When I hit the halfway mark of Helen FitzGerald’s Deviant, I distinctly remember thinking, “So, I’m completely liking this, but...where’s the mystery?” Because it was published, after all, through the Soho Teen imprint, which is devoted to mysteries and thrillers. And then, when the mystery component actually kicked in, I really just wanted it to go away: because suddenly, what had been a quiet, tense, really engrossing story about a girl immersed in a new family, a new economic bracket and an entirely new culture was jarringly transformed into an action-movie version (complete with bullets flying, car chases, people smashing through windows, a kidnapping and a Showdown With The Big Bad) of The Stepford Wives. (Minus the robots.)
Despite the book’s disappointing spiral into inanity in the third act, the introduction of a totally extraneous love triangle (and when I say "extraneous," I’m referring to BOTH romances), AND the fact that it ends on a deflating TUNE IN NEXT TIME TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS note, I enjoyed my time with the heroine so much that I’ll very probably pick up Book Two.
Here’s why I like 16-year-old Abigail Thom so much:
Her perspective: One of my favorite, favorite things about Deviant is that it’s about a European in the United States, and because of that, it provides an often-hilariously discomfiting portrayal of American culture. Abigail hates Glasgow: It’s dreary, damp, depressing and full of dirtbags...but she almost immediately realizes that it has something that Los Angeles doesn’t: soul.
Her confidence: She knows she’s smart, she knows she’s capable, and while she suffers from the occasional worried thought about her appearance or her lack of experience with boys, for the most part, she’s refreshingly angst-free. And her confidence allows for...
...her assertiveness: Her new-found sister drinks quite a bit and smokes a lot of pot, but for various reasons, Abigail isn’t interested in joining her. So when Becky offers, again and again, she almost always refuses. She’s direct, she’s firm, she does it without a lot of internal hemming and hawing, and she does it without coming off as missish or embarrassed. She. Just. Says. No. It was nice to see a teen character do what was right for herself without laying any real judgement on the choices of her peer.
Her self-reliance: As an infant, she was abandoned at a hippie commune in the Scottish countryside by her mother. She lived there quite happily until she was 9, when her adopted guardian died of cancer. She’s been in care ever since, with all of the rest of the “Unloved Nobodies.” So it’s understandable that she’s extremely emotionally guarded and unwilling to lean on other people: including her long-lost (and extremely wealthy) father. Which ultimately turns out to be a good instinct on her part, and prevents her from being completely emotionally blindsided when she discovers the extent of his betrayal.
Do I recommend it? Well, it depends on what you’re looking for: Readers looking for an action-packed mystery are likely to give up on it before all of FitzGerald’s foreshadowing pays off, and readers who’d prefer a fish-out-of-water story à la The O.C. will be thrown by the thriller shenanigans at the end. If you’re okay with a mish-mash of both, though, give it a go—Abigail might win you over like she did me.
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while re-watching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.