Rowe’s (Creatures of the Lake, 2011, etc.) genre-spanning YA novel features a romance between an ex-track star with a heart problem and a brilliant street artist who hears voices.
Aimee DeLuca used to be an athlete, before a faulty heart valve changed her life. At one point, she went through a short period of being clinically dead; during this time, she saw and spoke to her late grandmother, who urged her to go back to her life. Aimee did, but now she finds herself withdrawing from the world, saddled with unwanted empathic abilities. She looks forward to spending time painting during the summer at an idyllic pond on her great-uncle’s land. There, she meets a teenager named Reizo Rush; she doesn’t know that he’s come to the pond to commit suicide, as he’s desperate to escape the two voices in his head that mock and taunt him. He’s got a reputation as the “Crazy Kid” at school, but no one knows that he’s also a talented graffiti artist, responsible for astonishing works of three-dimensional art around the small Arkansas town. Aimee and Reizo are immediately drawn to each other. As they fall in love, sharing art and secrets, readers are made aware of a mysterious, interactive database called the cloud, and soon find out that the teenage couple is part of a cosmic war that spans lifetimes, involving century-old land disputes, drug dealing, and a mental hospital with a nefarious mission. Rowe’s writing throughout is engaging and assured, and he has a talent for simile: “Nervous laughs erupt around the classroom like heated-up microwave popcorn.” He also avoids the common speculative-fiction pitfall of providing too much exposition, instead letting the enigmatic nature of the cloud draw readers through the pages. Sometimes, however, it feels as if the author is attempting too many genres for one book, including YA romance, real-world mystery, and sci-fi/fantasy.
A well-written, if somewhat overambitious, YA tale.