January 28, 2013

Fog (Fog, Snow, and Fire, #1) by Caroline B. Cooney

Fog (Fog, Snow, and Fire, #1)Fog by Caroline B. Cooney

My rating: ★★★★☆

When it comes to 80's and 90's YA horror, I have a weakness. I simply can't stop reading it, regardless of its quality. I've read every Fear Street novel I can get my hands on, I'm slowly chipping away at the Point Horror line, and I'm still buying every non-series books that fits the bill. And I'm not going to lie, most of it kind of sucks. Sure it was fun when I was younger, a little creepy, a little suspenseful, and sometimes even kind of scary; but reading those books as an adult is a rather disappointing experience... and yet I still can't seem to get enough. They're lame, but they're fun lame.

So I went into Fog thinking the experience would be similar; it'd be fun to read, but ultimately as troperiffic and nonsensical as the average Fear Street book.

Which meant that Fog was a pleasant surprise, indeed.

I've discussed before the reasons behind my dislike of the Fear Street plotlines. They all rely on the same stock characters, the worldbuilding is chaotic and lacking almost any internal consistency, almost all of the female characters are boring, and all but two or three of the love interests are abusive creeps being mistaken for “bad boys”. Fog dodges each and every one of those pitfalls, and the tropes it does include are well-handled and effective.

On the subject of characters, Cooney wrote a delightfully creepy version of a Cloudcuckoolander with Anya; right from the start of the book, Anya's the immediate sign that Cooney knows how to write eerie and intends to deliver, unlike so many other so-called horror writers. Even better, Christina is a properly flawed female protagonist; with Christina, there's no Mary Sue nonsense when it comes to her ability to resist the Shevvingtons. Rather, she's a determined young woman who, most importantly, admits she's frightened. And that shouldn't be as rare a quality as it is, but to see a character who is specifically written as brave through willpower--not inherently and unwaveringly (not to mention unbelievably) brave just because Girls Need Role Models--is wonderfully refreshing. It's great to see a character who struggles with not only the antagonists, but with her own character flaws.

On the subject of the aforementioned creepiness, it shows up with Anya and it sticks around. I'm actually impressed by this, as it's so rare; rather than simply describing something grotesque or outright threatening to the reader--or worse yet, merely assuring us that Christina's surroundings are unsettling and expecting us to take her word for it--Cooney builds a genuinely creepy setting by taking advantage of the inherent danger the oceans pose to humans with well-written imagery, delivering via Anya downright disturbing and frightfully insane comments that heighten the eerie effect of the imagery into a distinct sense of foreboding, and adding an element of “maybe magic, maybe mundane” instead of diving headfirst into the supernatural. I have never seen a YA horror novel bother to craft its setting and tone this well.

Having said that, I hope I haven't oversold this; a lot of why I enjoyed it came from the fact that its quality was a genuine surprise. There were a few points that were probably a little sillier than necessary or pushed the limits of my suspension of disbelief, but my sheer surprise at finding talented writing and interesting characters far outweighed any of the complaints I might have otherwise voiced. In the end, I didn't read this because I had a morbid curiosity to find out what nonsensical ass-pull would resolve the plotline, as happens so often when I read Fear Street. No, for once this was enjoyment--the book was suspenseful, creepy, and interesting. When I can finally get my hands on copies of the sequels--my local library seems to be in the process of disposing of everything that isn't Twilight, Harry Potter, or Hunger Games, so there isn't a copy of Snow or Fire in the entire state database--I'm definitely looking forward to reading the rest of the Losing Christina / Fog, Snow, and Fire series. In the meantime, I own a few other Cooney books, and I'm certainly considering them with much more interest than I had before.

A copy of this book was provided free via Netgalley for the purpose of review.

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