Book Review – ‘Chimera’ by C D Bell

Title:  Chimera
Author: C D Bell
Genre:  Young Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Date of Publication: 10th October, 2017
Page Count: 432 pages (ebook)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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The forest is full of secrets.

Nessa Kurland is adjusting to life as a weregirl—she is transforming with ease and running with a pack she cares for deeply. Her boyfriend Luc is a fellow shifter, and Paravida, the corporation responsible for unethical genetic experiments on the residents of Tether, has pulled out of town, leaving the community safe.

But that’s just how it appears on the surface.

Nessa returns home from a run with the pack to find an FBI raid and the shocking news that her mother Vivian is being held without bail for violations so serious she may be facing life in prison. What did Nessa’s mother, a small-town vet tech, do to threaten Homeland Security? Vivian’s secret past leads Nessa to discover there is more to her own story than she ever imagined.

The wolves that are running through Tether’s woods are not the same pack Nessa knew before. These are not all natural wolves. And they are breeding.

Nessa’s transformation is only just beginning.

In CHIMERA, the second installment in the Weregirl trilogy, Nessa confronts the truth of who she is, where she comes from, and what she has to do to survive.

I haven’t read the first book in this series, but that didn’t hinder my reading experience with Chimera. Obviously there was some backstory I wasn’t familiar with, but it was fairly easy to fill in the blanks. I’m very picky about the YA books I choose to read because there are a lot of toxic tropes and unfortunate themes prevalent in the genre, but fortunately Chimera ticks all the right boxes to make this an enjoyable read.

PROS

We have a mature level-headed female protagonist who has several meaningful platonic relationships instead of revolving around boys, which is a massive plus for me! I love that Nessa has a close bond with her brother and sister, being protective of her younger siblings and doing her best to look out for them. Nessa’s mother is also an important part of the story – even if she’s not always an active on-page presence, Nessa’s thoughts frequently return to her since the major elements at play in Chimera involve her mother’s health and scientific background.

And it’s great to see a healthy female friendship depicted in this book with Nessa’s best friend, Bree, who is featured throughout the story so she isn’t just a token female friend, but someone who impacts Nessa’s character and storyline. It’s realistic and refreshing that her character doesn’t revolve entirely around Nessa either, instead she has her own life and relationships that she’s pursuing in the background – but when it matters, she’s there for Nessa. ❤

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Now onto the romantic relationship…a lot of times in YA, the main couple are ride-or-die for each other and have no perspective outside of their relationship; being with each other is the only thing that matters and they have no other considerations or priorities. I have to praise the author for taking the time to flesh out character arcs and motivations for more than just the lead, since in this case, we see Luc struggling to reconcile his love for Nessa with his long-held desire to turn fully wolf and retreat from the human world.

I’ll admit, I’m not overly invested in his character, but that would be due to having skipped the first book so I don’t really know Luc since he spent most of this book off-page due to his wolf responsibilities. It’s just really refreshing to me that we get to have these teenagers facing conflict over where their futures lie and how their paths are likely to diverge, but instead of angst and tears, it makes them appreciate the time they have together even more and they make the most of their brief moments sharing hot chocolate in their secluded cabin. This is what makes me root for a couple, not OTT drama!

Moving onto the plot, there is solid intrigue with the evil corporation Paravida plotting to scapegoat Vivian and exterminate the wolves. They seemed a little overpowered at times, considering the ease with which they manipulate the legal system and turn the town against Vivian, but I can see how corrupt corporations have an advantage when it comes to promoting their agenda in court and in the media. More successful is the family drama with Nessa meeting her estranged father and negotiating that tricky reunion while trying to find ways to help the wolves and cure her mother.

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CONS

I had some issues with occasional scenes where Nessa seemed to be written a little younger than her years and unrealistically naive. The court scene was strange in this respect because Nessa clearly identified the people loitering around with cameras as reporters, but then she becomes confused at one of them asking her questions:

Was this someone she was supposed to know? An old friend of Vivian’s? Some distant relative she’d met once and didn’t remember?

Who was this woman? Why did she seem to know Nessa when Nessa did not know her?

A few minutes later, she says that she thought the reporters were in court for another case, so again, she knows what these people are there for, yet she still somehow thinks maybe the first reporter trying to interview her on-camera is a distant relative or family friend?

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There was also a climactic scene near the end of the story where this cropped up – (mildly spoilery) characters are in danger and it looks like there’s no way out…then a solution is found, but Nessa forgets about it a few minutes later and is at her wits’ end, trying to think of how to save lives, whereupon she comes upon the same solution that was just employed in that same scene! Again, she clearly remembers the details of what just happened as it’s referenced at the time, so this isn’t an editing issue, but the fact that she doesn’t think to use that escape method until later is baffling.

A rather nitpicky point I want to make is that it’s jarring how the narrative referred to Nessa’s mother as ‘Vivian’ even when it was from her point-of-view. Most people don’t think of their mom by their first name, so reading paragraphs like this pulled me out of the story:

But in the hospital bed, Vivian looked worse than Nessa had imagined. (…) But still, she was Vivian. She was Mom. Nessa saw Vivian make the same half-smile she always made, as if to smile fully was to tempt fate.

Even if we assume that the story is being told from an objective POV instead of Nessa’s, that bolded line doubles down to suggest that Nessa is thinking of this woman as Vivian, and the continual jumping back and forth is very clunky.

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Speaking of Vivian, her character has a few bizarre moments with the flip-flopping when it comes to accepting help from the children’s father. For instance, I understand she has ethical disagreements with Daniel over how far to push the boundaries of science, but I can’t help judging her for being a terrible mother since she never touched the child support payments he made when her family was struggling and badly needed that money!

Personal Rating: 3.5 out of 5 kitties approve this book!

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Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

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