Review: ‘Savannah Grey’ by Cliff McNish

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Savannah Grey

Author: Cliff McNish

Format: galley (available for purchase in hardcover or for Kindle)

Publisher: Carolrhoda Books

Release Date: 4/1/2011

Length: 266 pages

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley

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Publisher’s summary:

15 year old Savannah Grey has never felt she’s belonged. She keeps her distance, so she’s surprised by her attraction to the new boy Reece.

Then strange things begin to happen: nature, it seems, is exerting an overpowering force on the world. Birds behave strangely; gusts of wind blow leaves so fiercely they seem to lure people away. And Savannah learns she has supernatural powers.

Nature has a purpose for Savannah and her friends. For they are on course to meet the vile and evil Orcrassa, who wants to destroy the world by corrupting nature. And it wants Savannah Grey to help realise its savage intent.


My thoughts, which will definitely include some mild major spoilers:

While I’m not exactly within the target audience for this book, I requested the galley and did my best to find something good in it. I have read and enjoyed many YA books and then recommended them to teens and adults, alike. That won’t happen with this book. Aside from asking my 16 year old daughter to give it a try, that is. I wanted the opinion of someone actually in the target audience to see if perhaps she had a different impression of it. Upon finding out why I wanted her to read the book, however, my daughter declined. She said that if I didn’t like it, she wouldn’t like it.

The book blurb, while short, sounded interesting to me, hence my request for the galley. Even now, I think that something good could have been done with this story idea but as it’s written? No. It just doesn’t work. I’ll give a quick run-down of the story and then explain why.

Savannah Grey, the main character, is a hapless orphan who moves from foster home to foster home, never truly feeling at home. She’s had the same best friend for years and Nina is the only person in Savannah’s life that she feels a real connection with. Until she meets Reece. She feels a kinship with him that she can’t explain, she feels drawn to him.

Then she discovers that they both appear to have the same affliction in their throats and realize that it’s a weapon that they’ll need to fight a monster. In order to protect this weapon until it’s ready to fight the monster, Savannah can and will attack anyone who gets near her. Rather, her body will attack them, since she can hardly maintain control of her extremities or her voice if her ‘weapon’ feels threatened in any way.

Also, interspersed with Savannah’s point of view chapters were sections from the point of view of one or another of the monsters in the story, namely the Ocrassa, an ancient entity with no earthly predators. Some reviews I read enjoyed the inclusion of the monster POVs but I found them distracting and perhaps a bit overkill because in light of the ending of the book, it seems that the Ocrassa’s power and infallibility were trumped up.

Okay… there’s really not much more run-down to cover. Unfortunately, I have more to say in picking it apart though I really feel the need to explain why I didn’t enjoy this book. Again, spoilers will abound so if you have any  desire to read this book, consider yourself warned.

First, I need to cover how awkward it was to read about the main character’s throat trying to attack people. I felt from the get-go that it was her voice that was the weapon and while there was something in her throat that was causing her voice to create monster-killing sounds, it was not her throat that was ‘attacking’ people. It was her voice and every time I read something about her ‘throat’ feeling threatened, etc., it just resonated poorly with me. Further, the idea of a sound, a ‘detonation’ according to the story, from one’s throat literally knocking them to the floor was a bit over-the-top for me.

My second biggest problem was with the inconsistency of the writing. At this point, I don’t recall precisely everything that I found so off-putting but there are a couple of instances that spring to mind. At one point, Savannah was testing her newly developed powers that she assumed would assist her in the fight against the monster and she realized that while her vision was greatly enhanced, she was unable to see in the dark. A few pages later, she mentally lists night vision as one of her powers. Later in the story, Savannah was looking through a window into a parking lot and then a couple of sentences later, she “ran to the window” to look out. Of course, this is an uncorrected galley so my hope is that the published book will have taken care of inconsistencies like this.

Savannah’s connection with Reece was understandable, especially considering the twist at the end of the book, but to chat for a few minutes and then simultaneously realize that this weird growth in their throats is a weapon that’s getting ready to fight a monster? It seemed like quite a stretch and I had to check to make sure the galley wasn’t missing a page or three of dialogue in which they’d had an involved discussion or perhaps saw or discovered something that made them realize that a horrible, nightmarish creature was after them and that it was their duty to fight it with their throats. Of course, that intuition could possibly be explained by the aforementioned big twist but it still lacks believability. One plus I saw with the twist that McNish added was that it would at least explain why Savannah’s ‘throat’ wouldn’t even allow her to kiss Reece.

The rest of it, though? Why the monster allowed her to live while researching her weaknesses? Knowing that a weapon is gaining strength to kill it, it rings hollow to me that an ancient and intelligent force would bother with research. When it kills anything that might be construed as a threat and it knows that Savannah is a threat, why would it go to great lengths to gather information about her? It wants to be sure this strip of a girl is a worthy opponent before it killed her? In a book full of hard to swallow occurrences, that one took the cake for me.

Finally, the coup de grâce on my unfortunate reading experience was the ending.

The very.

Abrupt.

Ending.

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