Author: Kim Chance
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date of Publication: 30th January, 2018
Page Count: 408 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
When a 200-year-old witch attacks her, sixteen-year-old bookworm Lainey Styles is determined to find a logical explanation. Even with the impossible staring her in the face, Lainey refuses to believe it—until she finds a photograph linking the witch to her dead mother.
After consulting a psychic, Lainey discovers that she, like her mother, is a Keeper: a witch with the exclusive ability to unlock and wield the Grimoire, a dangerous but powerful spell book. But there’s a problem. The Grimoire has been stolen by a malevolent warlock who is desperate for a spell locked inside it—a spell that would allow him to siphon away the world’s magic.
With the help of her comic-book-loving best friend and an enigmatic but admittedly handsome street fighter, Lainey must leave her life of college prep and studying behind to prepare for the biggest test of all: stealing back the book.
Okay, so this is not the optimal way to start off the New Year, but unfortunately ‘Keeper‘ is a DNF for me. I try not to quit on books, especially ARCs, as it makes me feel guilty, but my resolution this year is to give a fair go and then bail if I’m not enjoying myself. I made it to 57%, so I put a fair amount of effort into trying to invest in the story and characters, but it was such a relief to decide I was done with it.
There are some positives I will point out in the interest of fairness – the requisite love interest was kind and caring, which I appreciate in a genre oversaturated with Bad Boy jackasses who confuse mockery and insults for flirting. Ty did play into the Mysterious Newcomer trope at the beginning, but showed himself to be a compassionate and protective character, which is a nice change.
On the downside, Ty is a little heavy on the wish-fulfillment checklist, for eg. reading classic literature to Lainey during lunch period! We find out later that there is a reason he takes interest in her and makes an effort to cultivate a relationship even though Lainey is so awkward around him, but he just seemed too much of a cliche, right down to his leather jacket and crooked smile (why are girls always swooning over these, I’ll never know).
Female friendship is something I always look out for and the author provided that in spades with Maggie, a best friend who doesn’t just pay lip service to the role but actually comes through with sympathy, support and understanding when Lainey needs a shoulder to lean on, and consistently shows that their friendship is important to her. I love the scene introducing her at the start where she excitedly tells Lainey about a cute boy asking her out at a party and how she of course told him she’d take a raincheck:
“I promised I’d quiz you on your words if you came with me. What kind of best friend would I be if I bailed on you like that?”
“And what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t let you off the hook. You should go.”
“Are you sure? Because you, Lainey Styles, are the true love of my life, and you come first.”
However, Maggie soon got on my nerves with her constant pop culture quips, and I mean CONSTANT, as in, every second line of dialogue out of her mouth contained a reference to some comic book, tv show or movie. It became irritating very quickly and reduced her to a one-trick pony with such limited characterization since it appears as though she can’t process any new situation or conversation without relating it to pop culture in some way.
You may notice that I haven’t yet mentioned any highlights about our protagonist…that would be the problem. I found positives in both the love interest and best friend, but Lainey just frustrated me. She’s ostensibly a book-smart character with tons of ambition and dedicated to excelling at academics…but she sets her alarm for 7:15am on the morning of the SATs and keeps hitting snooze for half an hour as she forgot the test was on? Yeah, NO, that doesn’t ring true to me at all – a student who’s half-assing school and doesn’t care what college they get into may behave like this, but not someone whose entire life was building up to taking the SAT, that’s not something that just slips your mind!
Aside from this, we’re also shown how strongly Lainey feels about her studies as she mentally rehearses the definitions of new vocabulary words every spare moment she has, especially in moments of stress. Along with her insistence on finding a logical explanation for the paranormal phenomena that plague her, disbelieving her own eyes and searching for scientific data to rationalize it away, this suggests a character who is very methodical, represses emotions when she feels overwhelmed and finds refuge in denial. But that all goes out the window once the truth is revealed about her family lineage and her own witchy abilities, as Lainey turns into a stroppy, whiny teenager who continually throws tantrums and runs off in a huff. She also shows zero instincts for self-preservation such as returning to the cemetery where she was nearly killed to mope around or standing on train tracks in front of an oncoming train, because of course in her angst, she must become Too-Stupid-To-Live.
Even before this turn for the exasperating, I found myself rolling my eyes at Lainey’s choices, like picking up Ty’s jacket from the dirt (the text specifically mentions her wiping dirt off his jacket) and then sleeping with the jacket and wearing it out because it’s comforting to her…She had no connection to Ty at this point aside from meeting him at a party once and seeing him in a fight, but somehow his dirty spearmint-scented jacket is a comforting talisman to her when she awakes from nightmares, hmm.
I let it go because I guess it is realistic how cute guys can scramble an impressionable teenage girl’s head, but once she became reminiscent of Bella in New Moon after Edward left her with the addition of the sullen brattiness of Harry Potter in The Half-Blood Prince after Sirius died and he was pining after Ginny (see how annoying constant name-drops are?), I couldn’t keep going.
The author’s writing style is very easy to read, although I think it’s pitched more towards the tweens as opposed to older teens, as it came off a tad juvenile. The younger crowd may find this more enjoyable and engaging, but alas, it wasn’t for me.
Personal Rating: 2 out of 5 kitties recommend this book.
Disclaimer: I received a digital ARC free from Flux/North Star Editions via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.