship with Varen progressed steadily and I enjoyed watching them grow close. Barriers start to melt until they are no longer The Goth and The Cheerleader, but Varen and Isobel.
“You’re really a blond,” she said, her tone just short of accusatory.
“And if you tell anyone, I will come to you in the night and smote your everlasting soul.”
The problem is that this is not supposed to be a romance; it is supposed to be a horror story revolving around the mind and works of Edgar Allan Poe, literary rock star and one of my favorite authors, ever. True, Poe is definitely a recurring figure, but what we don’t see a lot of for the first two-thirds of the book are Varen’s nightmares – nightmares that are supposed to be based off of Poe. There are glimpses of them here and there, but for the most part, Nevermore is split into two parts: Varen and Isobel’s relationship and Varen’s nightmares. The latter feels a bit crammed in, like despite the fact that this book is almost 550 pages long, there wasn’t enough room for it to be squeezed in.
Don’t get me wrong: I think the length is important. Even though I really hate high-school drama – I seriously can’t stand it – I completely understand why it’s necessary in this case. Varen created his nightmares, his dreamscape, inside of his journal which he writes in all of the time as a means of escape. He wants to get away from the people at school and his alcoholic father, and so he writes. It’s all a part of his characterization. In order for the reader to grasp why his dreamscape exists, they need to understand where it stems from. Thus, all of the bullying and ridicule the follows Varen and Isobel’s struggles to be accepted socially are vital because they point back to the heart of who he is.
What I think could’ve been done is more interweaving. Varen’s nightmares are actually gruesome and terrifying – I love it – and they follow Isobel into the real world before she can even see what they are. This, combined with her lucid dreams, I think is supposed to have the same effect as in Michelle Hodkin’s The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer – a book that is complete trash but I love anyway. The aforementioned book does a great job of showing a blossoming relationship between two young people while the protagonist, Mara, is tortured by strange visions and impossible events that make her feel like she’s losing her mind. Nevermore tries for that but never succeeds.
I also want to add that although the writing is excellent, if the whole book had been written the same as in that two-page epilogue – complete, knock-your-socks-off, blow-me-away kind of prose – then this would have been one monster of a book.
I enjoyed Nevermore mostly because it was hard to put down. It’s very fast-paced even for its length, and that’s what pushed me to keep going and see this book through. Even though for the most part, I consider this book to be what I call “bait” – the first book in a series that drags you along when nothing really happens, making it a giant prelude for the second book that you’re not interested in, anyway – it has me tempted for more. Mostly, I’m dying to know about Varen’s feelings for Isobel, when they developed and when she first appeared in his dreams. I also can’t wait to see how Kelly Creagh slips in more of Edgar Allan Poe’s fiction into his nightmares, because she definitely knows her stuff and alluded to many of Poe’s most popular stories – including one notable scene from The Cask of Amontillado. I hope that one of them happens to be The Black Cat, my favorite, because if there is I will completely lose my shit.