The Plot: Krystal Bentley, fifteen, has had a rough year. Her parents divorced, her mother forced her to move from New York City to Lincoln, Connecticut, her mother met and married Gerald, Krystal has no friends, and dead people talk to her. No, really, Ricky (who looks pretty fine for a dead boy!) is right there, in her room, kind of transparent, insisting she help solve his murder.
The Good: The press release for Mystyx promised “an exciting, new multicultured paranormal series” and it delivers. Krystal’s mother is half Cherokee, her father is black; and the students at Settlemans High School are a mix of race and ethnicity. Sasha Carrington is a “Richie” and Latina; Jake is a “Tracker” and white. Sasha and Jake become Krystal’s friends and will be main characters for the next books in this series.
Dead people talk to Krystal; up to now, she has ignored them and they leave her alone. Until now. Until Ricky. Sasha and Jake notice Krystal’s odd birthmark that looks like a letter “M” and tell her that they have the same birthmark. Sasha and Jake further share that they have powers: she can teleport; he can move things with his mind. Krystal lets her guard down, enough to make friends with Sasha and Jake, to learn more about her own powers, to help Ricky, and to recognize the truth behind her parents’ divorce.
Krystal, Sasha and Jake try to figure out how to use their powers and why they have them. This is the first in a series, so some of the things that contradict each other may be explained later. Sasha and Jake discovered their powers when they turned fifteen, while Krystal has heard dead people for years. Sasha’s theory that the powers are linked to puberty is wrong, but no other explanation is given in this book for how, and when, powers manifest. It may have something to do with being conceived during certain types of storms (which adds a nice scientific twist and research to the tale), but that still doesn’t explain when the powers how up. Jake discovers a diary of his great grandmother that reveals that people have had powers before and some people are aware of the powers that is called “Mystyx” or simply “the Power” or “Powers”. While the reader may speculate that this means other people in the present day are aware of (or have) powers, it’s not really followed up on in Manifest. While I was thinking “what about…”, I know from reading series that not everything can be (or should be) addressed in the first book. So, yes, there are some lose ends and things that don’t wrap up nicely, and may even contradict, but that’s the price you pay for reading a series. It’s not all set out or resolved in book one. I actually have a theory about other people knowing about the Mystyx and who specifically they are, but let’s wait till the next book to see if I’m right.
I had a couple other “what about” moments, like why Krystal’s mother moved back to her hometown yet Krystal does not mention her mother having any relatives or friends in town. Not live ones, anyway. Part of it may be “this will be explained later,” part of it may be that Krystal is so self absorbed in her own problems, pain, hurt, and life that she probably wouldn’t notice if her mother had a dozen friends over every day.
Arthur has created a very realistic teen in Krystal, so I can forgive those “what about” moments (and trust that they will be addressed in future books.) Krystal’s anger at her mother, the injustice of having to move away from her father and now having to live with Gerald – you feel it and are right there with her every angry step of the way. In less than a year, she’s lived in a New York City apartment with both her parents, a small apartment she and her mother lived in when they first returned to Connecticut, and now the big house she moved into after her mother and Gerald wed. Who wouldn’t be pissed beyond the telling? In rereading the book, I realized that Gerald and Krystal’s mother have been married for only one month, which definitely explains a lot of Krystal’s attitude. Her poor mother and Gerald can do nothing right. I love when a book creates such believable self-involved angst that I find myself getting just as angry as the teen! It’s actually quite cathartic. At one point, I eye-rolled at something Gerald said and thought “no adult is that clueless.” Luckily, I have a blog review buddy who I checked with and she basically said, yes, she has known adults that clueless. Moral of the story for reviews: just because it’s not true for me, doesn’t mean it’s not true for others.
Krystal’s anger and hurt combined with being naturally defensive because of “talking to dead people” creates a character who sometimes sounds whiny or self-involved. I imagine part of the reason she hasn’t made friends before this is she was sending out a silent “stay away from me” message with every gesture, expression, and tone of voice. Given all that has been piled on her plate, I cannot blame Krystal for her attitude, and often shared those feelings towards her seemingly clueless mother and stepfather. Krystal’s connecting with Sasha and Jake and discovering her powers can be used for good and not feared allow other defenses to come down, so she eventually sees her parents and stepfather in a more balanced light.
One of the reasons I said “yes” to reviewing Manifest is it’s part of the Kimani Tru imprint from Harlequin: it’s the African American young adult imprint from Kimani Press, which is an imprint of Harlequin.While Harlequin is known for its romance, and there is some romance in Manifest, I wouldn’t categorize it as such. More a straight-forward paranormal story with some “does he like me? do I like him?” elements. Anyway, so I said yes to the opportunity to review a book from this imprint, and also because Manifest has such an awesome cover. A bonus was that the publicist handling this also put together a “community interview,” using one question from a bunch of different bloggers. I’ve selected a handful of questions to share here.
Let’s start with my question: As a writer are you a “plotter” (with detailed outlines) or are you a “plunger” (plunge into the story and see where it takes you)?
Artist Arthur: I’m a plotter definitely. As I begin to write the characters take on their own life but with my outline I know where I need them to end up. Most of the time they work with me.
Diana Dang said…How do you write out your stories? Plan them? Let the characters decide? Or only when you have an “aha!” moment then you put it down?
Artist Arthur: I’m a planner. I get the idea then I run with it. My outlines are usually about five pages long and that’s just on the characters, not actually the story. I know, overkill right? LOL
Star Shadow said…How did you come up with the amazing idea for the base for this book and the Mystyx group/powers?
Artist Arthur: I love watching the weather channel. I kept thinking that something has to be left behind after all these storms and natural disasters. My daughter came up with the names of the Mystyx characters and I gave them powers. I wanted different powers, ones that would fit each character specifically.
MissAttitude said…My question: Why did you decide to not only make Krystal African American, but also one fourth Native American?
Artist Arthur: I wanted all the characters to be unique in their backgrounds and upbringing. My family has some Native American (Cherokee) so it was a natural mixture for me.