Valentine by Jodi McAlister
Published by: Penguin Teen Australia
Released: January 31 2017
Read: November 9 2016
Valentine is a fresh Australian voice in paranormal YA. I don’t know anything about Jodi McAlister, but I am sure she will be embraced by the LoveOzYA community and we will get to know more. The themes of her debut novel aren’t original—we’ve read about the Seelie before—but the delivery of them is appealing and fast-paced.
I have quibbles, which I want to get out of the way first. The blurb on my ARC gives away too much of the plot. If the information is also on the final copy, I will be disappointed. The story is only from Pearl’s perspective. She doesn’t know which of the four Valentine kids is the Seelie. We shouldn’t know either. The twists and turns of the plot would play out so much more satisfactorily for me if we find this out when Pearl does, not before. [Update: I just checked the blurb on the published version, and whew! it keeps its secret].
Also, what’s with the strange names? Cardy? Disey? Shad? Yeah, okay, they turn out to be nicknames, but even the names from which they originate are weird. Paradise? I guess they aren’t weird, so much as rarely used as names. I found this distracting.
But on the whole, I loved this story.
Pearl is a snarky narrator. She’s self aware and keeps referencing well known pop culture and literature. It fits in well with the plot because strange, paranormal things keep happening to her, and provides a real sense of the meta. Also, Pearl is a musician – she sings and writes her own music. It was pleasing that this part of her life continues, even while all the mystery and bad stuff happened around (and to) her, aspects of Pearl’s life go on.
All the secondary characters were interesting and realistic. The boys have flaws, and the insta-love already existed, so it’s difficult to accuse Pearl of that trope. Nothing about her attraction to Cardy is instant. She’s had her crush for a long while. I loved Ranga Dave and Pearl’s older sibling, Shad. His twin Disey is the older sister we all wish we had, and Phil is a terrific best friend. These people want to support the Valentine kids, but it’s difficult when you don’t know (or don’t believe) who or want you’re up against.
The plot is revealed as the story builds, but it’s always moving forward and quite tense. Pearl doesn’t really have much time to think. She can only react to the events and do her best in the situations as they happen. This means she has little chance to explain her actions, which has dire consequences by the end of the book. This is another fascinating aspect of the book. Not all her friends and family are sympathetic by the end. Unfairness is a real part of all our lives and to see our protagonist not always getting the kudos for rescue and self-sacrifice is a tough and bitter pill to swallow.
Valentine ticks a number of appealing boxes and offers unexpected twists, and this balance should make it popular among demanding teens who expect high quality from their literature. The diversity is there, but not in a way that seems artificial or forced. It’s impressive how seamless and organic it feels.
Recommended to readers who like their main character sarcastic and edgy. The romance smoulder is off the charts and the family dynamic is strange yet perfect. It is the first in a new series and concludes satisfactorily, but still with so many more questions to be answered. Valentine was released (in Australia) on January 31.