WAKE by Lisa McMann is the first entry in her YA trilogy (WAKE, FADE and GONE). Here again, I was captivated by story line. The protagonist, Janie Hannagan, is a seventeen-year-old dream catcher. Beyond her control, Janie finds herself pulled into the dreams of those around her. While I loved the premise, I have mixed feelings about the book. There just wasn’t enough story to grab onto. After turning the last page, the characters were still strangers to me – even Janie. The POV was so distant as to be alienating, and the book is all tell: Janie did this, Janie felt that, so on and so forth. The distinctive voice that made Brandeis’s MY LIFE WITH THE LINCOLNS such a compelling read is missing from McMann’s WAKE. The author never truly allows us into Janie’s head or heart. Instead, the close to omniscient narrator tells us what to think and feel. Had McMann written the book in first person or close third POV, IMO WAKE would have been a far better book. Because I like the premise so much, I haven’t completely discounted the possibility of reading FADE, the second book in the series, but I’m still on the fence.
Last up, NINE DRAGONS by Michael Connelly. This is Connelly’s fifteenth entry into the Harry Bosch series. That I dislike procedurals, but Connelly has managed to keep me reading Harry Bosch books for nearly twenty years speaks volumes about his skill in weaving a tale. I could go on for pages about the subtleties, subtext and psychological insights that make Harry such an extraordinary character.
What makes Connelly’s writing unique is his ability to craft a tale that operates on multiple levels. As writers, we’re constantly admonished against trying to be all things to all readers, but this seems to be exactly what Connelly has achieved. A fan of detective fiction might choose one of the Bosch books for the pure pleasure of reading a superior procedural. But if you allow him, Connelly will take you deep into character. It remains up to the reader whether to go there or not.
Okay, I had to say all this, because in truth I didn’t like NINE DRAGONS. I thought the plot had enormous potential. Harry Bosch in Hong Kong, out of his element, trying to save his kidnapped daughter. It sounded like a sure winner. But Harry, perhaps because he was out of his element, came off as a blowhard racist. This book felt unfinished, the character arc undone. I don’t want to give away the plot, but my overall sense of the book was rather than to tell this story the purpose was to introduce new conflicts destined for future Bosch books. This is not to discount Connelly’s talent, especially given that he released two other outstanding novels in the previous eighteen months: THE BRASS VERDICT and THE SCARECROW.