Thursday, April 3, 2014

What we're reading: Science fiction

The Archived
by Victoria Schwab
328 pages
YA, Science fiction, paranormal, mystery
9th grade up

In the Archive, the dead rest in pull-out drawers like those you would find in a morgue, but the ambiance is more like an elegant library--wood and stone, dim lights, stained glass, no loud noises; and the bodies are catalogued on the front of their drawers with their names and dates. Once dead, people are called "Histories," and the purpose of their preservation is that their entire lives can be seen in pictures that only Librarians, the custodians of the Archive, can read.

But occasionally, the "Histories" wake up, and when they do, they are confused, often violent, and determined to get out of the Archive. Keepers are the guardians of the Archive, returning these Histories to their peaceful sleep.

Mackenzie Bishop's grandfather was a Keeper, and she is his legacy successor. She has to keep the job a secret from her family and friends, so her life is one long lie or evasion to find the time to patrol the Narrows (the hallways between the Archive and "Out"), sending Histories back to the Archive.

Since her grandfather and her little brother died, though, Mac has started to wonder about the dividing line between the dead and the living. In the Archive, supposedly the dead are not to be disturbed, but some suspicious circumstances lead Mackenzie to the conclusion that someone in the Archive is deliberately altering or erasing Histories. The clues lead to both danger and revelation for her and her allies.

The Archived has such an intriguing premise, and the book is well written, too. The thing that interested me the most, though, is how different in style and voice it was from Schwab's adult book, Vicious, which I reviewed here for the adult blog. I'm always amazed when people can pull off one thing well and another thing equally well but yet completely differently. The voice in Vicious was spare and sophisticated, and while I really liked the way she told this story too, it's completely a YA novel, while the other is completely not. While she definitely included some YA imperatives here (tough teen girl with competing love interests, paranormal setting, etc.), the book is in no way clichéd, and held my (sometimes breathless) attention from start to finish. In my comparison of her books, I'm not saying you wouldn't enjoy one if you enjoyed the other (you would), or that teens shouldn't read the adult book (they should!), just marveling at the stylistic differences.

This one has a sequel, The Unbound, which came out in January, and, I am distressed to realize, Burbank Public Library doesn't own yet! I will remedy that situation ASAP! (And I might cheat and buy it for my Kindle in the meantime, because I really want to read the rest of Mackenzie's story!)

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