Fair warning: I know this author, and have known her for a very long time. However, since my deal was that I would give her a fair review, I have attempted to remove all bias I have, and am critiquing only the work. (It helps that I haven’t actually seen her in a long time.)
Review below the break:
When I heard that Hasbrouck had published a book, I was thrilled. She and I had gone to high school together, and eagerly discussed writing even back then. I’m not sure either of us truly saw us where we are today back then, but it’s nice to see we’re both still living up to that dream. Homecoming is a strong entry into the young adult/new adult world, and gives us a very interesting and non-standard look into the concept of the Divine and other heavenly beings.
Kerana, one of our two protagonists, is a being known as an Eldurian. These beings still live within the grasp of the Garden of Eden; they are perfect beings who live in the presence of the Divine, referred to in the book as Adonai. As an Eldun (a young Eldurian) coming of age, Kerana is tasked to go through the Portal to Earth, and live among the humans. As the Eldurians are protectors of sorts for the humans (not quite guardian angels, but it seems the next step down) this allows them to live among their wards and learn their ways.
Eli, our second protagonist, is one of these humans. He’s entering college, battling with a difficult home life, and generally trying to make his way as any freshman on campus might. And then Kerana walks into his life. Even in human form, Kerana is brilliantly beautiful and…well, Eli is male. The plot spurs as one might expect, with the added twist of “I can’t really tell you I’m not human, can I?” thrown into the mix.
There is an inexorable connection between the two, and it tosses them into more than one difficult situation throughout the book. I’m not keen to spoil the plot for you, because I think it’s better experienced than told, but what happens through the book puts the belief of both protagonists to the test…as well as their faith in each other.
Kerana is a likable character, complex without being complicated; Eli is a fascinating character, troubled and confused over so many things–typical of people that age. Hasbrouck manages to make the book very Christian-oriented (though it’s never explicitly stated that Christianity is present) without coming off as heavy-handed; if anything, the Eldurians are the most heavy-handed, and I would expect that of beings who live near Eden. Adonai, when he appears, is suitably present and helpful while at the same time being irritatingly non-forthcoming. (Not unlike the God of the Christian Bible.) Hasbrouck has an excellent hand at imagery, and paints the locations of her scenes well. And up until the end, I was not entirely positive I knew how the story would end. (Or rather, how it would get to where I expected it to end.)
The writing is simple, occasionally overwrought, but easy to follow; while it makes the book an easy read, it hinders the storytelling at times. Some times it felt like important situations were getting brushed-off treatment; other times I didn’t understand the detail being put into certain pieces. Another trouble I ran into was that while I enjoyed the perspective switching back and forth from Eli to Kerana, I noticed that the voice did not always change with it. Kerana was consistently formal (fitting with her being an Eldurian) but Eli would lapse into a similar tone, which doesn’t suit him at all. Knowing that this is Hasbrouck’s first book makes me lenient about such things, but it is to be noted.
My main trouble with the book is the final conflict Eli faces. While difficult to discuss without spoiling plot, Hasbrouck takes something that is clearly very deep-rooted in Eli’s heart, only mentions it in passing through much of the book, brings it screaming to the forefront near the end, and before the end of the chapter where it’s mentioned…has resolved it. Given that this is something that Eli says has bothered him for quite some time, it strikes me as incredibly hard to believe–even in the face of a deity telling me the truth–that I would simply up and reverse my thinking that quickly. There’s a good third of the book left after this happens; I would have much rather seen Eli struggle with what he learns, and come to terms with it when it proves absolutely necessary.
I enjoyed the book as a whole. It has its flaws and strengths, just like many other books before it and surely after it, but it is an interesting story told well, which is truly an excellent goal to shoot for. I have heard talk that Hasbrouck is planning on writing at least one follow-up novel to Homecoming, and I’ll be looking forward to reading that one as well. With her premier project this strong, I have high hopes for the next.
Rating: **** – Recommended