Initial reaction: Overall: very dull, lifeless narrative despite its intentions. I could not feel for the characters or the overarching story at all, sadly. Hopefully I can explain more in the forthcoming review.
Haven’t decided if this is going to be 1 or 1.5 stars.
This is one of those times where I get what the narrative was trying to do, but felt it didn’t execute the idea very well. I know there are some people who are comparing this to another well-known adult novel that I’m not going to say for spoiler’s sake, but thankfully I won’t have to draw that comparison because…well, I haven’t read that novel yet.
(Those of you who are fans of said novel can proceed to descend upon me with your harisens of choice. For the record though, I do plan on reading that novel eventually, and I’ve heard it was a beautiful one, though I think even among my reading circles, there’s a division of opinions about its impact and theme.)
Comparisons aside, I went into this novel blind, not really knowing what to expect from it. From the get-go, I had so much trouble. First problem was the vague worldbuilding – I couldn’t make head for tails what a Terminal was versus a Whole at first, only that I knew the protagonist was stuck in this controlled facility where other Terminals were contained within, separate from regular society. It’s a dystopian realm, but it was EXTREMELY vague, dull and the emotional resonance seemed…off. I later found out why that was.
When you have a protagonist that’s supposed to have awkward emotional resonance (or lack thereof) for whatever reason, that doesn’t mean the narrative itself has to be dull, awkward, and emotionless. That’s exactly the vice that “The Haven” commits throughout, and I don’t think through the course of the story it got any better than where it started. By the time the narrative concluded, I wasn’t really taken by either the collective cast of characters and their plights nor better informed for the world it established. I was terribly bored, lost within vague details, and even when the major revelation came about – it was really nothing new to me at all. Had no strong sentiments about it either way.
That is a really bad sign considering what this novel was trying to aim for, but I can’t say because *spoilers*.
And it’s meant to be a heavy revelation. I get that, but I didn’t feel it – at all. If anything, I think I saw it coming mainly because I’m used to reading narratives like this in sci-fi where the measure crosses ethical/morality lines. Even for a YA work, I thought this was too watered down. It could’ve gone so much further than what it did.
Another problem with that particular revelation was that it took too long for the reveal. This book has pacing issues for the respective conflict as well the overarching plot. There was no reason why that revelation couldn’t have come at a sooner point than what it did. I was tempted to DNF this several times because of just how slow it progressed. It was a little better once the twist was revealed, but not by that much, and in the end – I didn’t feel like I came out of this novel with any kind of strong impressions. Not about the characters (whose names even now, I have a hard time remembering. I know Shiloh was the confused protagonist who just wanted to keep to herself and not risk herself to be any trouble, her friend was Abigail, the boys Daniel and Gideon were both seen to be trouble in Shiloh’s eyes, etc.)
It’s my first experience with reading Carol Lynch Williams, but it’s not going to be the last time. I’m hoping that some of her other narratives strike me better. But I think this narrative, as a whole, missed its respective mark.
Overall score: 1/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher St. Martin’s Press.