A Review of Angela Kulig’s Skeleton Lake #1

Bookworm Wednesday: A Review of Angela Kulig’s Skeleton Lake #1

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, sorry this post is a little later in the day than I’d planned on.  A) I’ve been trying to find the time to write this review for a WEEK now, and every time I sit down to do it, something else comes up.  B) It’s been storming on campus all day, with several tornado warnings, so I’ve been shuffled out of rooms and into windowless hallways, and dealing with intermittent internet, and all that fun stuff today.

Anyway, this review is the first for the 2012 To-Be-Read Pile Reading Challenge.  I’ve been meaning to read this book and review it since I won a free copy at the Twitter release party on Halloween.  I wasn’t beginning to think I’d NEVER get around to it.  But I finally have.  So here we go:

Title: Skeleton Lake (Book #1)

Author: Angela Kulig

Release Date: Oct 2011

Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

Where I Got It: won an ebook copy during the release party giveaways

Score: 3 out of 5

Let me start by saying that the premise of Skeleton Lake is absolutely fascinating.  Marlow is a normal high school girl who lives with her parents, has a boyfriend, has a very normal life.  But one night she sees her boyfriend cheating on her, and runs away, dashing through the woods and diving into a lake to drown herself.

And then she awakens, surrounded by people she knows only vaguely from school: Lena, Alex, and the suddenly inexplicably attractive Raiden.  Raiden tells her she died in the lake.  And now Marlow, like Raiden, Lena, and Alex, is a living skeleton.  Beneath her skin, which turns translucent in the water of Skeleton Lake where she drowned, her nearly-unbreakable bones glow bronze.

As if that weren’t enough, Marlow discovers she has inherited the soul of Raiden’s ex-girlfriend Cassandra, who killed herself; both Raiden and his brother Conrad are vying for her affections, and something is after her.  Now, Marlow finds herself caught in the middle of a secret life and a long-standing battle she could never have imagined.

What I Liked:

Let me repeat: the premise of this novel is absolutely fascinating.  How do you even come up with the idea of living skeletons, created when people are near death and dipped into Skeleton Lake?  Seriously!  It’s a very strange, very cool idea.  And it is definitely the main draw of this novel.  That’s not to say, however, that there’s nothing else good about it.

The writing is solid – with a first-person narration that gives the reader a good inside look into Marlow’s thoughts and personality, and also keeps the reader in suspense because we don’t know anymore than Marlow does.  Also, the dialogue was generally well-written, with some great back-and-forth exchanges between characters, and some fun bits of light humor.

The main characters are interesting and easy to relate to.  Marlow, of course, is the girl-next-door type – sweet, smart, but prone to the usual teenage mistakes and downfalls.  I do wish, however, that she had been a little tougher.  This is just a personal quirk of mine – I understand perfectly that not every female character needs to be or should be the “tough” character.  After all, it’s a simple fact that not every girl is like that in real life, and things would get boring if there weren’t some variety in characters.  It’s just that in a life where so many girls are anything BUT tough, I really prefer female characters who are.

I think my favorite character was actually Conrad, who was (in my opinion) the most complex and intriguing character in the bunch.  He was a bit of the “bad boy” type, but not overly-so, he was passionate and conflicted and angry.  And I think Conrad is the one who grew the most throughout the novel as well.

What I Didn’t Like:

Back to characters for a moment: the main male character and love interest, Raiden, while attractive and sweet and romantic and strong and intelligent and all that stuff, was a little too straight-laced and predictable for me taste.  He was a little too perfect, I guess, with few (if any) discernible flaws, quirks, etc to make him a complex character.

Some of the side characters – Lena and Alex in particular – definitely had potential to be interesting characters, but weren’t given enough face-time or development to really capture my attention or concern.  I realize they were side characters and it’s neither necessary nor usually advised to put too much detail into them, for fear of overloading the story and the readers with too many big characters to keep track of.  But I hope Lena and Alex are allowed to develop more in the next book and given more complexity and dimension.

However, my two biggest problems are this:

First: The romance. I cannot tell you how many books I’ve read or heard about in which the main female character meets a man/boy who she is suddenly, powerfully, inexplicably, uncontrollably irrevocably attracted to/in love with.  I’m not talking about instant attraction, which plenty of people experience, as in: “look at that really gorgeous man, he’s really hot I’d love to get to know him better.”  I’m talking: “I don’t know anything about you, but I feel like my soul is being sucked out of my body and I’m so completely and passionately drawn to you that I would probably have your babies right this instant if you ask me.”  I know, I know, it’s YA and this is pretty much par for the course in YA.  BUT WHY???

Now, Kulig does at least a decent job of explaining this away with the concept that Marlow has somehow inherited Raiden’s ex-girlfriend’s soul (and all her emotions, etc that go along with that), but that explanation is only really necessary because she first felt the need to write that instant, inexplicable passion into the plot to begin with.  And, of course, there’s a love triangle with Raiden’s brother Conrad (who was, of course, also in love with the dead ex-girlfriend, and who just can’t seem to help himself even though he knows Raiden has the prior claim – and don’t even get me started on that particular concept!).

I just don’t know why all YA romance plots have to be like this.  Whatever happened to developing relationships in a natural way over the course of a novel?  Why aren’t we given the opportunity to see how the characters develop and interact over time, until we come to understand (as the characters do) why they were just MEANT to be together.  Because, really, in these sorts of instant-love romance plots, there is no really justification, no development of the relationship, no reason to believe these two people are really compatible or meant to be together except that “there’s thing deep in their souls drawing them to each other! It’s fate, damn it!”, ie: because the author tells us so.  And honestly, that just doesn’t work for me.  It didn’t often work for me even when I was 15 or 16, let alone now that I’m 26.

My second big complaint is with the ending: Now, I like the idea of the ending, but I didn’t like the execution.  I don’t want to go into detail here because I don’t want to give too much away for those who might read (or are reading) this book.  But suffice it to say that there’s this huge build up from like the third-to-last chapter to the end: great tension, great feeling of insurmountable hardship as the good guys prepare to come face-to-face with one of the main bad guys who is touted as being cruel and devious and powerful, etc etc etc.  And then the actual confrontation is a total let down.  What could and should have been a huge epic confrontation, is over in like 3 pages (and I’m talking short little Kindle-sized pages, not usual paperback pages), in which very little happens, and the good guy barely breaks a sweat.  Total let down.

Now, for those of you who don’t mind, or even actively LIKE, the insta-romance plot device, I an definitely recommend Skeleton Lake.  The interesting premise, combined with that kind of romance should be right up many people’s alleys, who will love it for what is and not expect it to be anything else.

It just doesn’t do it for me.

And I feel bad saying that, because I know Angela Kulig from Twitter, and like her a lot, but I just get so tired of that particular brand romance plotting, and I am absolutely determined to be as honest and straight-forward as humanly possible in these reviews, no matter how I feel about the author.  So there it is.

For interested parties, the book can be found on Goodreads here: Skeleton Lake, Book 1.

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2 thoughts on “A Review of Angela Kulig’s Skeleton Lake #1

  1. Pingback: Blog Treasures 1-28 | Gene Lempp's Blog

  2. Pingback: How Alexander and Garfield’s Terrible Days Made Me A Writer « Amanda Rudd's Blog

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