The Suburban Strange by Nathan Kotecki
"Shy Celia Balaustine is new to Suburban High, but a mysterious group of sophomores called the Rosary has befriended her. Friends aside, Celia soon discovers something is not quite right at Suburban. Girls at the school begin having near-fatal accidents on the eve of their sixteenth birthdays. Who is causing the accidents, and why? As Celia’s own birthday approaches, she is inexorably drawn into an underground conflict between good and evil—the Kind and the Unkind—that bubbles beneath Suburban High."- summary from Amazon
I've been meaning to read this book for over a year now; I received an ARC of it way back in August 2012 and Kotecki is a friend of mine (kinda; we're like in between acquaintances and friends since we chat every so often online and have only met up in person twice, lol). I really enjoyed this book, but it definitely requires the reader to be in a certain kind of mood. It's really an atmospheric novel that pulls the reader in and makes the world of the novel feel so real. This is a magical realism book, which I really like; there is a conflict between good and evil but for most of the book, it's mentioned offhandedly and doesn't really all come to fruition until the last 100 pages or so. That doesn't necessarily mean it feels tacked on, but rather it just makes the suspense of it all slowly build until the climax. It's also an interesting take on good and evil- the Kind and Unkind- that makes the novel so different. Kotecki does a good job of introducing this concept and explaining the magic of it all.
Celia is an interesting main character, but she definitely took some getting used to. In the beginning of the novel, she's very unsure of herself and that comes across to me as a reader as a character I can't really grasp onto if she has no idea of her sense of self. It takes a little bit of time for her to find her voice but once she does, it definitely made the novel fly by. I also really enjoyed all of Celia's new friends, but especially Marco and Brendan, a gay couple (of course I'd latch on to them, lol). It's nice to see gay characters just being themselves without really any drama (aside from a talk later on in the book which can apply to any kind of relationship)- they aren't picked on (to my knowledge; if it happened, it was a minor incident) and they're out and proud. It's such a good, positive message.
The romance is a little bit of cuteness amidst all this other stuff; I like them together, but I do wish there had been a little more fleshing out of Tomasi and his home life. There just wasn't enough of him in the book, so it was a little hard to really get to know him. I hope that happens in the sequel.
Overall, a very good debut and I'm excited to see what adventures await Celia in the next book, Pull Down the Night (which is out now).
FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.