Paranormal, Young Adult
Krystal Bentley, fifteen, depressed, and angry at her mother for divorcing her father (and who has had the gall to find someone new to love AND uproot them from NYC to Connecticut), is the protagonist of Manifest. Krystal is in many ways a typical suburban teenager. She loves her parents, but is angry and confused by their separation, she resents her mother’s new love interest, and is fighting their move from the city to her mother’s suburban hometown. Krystal also sees, and communicates with, ghosts.
Krystal has not taken kindly to the changes in her life, and she acts out by shutting herself away from life: she talks to no one at school, shuns her mother as much as possible, and does nothing aside from go to school and hide in her room. She’s depressed and angry, even as her narration (told in the first person) is also witty and kind of funny. Initially, I couldn’t decide if I was irritated at Krystal for her attitude or sympathetic. I finally decided I could react both ways: I do remember how tough it was to be so overwhelmed as a teen, and I know as an adult that she wasn’t handling things well at all. Her attitude was compounded by the fact that the people in her life–mom, ghost, eventual friends–call her out on her behavior and she mostly brushes off their comments, as any good self-absorbed teen wallowing in pain and fear of change would.
She grew on me, though, as the novel progressed. Once she moved beyond herself a bit, and stopped being such an utter brat, she became more sympathetic to me. I think her fellow odd balls–teens born about the same time she was, who have nearly identical “M” birthmarks as hers–helped, in that respect. Having said all that, Krystal felt authentic to me. She’s a teenager dealing with a lot of changes in her life, with little to no explanations to go on. That she would deal poorly with these changes is no big surprise.
The story is about more than Krystal’s angst and drama. Honest. There’s a plot! And mystical goings on, and strong secondary characters who also feel like authentic, multi-dimensional teenage characters. Even the dead ones. In many ways, I think the characterizations were the strongest part of the novel.
I feel like the magic/mythology developed here has a lot of potential, the “whodunit” aspect was engaging, and the plots were layered but not confusing. Manifest was an easy read for me, and I can definitely see how it would be entertaining for young adult and teen readers. I’m curious enough, after reading this, to see how the story continues in the next book in the series, which I believe comes out in February 2011.
In the interest of disclosure: I read Manifest as part of Around the World ARC Tours.