Karen Healey is two for two.
Read the last Bookshelves of Doom on the awesome 'Anna Dressed in Blood.'
Her first book, Guardian of the Dead, was a critical darling—it appeared on a slew of award shortlists and won a 2010 Aurealis—as well as being somewhat popular despite that* and being a totally original** spin on the urban paranormal genre. It’s got a fantastic sense of place—if you don’t already want to visit New Zealand, you will after reading it—and, as well as being romantic and exciting and so on, it’s an especially cool to read with an eye toward comparative mythology. It’s easy to draw parallels between the Faerie stories so commonly used in YA fantasy and the Maori mythology Healey incorporated in Guardian.
I liked her second book, 2011’s The Shattering, even more***. It’s set in a resort town on the West Coast of New Zealand. A town so beautiful that tourists literally cry when they see it. A town where it never rains on New Year’s Eve, regardless of weather reports. A town that stays prosperous despite the decline of the towns that surround it. A town where locals never move away, and incoming residents never stay long.
Summerton started out sounding nice and got progressively creepier, right? Well, welcome to The Shattering. When Keri, Janna and Sione start investigating a string of seemingly unrelated suicides—all three of them lost their older brothers to it—they think they’re looking for a serial killer. What they uncover is actually more far-reaching, terrifying and dangerous.
I realized what the Secret of Summerton’s Success was on page 62—an annual death and inexplicable prosperity in a town with a perfectly static population can really only add up to one thing—but that early realization wasn’t a problem. Rather, it upped the tension because I was aware of how much more danger Our Intrepid Sleuths were in well before they were, and provided a lot of “Nooooo! Don’t go in there!” moments. (Which, as a big horror movie buff, I always enjoy.) My favorite thing, though, was that while the conspiracy that they’re up against is Big and Bad, it’s the less dramatic magic that’s scarier—it’s quieter and more subtle, but more insidious and ultra-creepy.
I’ve talked it up here as a super dark fantasy/mystery/adventure/suspense story, but it’s far more than that. It also deals with suicide, grief, homophobia and racism realistically—and without being remotely didactic—as well as exploring the drawbacks to living in a perfect world. It’s a perfect, perfect antidote for anyone still smarting from the horrid Nicolas Cage remake of The Wicker Man.
*Let’s face it: award stickers totally work against books sometimes and moreso in the YA section than anywhere else.
**Sadly, this can also work against books: sometimes we just like to read what’s easy and comfortable. There’s a reason that Twilight readalikes still sell like hotcakes.
***While it hasn’t appeared on as many lists as Guardian did, it’s in the running for the 2011 Cybils SF/F YA award.
Let's be honest. If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy is most likely being tragically unproductive due to the shiny lure of Pinterest.