Vanessa Sands and her sister Justine look forward to the summer for many of the same reasons any teenage girls would. One, they get to spend time at their lake house in Winter Harbor, Maine. Two, their next door neighbors just happen to have two sons around the same age as the girls. Each and every summer is like the one before, with Vanessa and Justine spending time in and near the water, and Justine flirting with younger brother Caleb while older brother Simon spouts off weather forecasts and science-related facts.
This summer was supposed to be more of the same, only instead of relaxing with friends and family, Vanessa and her parents find themselves coping with the sudden, tragic death of Justine. Everyone believes Justine jumped to her watery grave in a cliff-diving excursion gone wrong, but that reasoning seems inexplicable to Vanessa despite coming to the realization that she doesn't know as much about her sister as she once believed. She returns to Winter Harbor to speak with Caleb, the only one who was with Justine the night of her passing.
Only Caleb is missing as well. Simon and Vanessa team up to search for Caleb and the answers Vanessa so desperately needs, but Caleb's absence is not the only unexplainable occurrence plaguing this seaside town. Strange weather phenomena beleaguer Winter Harbor, more bodies are washing ashore with horrific smiles forever frozen on their faces, and Vanessa is nearly knocked unconscious due to a searing pain in her head whenever in the presence of certain individuals.
Simon and Vanessa know there's more to Justine's death and Caleb's disappearance than disastrous teenage exploits, and in their search, they discover that Winter Harbor isn't merely a human tourist attraction, but a mythological one as well.
What a refreshing premise. In a time when Weres and vampires rule the paranormal adult and young adult fiction world (not to mention movies and television), it's wonderful to stumble across a supernatural story that's so completely unique. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of anything werewolf or vampire, but it's a welcome change to have a new supernatural force take center stage.
The story gets its hooks into you first thing with Justine's tragic death, and though there is a slight lull in the middle where Ms. Rayburn is leaving clues and setting up events that will come into play later in the story, it picks back up a short time later as the body count begins to rise.
In addition to the plethora of eerily cheerful male victims for readers to focus on, there's also an unwarranted hostility between some of the permanent town residents and Vanessa that's extremely intriguing. One in particular takes an instant dislike to Vanessa for reasons we aren't privy to as readers, only serving to make me want to read faster in the hopes of discovering why. The depth of Rayburn's characters is a huge part of the novel's appeal. Each and every character has a questionable history and a slew of secrets, making it extremely interesting to try and decipher which ones are more than their facade would suggest.
The budding romance between Vanessa and Simon is adorable and sweet, and I like that Vanessa's entire world doesn't revolve around her interest in him. She's able to see past the attraction and stay on task while keeping her swooning to a bare minimum.
The ending is action packed and emotionally draining, and only a few of the questions that have arisen in the pages before it are brought to the surface, leaving me no choice but to pine for next year's sequel. The history surrounding the sirens is only partially illuminated by the time this story wraps up, the tie between the odd weather patterns and the murders isn't quite clear, and questions surrounding the futures of all those involved are plentiful. I'm not a reader who minds unanswered questions in a series, I actually enjoy letting my mind come up with several potential outcomes while I wait, however, if you like things wrapped up with a pretty little bow upon conclusion, this read may frustrate you.
All in all, Siren is a fun, entertaining story perfect for reading on a summer vacation. Especially a vacation involving water.