Publication Date: July 8, 2013
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 331 (Paperback)
Source: BEA 2013
I can’t weep. I can’t fear. I’ve grown talented at pretending.
Elizabeth Caldwell doesn’t feel emotions . . . she sees them. Longing, Shame, and Courage materialize around her classmates. Fury and Resentment appear in her dysfunctional home. They’ve all given up on Elizabeth because she doesn’t succumb to their touch. All, that is, save one—Fear. He’s intrigued by her, as desperate to understand the accident that changed Elizabeth’s life as she is herself.
Elizabeth and Fear both sense that the key to her past is hidden in the dream paintings she hides in the family barn. But a shadowy menace has begun to stalk her, and try as she might, Elizabeth can barely avoid the brutality of her life long enough to uncover the truth about herself. When it matters most, will she be able to rely on Fear to save her?
I was really looking forward to this because of the brilliant synopses above. Plus, the cover is damn beautiful and eerie all at once. Granted, I'm not entirely sure of its relation to the book, but it certainly captures the mood of the book. A solid debut, though it did not blow me away.
The overall concept of this novel was great. Both Emotions and Elements were given human bodies that somehow managed to reflect what they were perfectly. It's silly, but as I was reading I was totally agreeing with Sutton's interpretations: Fear would totally be a boy and Love simply had to be a girl. Sorrow must always be crying just as Courage was solid and reliable. It was great in this sense. And I found the Elements to be rather interesting as well, especially little Moss who somehow manages to be cute, annoying, and persistent all at once.
Elizabeth was perhaps one of the most peculiar and unique characters I've come across in a while only because she doesn't feel emotions. She is a shell, she is nothing. She is Elizabeth with no purpose. And I found this aspect of the book to be incredibly interesting because I pitied her lack of emotions. While she was able to stand up to Fear the way that undoubtedly nobody else could, I felt bad that she could not feel joy, love, happiness.
Now that I realize it, the emotion of happiness was not given a human body in the book! Odd! It was impossible to connect to a character who does not experience emotions, but it's possible to feel for her and Sutton managed to make me do just that. She took on a challenge that hasn't been attempted in young adult literature before, and I commend her for that because she succeeded rather well. And with all of that in mind, Elizabeth still never had me fooled. She stood up for her mother and saved her when she needed saving, she had a heart in there somewhere in order to do that.
I found Fear to be rather interesting as well because while he could not ignore his essence and his desire to strike fear into the unemotional Elizabeth, he loved her all the same. He was fascinated, intrigued, ensnared from the get-go. He was aloof yet charming, scary yet calming. He was a paradox of sorts and I really loved him, even if he seems to always be wearing creepy trench coats (or at least that's how I picture him).
But what I really didn't like was the love triangle. It wasn't executed that well and I was clearly rooting for Fear. Love triangles only work if you feel as if she can end up with either of the boys, but it was so obvious who she would end up with. Scratch that, it wasn't obvious, I just think that the other boy was incomparable to the connection she had with Fear, thus I felt the triangle was unnecessary. I felt as if the boy from school who shall rename nameless was essential to aspects of the plot, but I'd rather he have been a best friend instead of a second love interest. Their time together seemed forced compared to the natural companionship and curiosity surrounding Elizabeth and Fear when they were together. Perhaps because they are somewhat similar for many different reasons that you'll have to discover for yourself.
Perhaps the thing I hated most with Elizabeth's parents. She refers to them as Tim and Sarah. When Elizabeth was a young girl, around age four, she got hit by a car but miraculously was fine. But since that day, she was a new person. Her alcohol and abusive father refers to her as the demon that ruined his life and often beats her in graphic scenes. Her mother withdrew inter herself, often screaming about how Elizabeth was not her child. If Elizabeth had feelings, her mother would have been very good at making her hate herself. And I hated them, so so much. They just gave up on Elizabeth because she wasn't normal. I get that not feeling emotions is hard, but you can put effort into that. You don't tear down your child, you help them. And it's these type of parents that frustrate me immensely. I suppose that my views in regards to this type of parenting hindered me from liking her home-life at all, which unfortunately turned me off at times.
Sutton also has the slightly frustrating tendency to leave you with many questions. As mentioned above, I loved Moss. And in her own little way, Moss was the Element most important to Elizabeth's survival--in her own way equivalent to Fear's Emotional heroics. And I would have loved to know her fate. It seems she was forgotten. I want to know about Elizabeth's mother. She went back to her old town to say good-bye to two people, but what about her brother? All he gets is a note? It's things like this that I wish were summed up.
Overall, the first third of this book was amazing. And the ending with all the big reveals and the slow pieces of the puzzle that Sutton was trying to fit together throughout the book was awesomely unexpected. But the middle of this book could have used some work pacing-wise and in its execution. I think that the beginning and end would have fit together much better if the middle flowed better and her memories weren't so sudden, perhaps if there was even a little more foreshadowing.
All in all, a very solid debut, though not as amazing as I initially thought it to be because the ending did not live up to the beginning. However, I will be keeping an eye out on Sutton's other novels and applaud her for creating such a unique concept and finding a way to execute it fairly well while still in college! The concept of this novel will stick with me for quite a while and for the first time I can welcome some Fear into my life. The plot twists are entirely unexpected and super awesome, I just wish there was more foreshadowing. Overall, I think that this book hit me hard simply because I was pining for it so hard. I think that most people will enjoy it, truly, because most people I know that have already read it loved it. And I love Kelsey Sutton as a person, she was amazing to spend time with at BEA. She's an author that I'll forever buy the books of because she's so nice and down to earth, and I'd like to say that she is a friend.
Before you pick up this book, please note that there is graphic violence, described deaths and attempted murders, alcoholism, and domestic abuse. Slightly darker than one would expect, eh?
Disclaimer: I received no compensation of any kind in return for my honest review.