My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Genre: young adult speculative fiction
I bought a copy of Valentine when it was featured at a local bookstore’s inaugural Science and speculative fiction book club, and was lucky enough to be able to hear the author, Jodi McAlister, speak about the book. She gave some great insights into her goals for the novel and some of the things she hoped to achieve with it.
I enjoyed Valentine, but I didn’t fall in love with it. To be honest, I found the main character, Pearl, quite annoying. Having listened to McAlister speak about her book, I know that Pearl’s immaturity is intentional. McAlister had planned Valentine as the first in a 3 book series from the start and wanted to give the character room to grow. I get that, but that didn’t stop Pearl grating on me at times. In some ways she is my least favourite thing about the book.
The things I enjoyed: there is a freshness and vibrancy to the writing that kept me turning the pages. I really love speculative fiction set in a contemporary world, and McAlister captures teenage life – school, suburbia, family and friendships – beautifully. There is a solidity to the world of the story that really anchors the faerie elements and makes the evil within the book more real. In creating her own mythology to a large extent, McAlister is able to make the creatures that are preying on Pearl and her friends terrifying in their unpredictability.
There is a little gore in the book but it is done well and never overwhelms the story as a whole. Rather it adds an undercurrent of menace that pervades the novel. However, there are times when I found the story dragged a little. I think it would have been a better read if it had had a harder edit.
Overall, Valentine is an enjoyable and original book that will appeal to lovers of young adult speculative fiction.