When I named a character in one of my projects Gabby because the name came to mind due to listening to Jason Cantrell talk about his main character all the time, I decided that I should probably read the book the name came from.
Well, that and the fact that I’ve been chatting with Jason for a while, had never read his work, and actually had him get it up on the NOOK Market particularly so that I could buy it.
In the glory of the Internet, Cantrell is a fellow graduate writing student (though he’s studying at Rowan University, which I suppose I’ll allow) who I have only spoken to via Twitter. He’s an avid blogger and Tweeter (Twitterer? I don’t know the nomenclature here.) and a highly amusing friend to chat with. I’d been hoping to pick up his book for a while, and just hadn’t had the spare cash to do so. When Gabby entered my book seemed like the perfect inspiration.
At first, I was concerned. I’d killed off one of my Gabby’s parents just before I started reading. I was going to feel especially bad if I had a particular connection with the parents, or with Gabby, that make my-Gabby’s world seem a little strange in comparison.
…”Little strange in comparison” was absolutely not what I needed to be worrying about at all.
Manifestation is the perfect example of what I’ve come to know as “magical realism” – a world very much like our own where things that aren’t quite right keep happening. In fact, Manifestation seems to show you exactly how those worlds start. Gabby Palladino is our main character, who is not living the best rendition of her life she could dream for. Her parents won’t listen to her (and often actively ignore or put her down), her sister is stealing the limelight with her ill-begotten baby on the way, and in the first few chapters of the book Gabby runs away from home and is assaulted on the streets.
That’s when things start getting interesting.
Gabby believes in arcana–the magic of the world lost to time, as it were. And as she starts getting massive headaches, along with spontaneous earthquakes, bright and blinding flashes of light wiping out the electricity of the entire city, and other happenings that she can’t quite put to words start happening, Gabby begins to wonder if all this arcana might have something in truth after all.
Throw into the mix Tock Zipporah, an Islander who can’t quite seem to fit in with the world around her but finds a person-to-person connection with Frankie, Gabby’s brother. Tock find Gabby at ground zero and for a time the two work together, but their paths break apart and Tock begins her own very strange journey…one she can’t explain and it’s sure if she has entirely under control. And as she starts realizing how the world around her is reacting to the manifestation of arcana in individuals…she takes a very hard line approach to those who would cast her out for yet another piece of who she is.
Cantrell works his world flawlessly, taking a YA standpoint but never sounding like he’s talking down to his readers. Gabby seems like a very real teenage girl; she’s I believe 15 in the book and she sounds exactly like a 15 year old girl to me. (Perhaps I shouldn’t be, but I’m always pleased and impressed when a male author manages that!) The relationship between her and her parents is alternately heartbreaking and infuriating, as many of us feel about our parents. And while Tock took a while to grow on me, she’s an excellent balance to the rest of the book, and provides a fascinating interaction between her and Gabby.
My two criticisms are relatively minor. The first is simply that the book felt scant. I wanted more of everything. It seemed to gloss over everything, but never get into what was actually happening. I can understand that the limited perspective is accounted to Gabby’s viewpoint, but it was still frustrating. (Hey, I said these were minor!)
The second is in regards to Gabby’s assault. While it is certainly powerful and a very important moment in Gabby’s life and in the context of the book…I’m still not quite sure why it’s there. Gabby’s life is hard enough what with her family life and the headaches and the emergence of the arcana. The addition of an assault seems in place with the events, but it also just looks like adding insult to injury. As it never comes up, Gabby never tells anyone about it, and it doesn’t appear directly linked to any of the events happening, it seems like a gratuitous scene for a particularly unfortunate occurrence.
However, that being said, I also know that Cantrell has a long series of books in the world, so it’s possible that it’s just something that hasn’t come out yet, and that’s absolutely fine. I do think that something needs to make that addressed in the first book to avoid feelings like the above, though.
All in all, a strong beginning point for Cantrell’s career as a writer. I’m eager to see where he goes from here, and to keep reading about Gabby and her world. They’re likable characters and a fascinating world. There’s no end to what he could do.
Rating: **** – Recommended