Thursday, September 9, 2010

Review: The Replacement

Brenna Yovanoff
Young Adult
343 pages
September 21, 2010
Received via Star Book Tours for review

Gentry isn't your typical quaint suburban town. The problems here don't revolve around getting kids to school on time, working long hours, or even paying a variety of bills. Gentry has a very specific set of problems. Every seven years, a child is taken and replaced with something else, something not quite right that dies shortly after the switch is made.

Instead of searching for answers and preventing the swaps from taking place, the people of Gentry pretend it isn't happening. Things are the way they are, and that's how it will always be.

Mackie Doyle just happens to be one of the replacements, only he didn't die. He's grown up with an aversion to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, but he's alive when so many others have perished. Now the sequence is starting all over again with a young girl getting replaced, and Mackie is slowly learning the truth the town of Gentry is so determined to ignore. Continuing on stifled by oppressive silence is no longer an option for him.

The crowning achievement of this book is it's underlying message. Children in Gentry are dying, yet not a single voice rises out of the masses to object. The collective inaction of the town is shocking, and serves as an exaggerated example of how the true betrayal of humanity is indifference. The root of evil lies not just in the malicious deeds of others or in the people that exist at the opposite end of the spectrum, but also, and perhaps more importantly, in the good people who choose to look the other way. The idea that those whose hands are literally coated in the blood of the innocent might share equal culpability for the dark deeds committed with those who merely do nothing to prevent them makes The Replacement a very thought-provoking read.

Mackie is other. People would say he's a part of what plagues the town of Gentry, where the desire for prosperity has bred complacency to such a degree that the inhabitants turn a blind eye to the deaths of their own children. With each child's death, those who mastermind the switches grant the town good fortune, so the citizens continue to remain passive. But it's not Mackie, nor any of those like him, who is the true monster. He may be less than human by the town's definition, but it's his voice, with the help of friends Tate and Roswell, that rises out of the dark and dank and dares to question. This book truly makes the reader reflect on what it means to be human, and how thin the veil between good and evil can truly be.

Though the message is beautifully woven through this story, it's power resonating deep under the reader's skin with every word read, the ending leaves a little to be desired. This book is about choices. Choosing to step forward when others would cower back. Choosing to fight when others would simply comply. But yet, when the final showdown is reached, Mackie is still the only one to make a decision. He looks back to see his friends rendered immobile, leaving him to his fate as he propels himself forward into the hands of the enemy. Are they outnumbered? Absolutely. But inaction can be rationalized in any number of ways and the end result is still the same: no one acts. That's been the point from the beginning, and I hoped that Mackie's strength of character would have taken root and spread a bit further by the end. Surely if one can make a stand, so can many.

My other small issue is with Tate and Mackie's relationship. The story itself is so strong that the relationships between the individual characters seem to get overwhelmed. Tate flits back and forth emotionally, harboring anger and resentment for Mackie over the disappearance of her sister one minute, then feigning interest the next. Mackie seems fairly content with either outcome, whether they are friends or something more, and it seems as though the story would have been just as brutally honest and ultimately just as successful had the romantic subplot been nonexistent.

There are a few problems, but overall this is a dark and compelling story, full of beguiling creatures that force us to closely examine our day to day choices, and make us acutely aware of the extreme consequences of our own apathy.

Rating: 3.5/5


  1. That cover just draws me in. Fab review. Im adding this to my TBR. :)

  2. Brilliant review. The cover alone makes me want to read this, but I'll definitely take your points into account when I do :)

  3. Wow, beautiful review! Little disappointed in the flitting back and forth, that is one thing that makes me want to throw a book when a character does that. I'll still keep it in my TBR tho!

  4. Tori - I LOVE the cover, it's creepy and gorgeous:) I'll be interested to see what you think of this one.

    Melissa - Thank you! It's worth a read despite the problems.

    Pam - Thanks much:) The flitting back and forth drives me crazy as well, I want them to just say what they think and do what they feel!

  5. Great review! I'm still looking forward to this one! I kind of wonder why almost ALL YA has to have a romantic sub-plot?! I mean I know I enjoy the romantic aspects but I don't ALWAYS have to have it in a book, especially if it doesn't really...add anything!

  6. Mollie - I wonder that sometimes as well. In this one it just seemed like an afterthought. Kind of "He's a boy. She's a girl. They should be more than friends." I would have been perfectly fine with them just being friends and not pursuing anything more:) If it furthers the plot, I'm all for it, I love romantic storylines, but if it's there just to be there I can do without.

  7. Okay... creepy! That cover is a bit too much for my light-hearted self... (I cannot do horror). This one reminds me of the Stephen King book where there was the big storm and one of the kids would be taken. Anyhow...

    A nice review and I am intrigued, but I think it's too dark for me.

  8. Outstanding book review - one of the best I have ever read on your blog. You write with passion!

  9. Just dropping by to say hello. Please accept your award on my blog.

  10. Excellent review & this book sounds creepier and more haunting each time I hear about it. I look forward to reading The Replacement. :)

  11. Thanks for the review--this sounds delightfully creepy!