Friday, February 07, 2014

What We're Reading: YA Fantasy

What if, after death, a person’s life experiences were recorded and stored in a huge repository called The Archive? These records are stored, maintained and accessed by Librarians, who can “read” and interpret these life records that they call Histories. How would the knowledge of such a repository affect how you lived your life? And what would happen if one of these Histories made it back into what we think of as the “real” world? These are just some of the intriguing questions explored in Victoria Schwab’s The Archived.

Mackenzie Bishop seems like a typical 16-year-old, but she has a secret. For years, Da, her grandfather, trained Mackenzie to be a Keeper. A Keeper must patrol a netherworld of perpetual twilight known as The Narrows, searching for Histories that have escaped The Archive and returning them before they can escape into The Outer (the real world). Before he died four years ago, Da appointed Mackenzie as his successor at The Archive, making her the youngest Keeper on record. In spite of her age, Mackenzie is good at her job and equally good at keeping these responsibilities a secret from everyone she knows, including her parents. 

Last year, Mackenzie’s younger brother Ben was killed when he was hit by a car on his way to school. In an attempt to distance themselves from Ben’s loss, her parents have uprooted the family and moved into The Coronado, an historic old hotel converted into apartments. The building has a lot of “character” and “charm,” which Mackenzie translates as old, run-down and, in some ways, spooky. Shortly after moving in, Mackenzie discovers that the building was the location for several mysterious deaths. Details about these events are surprisingly sparse. In addition, as soon as Mackenzie and her family move into their new apartment, activity in The Narrows increases dramatically. Something about The Coronado is affecting The Archive, and Mackenzie is determined to discover who or what it is.

In The Archived, Victoria Schwab (author of last year's excellent adult novel Vicious)  creates an intriguing and compelling mystery/thriller combined with an interesting vision of a possible afterlife where the life experiences of the dead are kept and preserved. The writing is strong and the characters are nicely drawn, interacting in recognizable ways. Of particular note is the way the Bishops, Mackenzie’s family, act and react to each other and to the outside world as they manage and process their grief. And The Archive, as described by Schwab, may result in readers examining and exploring their own ideas of what it means to live a full life, how they react to the death of others, and issues about their own mortality. 

The Archived is the first in a new series. The next book, The Unbound, is due out in early 2014!

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