Thursday, May 9, 2013

Some Quiet Place (review)

Some Quiet Place, by Kelsey Sutton, is a young adult paranormal with a really brilliant premise and beautifully haunting writing. It does contains descriptions of violent abuse and torture, so reader beware.

The first half had me in a constant state of musing wonder. The main character, Elizabeth, lives in our same ordinary world, goes to ordinary high school, does ordinary chores on her family’s farm -- but she can also see into another plane where Emotions appear as people, invisible to everyone except Elizabeth. And she’s unique in that none of the Emotions affect her – she is, in fact, immune to any sort of emotion at all. Which raises tons of questions.

This was very interesting: how do you connect with a main character who has no emotion or feelings? She does have reactions and instincts  and impulses and her body language mirrors emotion, but she doesn’t feel anything. After I got used to her detachment I realized I still connected with her because she does want to feel, and her observation is so keen, and she’s constantly questioning, processing everything and everyone.

As if to make up for Elizabeth’s lack of emotion, the rest of the characters are fraught with emotion, and we’re constantly meeting the Emotions that visit them: Fear (more about him in a moment), his brother Courage, glimpses of Love, Guilt, Worry,  Longing, Joy, Courage, Loneliness, Envy, Resentment, others:
When our eyes meet, Resentment nods in greeting. He’s bald – even though they’re immortal, Emotions resemble humans in appearance – and I’ve always though he looks like Mr. Clean minus the gold hoop earring. He’s one of the few Emotions that enjoy talking to me. Then again, he enjoyed talking to anyone. Resentment has always had a chatty tendency.
In addition to Emotions, other things like seasons and weather are also personified: for instance, when fog rolls in across the fields, Elizabeth sees a person walking in its midst, and knows it’s Fog himself. Stuff like this made me all shivery, wondering what ordinary thing I’ll meet next, in unexpected form.

But of all the Emotions, Fear is the one that we get to spend the most time with, and he’s quite a character. I felt some irony that the story tempts you to “fall in love with Fear.” You kind of forget what he actually is: a haunting Emotion, the result of so much misery and in a way often the cause of unnecessary misery, too. That’s part of the twist of this story that Fear appears attractive and passionate and actually the most dynamic and interesting character – even though he’s also cruel at times and obsessed with Elizabeth for mysterious reasons.
Fear reaches out and touches the curve of the girl’s cheek in one painting. Phantom  fingers brush my real cheek as he does so.
He also like to play games with Elizabeth, constantly testing her to see if she’s developed any Emotions yet, in particular testing her to see if he can make her afraid of him:
Fear vanishes, and an instant later a huge man jumps from the shadows of the loft with a long knife, making as if to stab me  in the stomach. He’s wearing all black and his face is swathed in a ski mask. When I only stare at him, making no sound of alarm, the attacker disappears just as the blade is about to go in me.  
“Fear?” I call. 
“Just checking,” he chuckles, his voice coming from the night sky.
The book constantly raises questions, like “why does Fear love her?” and I spent half my time reading out of focus as my mind mused over questions like  “Do the Emotions influence people, or are they just responding to summons when a person is filled with that emotion?” and  theories like “She can’t love him back, she’s incapable of feeling” and  “Oh! Maybe Fear loves her because she’s the only one immune to him. Everyone else would run away screaming because his presence evokes terror.”  And my favorite theory: “is she an emotionless Emotion? An Emotion who has been stripped of her emotion, as a punishment maybe?”

So the first half of this book had me coming up with theories like these left and right and enjoying the mystery and trying to piece together the potential hints.  Exciting! The second half went off in a different direction than any of my theories. It kept me on my toes, not knowing what to expect anymore, though at times a little confused, too (I wish some of the characters that showed up in the second half had been developed more). 

But I really like the interesting tension going on with Elizabeth and Fear and Joshua, because it was a unique triangle: one person wasn’t aware the other existed:
“Elizabeth?” Joshua watches me walk by but doesn’t reach out. 
Fear pats his shoulder, mockingly sympathetic. “Let her go, boy. She’s a mess.” 
Joshua doesn’t hear or see him, of course, but he does frown, sensing something off about me and the air around us. 

The book has a very literary feel too it, and again I’m really impressed for a story told from the point of the view of a girl without any emotions, how real and very raw emotion still manages to vibrate in nearly every scene (and not just because of the Emotions flitting here  and there: I’m talking real emotion). The scenes with Elizabeth visiting her friend Maggie, who’s dying of cancer, were agonizing and somehow beautiful at the same time.  They rang true. In fact, I know they’ll stick with me for a long time. They were the highlight of this novel, for me.

Some quotes I liked:
A group of our classmates burst through the front doors, startling Joshua. The crowd is followed by two Emotions: Apprehension and Desperation. It’s so important to these kids to fit in, to belong. 
Very well said:
It’s the way humanity is; give them what they want, and it turns out it’s not what they wanted after all. 
A thought Elizabeth has for Maggie, my favorite character:
It’s a cloudy day out, no rain but no sun either. Unfair that on a day like this there shouldn’t be brilliance for her.


  1. What a gorgeous cover and darkly beautiful writing! I think I'll have to be in the mood for this one before I read it, though, if it's that intense and violent. I just finished GONE GIRL so now I'm reading the first Harry Potter books to get my mood up a little bit, haha! Thanks for the suggestion, Margo - this one is going on my Goodreads list.

  2. The premise really intrigues me. Love that cover. Sounds like a good summer at the cabin read.

  3. Huh. I heard about this book several months back and kind of forgot about it. Now I'm curious to read it and see how I feel about the different elements. Thanks for bringing it back to my attention, Margo!



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