I am finding it really hard to write a review for this book. People seem to either love it or hate it. And, I get it. This is *definitely* a YA book. You need to know this before you jump in. And, you need to *accept* it. If you do not, you will *not* enjoy this book. If you *do*, you will more likely love it. It is a YA book, it makes no bones about it, and it was written for that group.
In addition to struggling with the review, I found myself veering from my traditional rating system. For the angstiness, I would roll my eyes and give the book 1 star. (The character Marion says it best, "Teenagers - everything is so apocalyptic.") But, I really did like the mystery and the path that the characters took - for that I would give the book 4 stars. In the end, I would give it 2.5 but I settled on 3.
In addition to the angst, I found the novel to be lacking in good grammar. Found lots of cases where the pronouns lacked agreement. I found lots of repetitiveness and thought the book could have been at *least* 100 pages shorter. The action *really* does not start until the final 100ish pages. At that point, the novel goes at break net speed yet still manages to keep the teenage angst.
While I did struggle with these issues a great deal, I found the characters very well drawn and wanted to know how they resolved their crisis. I also appreciated the mystery and the way in which the authors dropped little clues and unraveled the mystery a piece at a time. It was this that kept me from putting the novel aside and even just reading the final chapter to see how it was resolved. I actually wanted to go along for the ride.
I found the description of Gatlin, even though a bit stereotypical, to be fairly accurate - not just of a small Southern town, but of any small town. While this age of technology has made small towns just a little bit bigger, I definitely feel that the "high school" attitude very prevalent in this atmosphere. I feel that the authors portrayed this fairly well.
I did, however, feel their portrayal of the town's regard for the Civil War poorly done and lacking complete understanding of the depth of devastation and oppression felt by the south - and how much history was completely destroyed. Instead of any kind of sympathy and understanding and any real display of why the south feels the way it does, it took popular beliefs and expounded on them, portraying the southerners as simpletons with only one mind. (And, believe me, I completely understand that the South simply should and could NOT win that war.) Even though they represented Sherman's march to the sea and the burning and looting that accompanied it, they did not express the depth and breadth of the utter devastation - containing it to mostly a single plantation. To me, the authors completely blew this opportunity to show some compassion. Or, to avoid it all together.