The Holders by Julianna Scott (Book 1 of the the Holders series)
Expected publication date: March 5th, 2013 by Strange Chemistry
Cover image and synopsis provided by the publisher.
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17-year-old Becca has spent her whole life protecting her brother – from their father leaving and from the people who say the voices in his head are unnatural. When two strangers appear with apparent answers to Ryland’s “problem” and details about a school in Ireland where Ryland will not only fit in, but prosper, Becca is up in arms.
She reluctantly agrees to join Ryland on his journey and what they find at St. Brigid’s is a world beyond their imagination. Little by little they piece together information about their family’s heritage and the legend of the Holder race that decrees Ryland is the one they’ve been waiting for… but, they are all, especially Becca, in for a surprise that will change what they thought they knew about themselves and their kind.
If any of you are like me, you are sick and tired of all these books which are basically a re-branded version of X-Men. I have read many of them in the last year and frankly, they all sucked. When I saw this book start to go down the X-Men route my apprehension grew, would this one suck too? I am happy to say it did not suck! It was not an amazing book or a book that I will remember forever, but it was enjoyable and satisfying.
Let’s first turn to the basic plot for analysis. Yes, in case you hadn’t already guessed, it is very reminiscent of X-Men. I won’t elaborate into a lot of detail because that might spoil some things. Basically you have a school where they bring kids who have special abilities. Here they are taught to control and use their abilities to fight against the bad guy and protect us poor, hapless normal humans along the way. This is where we find Becca. Her brother is one of these kids with special abilities and she insists on accompanying him to the school to make sure it’s not a loony bin or something. One place where this differed from X-Men is that these kids get their abilities based on genetics. The abilities were originally granted to a bunch of people by the Irish gods and it is passed down through their lines. I am not sure why it was only Irish people who were given these abilites, it was never really addressed in any detail. I appreciated that the author appeared to have done at least a little homework on the Gaelic language and the old Irish Gods. Overall, the plot was not anything that overly surprised me and was a bit predictable but it was done well and so it is less annoying than it could have been.
The world-building was decent but lacking in certain areas. We get the very basic details about the world and how it works but nothing beyond that. Part of that is because we are learning these things through Becca’s POV. Becca, overall, is a good narrator but since she is new to all this, she is only given the most base level details and by association that’s all we are given as well. I wanted to hear more about it. I wanted more detail and was slightly disappointed that I didn’t get it. For example, there is an item that they KNOW is very powerful and they can’t let the bad guys have it. Why not? Well I dunno because the bad guys can’t even use it. But the good guys can’t use it either. So why did it matter? I found out later, but initially it was very confusing. Or, another example, we are told that rarely do women inherit these abilities and when they do their power level is very low. Why? It was never explained. Even the characters copped out with, “We don’t know, that’s just how it’s always been.” The world building that we did get was decent and fairly solid in my opinion but needs more work on the details in future books.
Now let us discuss the romance in this book between Becca and Alex. It was like a breath of fresh area. I’ve been reading so much YA recently and the romances are always so annoying in many ways. This was fantastic! Becca is a smart and intelligent girl who is not dependent on the approval of a boyfriend for her identity, which I appreciate. Alex is smart, funny, considerate, a gentlemen, and thoughtful. And, he blushes, I mean how cute is that! I found myself falling for Alex right along with Becca because he was just so adorable. I was mildly concerned that I might get weirded out with the romance since Becca is 17 and Alex is 23, but there was no reason to fear. The romance is sweet, gradual, and innocent so I didn’t have any pervy signals going off in my head. We didn’t even have insta love! It was gradual and based on real things like behavior, personality, and how that person is treating them. I was so pleased with this romance that it restored my faith in YA romances a little bit.
At the end of the day, I am happy that I read this book and persevered through my initial apprehensions. It had some flaws which led to the 3 star rating, but overall I enjoyed myself. I was a good book that served its purpose very well. I recommend this book to sci-fi fans and fans of YA that are tired of the cliched romances they offer.
A special thank you to Strange Chemistry who provided me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.