Off the Shelf: A Review of One Was Lost by Natalie Richards

Do you ever get really excited when you read a book, and it mentions someplace you are familiar with, maybe even someplace you call home? While reading Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys series, I bombarded my friends with photos of every mention of West Virginia, particularly when she talked about I64 and Charleston (which happens to be about 30 minutes away from my library). Well, I had the same excitement when I found out that Natalie Richards and I have something in common – we’re both from Ohio. I live in the southern half of the state, but I like to go camping around the areas that Natalie writes about. The teens are students from Marietta (a great little place to visit that’s right on the Ohio River and full of history). There’s also a hospital in Columbus that is mentioned, and I’d say most every Ohioan has visited Columbus at least a time or two. Let me tell you though, when you’re reading a story as frightening as One Was Lost, you don’t exactly get excited that you know the places the author is describing. You get creeped out. You start questioning visiting that part of the state again, especially to camp. You know it isn’t some made up fictional city. Knowing that makes every aspect of the story more real, and when things start to get scary, it makes your fear more real. One was Lost is a fast-paced, thrilling adventure about fighting to survive, and one that you will probably want to read from the comfort and safety of your own home.

Summary (via Goodreads)

Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Are they labels or a warning? The answer could cost Sera everything.

Murder, justice, and revenge were so not a part of the plan when Sera set out on her senior camping trip. After all, hiking through the woods is supposed to be safe and uneventful.

Then one morning the group wakes up groggy, confused, and with words scrawled on their wrists: Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Their supplies? Destroyed. Half their group? Gone. Their chaperone? Unconscious. Worst of all, they find four dolls acting out a murder—dolls dressed just like them.

Suddenly it’s clear; they’re being hunted. And with the only positive word on her wrist, Sera falls under suspicion…

I received an ARC of One was Lost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The current publication date for One was Lost is October 4, 2016.

Things I Liked:

This isn’t some cut and dry murder mystery. There’s a killer on the loose, and he/she is toying with a group of teenagers that wouldn’t exactly refer to each other as “friends”. Add to that, mysterious words have been drawn darkly onto their wrists which call into question the nature of each character. Damaged, Deceptive, Dangerous, and  Darling can all be heavy labels to bear, but there is a special reason why these words in particular were chosen for the group. Natalie Richards does a great job only revealing what she absolutely has to at any given moment, and she effectively builds the rising tensions. There may be a few moments where readers will feel like something was predictable, but it won’t be in regards to who is hunting the group nor will it be that person’s motivation behind the hunt. It will keep you guessing from cover to cover.

One was Lost has a great core group of characters. I felt attached to each of the four main campers, even when I didn’t trust them. I think this story would have benefited more if it included multiple points of view and still maintained the suspicions and possible unreliability of the narrators, something similar to what Laurie Stolarz does in the Dark House series. If we could have seen the situation from Lucas, Jude, and Emily’s points of view, I think we would have learned a great deal more about their characters and personalities. Sera is the soul narrator, we only receive her outlook, and so it’s hard to be 100% invested in her when she is surrounded by so many character’s with backgrounds that are more rich than her own. The other great thing about these characters is the fact that there’s an actual depth to each of them, one that as you can probably tell, I wish had been explored more…but that depth keeps them from coming across as corny or overly stereotypical teenagers.

The most important thing that I liked – the big reveal. So many thrillers cop out on an ending. It’s like they spend the whole book building up to it, and the second the bomb drops, everyone cleans up the debris neatly, and it’s all over. Not here. This was what I needed in an ending for this book. I needed it to be messy. I needed to know not only who but also why. I needed a motive, and I needed a thrilling confrontation between hunter and hunted. Not only that, but I also needed the characters that I spent the whole time getting close to to have a consensus about what happened between them and what the aftermath would be in the wake of their terrifying ordeal. This ending hit the mark and gave me everything I was looking for.

Things I Didn’t Like:

Honestly, I feel like the references to Sera’s mother slowed down the story. I loved the Sera and Lucas young love angle, but I kinda felt like I should make a drinking game out of it. Take one drink for every time Sera thinks about her mom in relation to her feelings about Lucas. No winners in that game. These mommy issue monologues felt very forced, and I just couldn’t get interested.
Beyond that, I feel like the built up animosity towards Lucas, especially in the beginning of the story, was unwarranted, and the slow-to-reveal reasons behind it didn’t really provide an acceptable explanation in my eyes.  This was the only real let down I had with this book.

Also, without spoiling anything, I still have a few unanswered questions about some of the circumstances leading up to this trip and an unexplained link between two characters, but maybe I just need a good reread. I could have possibly missed a small detail somewhere while playing the mommy issues drinking game.

Overall Rating:

I’m giving this one a solid 4/5. It had some predictable moments, and I wasn’t a fan of Sera’s fixation with not being like her mother, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book the whole way through. It was a thrilling ride from start to finish, didn’t seem overly corny, and had characters that I wanted to personally know. I raced through the pages because the tale gets very twisted, and it kept me anticipating how the ending would play out. You’ll definitely want to get your hands on this one come October and read it on your next camping trip.

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OFF THE SHELF: A Review of The Archived by Victoria Schwab

The Archived by Victoria Schwab
The Archived by Victoria Schwab

What originally led me to The Archived? Well, to be honest, laziness. In my downtime at work, I peruse goodreads for descriptions that strike my fancy enough to make me check our system for the book’s availability. I stumbled across the page for Victoria Schwab’s Vicious. I was intrigued by the description and the high rating, and a quick search of our directory showed me that our library had a copy available… four floors below me. I’m not terribly lazy, but I do admit that I made a mental note to go seek the book out the next time I ventured downstairs, and then returned to my goodreads browsing. The reviewers of Vicious seemed to continuously recommend Schwab’s other books, which just so happened to be…what’s that? Young Adult? Well, well, well… that just so happens to be my home turf.

A couple clicks later, and I’m staring at the screen, wide-eyed in awe of the description of The Archived.

“Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.”

You have my attention.

Mackenzie Bishop has been selected to replace her grandfather as a “Keeper”, someone who tracks down the restless dead known as Histories before they can escape the Archive into the Outer (our) world. Not only must Mac cope with the grief of just losing her younger brother, but her responsibilities as Keeper begin to push her to her limit. She must balance her lies, her family life, and still keep her wits about her as she discovers someone has been altering the memories of the Histories. This threat could lead to the downfall of the Archive itself, forever cutting Mac off from her brother and her grandfather, Da.

I immediately located The Archived among our YA shelves, and happily carried it home, thinking I’d have a book to last me the weekend. Nope! My first day off, I spent utterly consumed by this book. Could NOT put it down. Maybe it’s just the librarian in me, but the thought of library shelves filled with shell bodies of the dead whose memories can be read like books… well, the premise just automatically appeals to my taste. Factor in mysterious murders and intriguing, secretive characters, and you have me hooked.

Things I enjoyed:
I was fascinated by the ins and outs of how the Archive worked, especially with how Mackenzie would track down the Histories in the Narrows (the space between the Archive and the Outer). There was a romantic angle (or should I say angles?), but it didn’t overwhelm the story, for which I was grateful. Heavy topics like death and unhealthy relationships, were touched on gracefully and with language that felt comfortable coming from a sixteen year old. Victoria Schwab hits it out of the park with her creative style, delicate weaving of story lines, and a pacing that builds anticipation in the last half of the book as Mackenzie starts to piece together mysteries from the past and present. Schwab doesn’t reveal absolutely everything about every single character, she reveals only enough to keep you wondering. Who should Mackenzie trust? What motivation does this character have and is it genuine?

Things I wasn’t a fan of:

At first, it wasn’t very clear that Da was Mackenzie’s grandfather. Had I not read it in some of the other goodreads reviews, I probably wouldn’t have caught on so quickly.

The semi-romantic interest in Owen felt a little strange and rushed. She may have been curious by him not slipping and felt pity for his story with his sister, but a lot of their romantic scenes where she’d take comfort in him just felt AWKWARD. You’re a Keeper, you know what Histories are and what is supposed to happen with them, and to go beyond overlooking all that, break who knows how many rules, and form some sort of bond with that History…well, it didn’t feel true to character.

Her best friend. Heck, I can’t even remember her name now, and that’s why it bothers me. Mackenzie’s best friend from before she moves makes appearances in the book only through phone calls and then an actual visit in the last few pages tying together a happy ending. Does she remind us that Mackenzie is still trying to be an average teenager with average teenage friends? Sure. Does she do anything to further the plot? Nope. This character mostly just feels to me like filler.

The sequel to this book, The Unbound, has been waiting anxiously on my Kindle for me to finish this post. I’ve definitely been having trouble resisting the urge to delve into it, but I forced myself to get my predictions in writing before beginning. So…SPOILER ALERT… here are some things I predict for The Unbound.

Wesley and his guyliner will definitely be back and making his way out of the friend-zone. Of course, Mackenzie will still be working through her feelings for Owen the Psychotic History.

I feel like Da will have a much larger presence in this book. It’s already been stated that the Librarians are the Histories of those who have worked for the Archive, so it just makes sense. What else is he going to do? Stay dead? I don’t think so. I fully expect Da to be a Librarian.

We already know that in this one Mackenzie will be starting her new school. Which I guess can only mean high school drama will be finding its way into her already stressful life. This should also give us new characters and new developments, and will somehow work into whether the Archive will remain vigilant or fall.

4.5/5 Library Cards

So, there you have it! Pick up The Archived by Victoria Schwab at your local library, bookstore, or online, and let me know if you enjoyed it as much as I did!