Saturday, July 31, 2010

Early Review: Manifest (Mystyx #1) by Artist Arthur (with excerpt)

Available tomorrow (August 1, 2010)!

Krystal Bentley didn't want to leave her father behind and move to the middle of nowhere with her remarried mother, but since she's a teenager she doesn't have much say in the matter. As if the trials of teenage life in Lincoln, Connecticut aren't enough, Krystal finds herself facing an ability she thought she'd buried long ago - the power to see and speak to the dead. Krystal ignores the disembodied cries for help as long as she can, but when the spirit of a murdered student materializes in her bedroom, Krystal finally has to face her fate. After discovering she's not the only student with mysterious powers, Krystal joins forces with Sasha and Jake to investigate the mysterious circumstances of Ricky's death, hoping to help him cross over at last (and finally leave her alone). However, Krystal soon realizes she might be in over her head, wrapped up in a deadly and disgusting web of money, lies and murder. It turns out ghosts aren't the only thing haunting the small, misty town of Lincoln.

Manifest is a dark and mystical tale of three teenagers' fight to come to terms with their incredible powers, the tribulations of teenage life, and the darkest horrors of the human race. The tone of the novel feels as though someone is telling the tale aloud, and the first person perspective places the reader directly into the head of the strong and spunky heroine, Krystal. The reader will certainly sympathize with Krystal, even though her feelings are often inscrutable despite the transparency of her thoughts, because the entire cast of characters seems to conspire against her.

Though Manifest is a young adult novel dealing with teenage issues, it is surprisingly unsympathetic toward Krystal. Some of the commentary on Krystal's "spoiled brat" behavior is frustrating because the poor girl has every right to be sad and upset -- her mother abruptly left her father, uprooting Krystal's life and taking her away from the father who was her friend and confidante, without ever bothering to explain her reasons. Suddenly Krystal finds herself seeing snarky ghosts in a shivery small town, living with her reticent mother and grouchy stepfather. Her feelings aren't unreasonable, and yet everyone from the obnoxious and arrogant ghost Ricky to the shrink she's forced to visit are upbraiding her heartbreak.

Though ostensibly a paranormal young adult novel, Manifest is really more of a murder mystery with a supernatural slant. While the three main characters do possess otherworldly powers, the focus is less on that and more on the malignant mystery surrounding the high school and its three missing (and dead) students. While the mystical powers come into play occasionally (after all, it is Krystal's ability to see the murdered students' ghosts that gets her into this mess), they need further developing to truly carry some weight in the story. It seems implausible that the teens don't experiment more with their new-found abilities, becoming stronger and more experienced in preparation for the impending, unnamed threat that lurks over the small town.

Part of the novel's mystery lies in the difficulty of distinguishing  between good and evil -- each character seems to harbor a dark secret, leaving the reader questioning their motives and true nature. More character development would add greatly to the story. The three protagonists have the potential for a powerful dynamic, but their relationship needs further development, which the conclusion seems to move toward. The creepy climax is bone-chilling, though the final confrontation is a bit subdued after the intense build-up. Artist Arthur skillfully amps up the adrenaline and the latter half of the novel is downright spooky. The murder mystery and ghost story aspects of this novel are compelling, and the ending is an absolute cliffhanger, but it still lacks the strong characterization that would truly make for a stellar read.


Disclosure: I received a review copy of this novel from NetGalley. This did not affect my review in any way.

Click here to pre-order Manifest by Artist Arthur

 This novel counts toward the 2010 Debut Author Challenge. 

To read an excerpt of Manifest, please click "Read More" below!

MANIFEST: A Mystyx Novel by Artist Arthur
Chapter One:

"I can't hear you. I can't hear you," I repeat, talking to myself. Maybe if I keep saying it the voice will go away. I know people driving by me probably think I'm a lunatic.

My feet are moving so fast I barely feel them touch the ground. Cool air slaps my face like it's trying to remind me that I'm outside. It's almost spring according to the calendar, but it still feels like the dead of winter in Lincoln. Probably because we're so close to the water.

Whatever. I'm cold and I think it's beginning to rain. But I don't care. I just want to get home, inside the house, to the safety of my room. It won't follow me there.
I can't believe it followed me here. I ignored it in New York. You'd think it would have the good sense to stay in the city where there's a little excitement. Why follow me here to the ends of the earth where everyone acts like they're sleepwalking most of the time?

As I cut through the bushes at the end of the driveway, my book bag sways back and forth, threatening to slide off my shoulder as I run. If it does, my Biology book will fall out and the hastily scribbled notes I took this morning on the project that's due at the end of the month will probably hit the ground and blow away. That might not be such a bad thing.

I hunch my shoulders, pushing the book bag back into place. My feet crush the weeds in the flower bed that Janet will likely replant in a few weeks. And I keep running.

My cheeks puff in and out as I inhale huge gulps of air to keep my heart pumping. I'm not a runner. Actually, I hate exercise of any kind and it shows. I take the front steps two at a time because I want to hurry up and get to my room.

'Help me.'

Damn! There it goes again.

I press the palm of my hand over my ear while I dig in my front pocket for the house key. My fingers are shaking but I finally get the door unlocked, slam it shut behind me and take the stairs in the front hall like a steroid-pumped-up Olympic sprinter.

My room is at the far end of the hall, but I swear it feels like it's twenty miles away as I dash toward the door. Once inside, I slam the door, drop my book bag and sink to the floor struggling to breathe.

Safe. All I can think is that I'm finally safe.

'Help me.'

His voice echoes around the room, louder that it was before. Louder than when I was on the school bus or when I was running into the house.

It's been a long time. I thought this creepy stuff was over. I haven't heard voices since I was twelve years old, and I'm not sure if I really heard them then.

Who am I kidding? I heard them before and now they're back. But I cover my ears because I want the voice to stop so badly.

I'm rocking on the floor now, pulling my knees to my chest and wrapping my arms around them, holding myself tightly. My eyes are closed. I wish I could find a way to close my ears, too.

I did it before. I quieted the voices for a long, long time. But now they're back. Why?

"I can't hear you. I can't see you. You are not real."

But I can hear him, that's the freakin' problem.

'Help me, Krystal.'

"I can't hear you. I can't see you. You are not––"

Did he say my name?

'Please,' he begs.

For some reason the sound of his voice isn't scaring me anymore. I loosen my grip around my legs and I stop rocking. My heart still feels like it's going to jump out of my chest and land on the floor, but for some reason I'm not scared now.

I open my eyes, not that I mean to, it just happens I guess. I look towards the window seat where all the stupid stuffed animals Janet thought would cheer me up are arrayed like a pastel-colored army.

I don't know what I'm looking for. Whatever it is, I hope I don't find it.

But there he is––a black boy, kind of tall and skinny. He's wearing jeans, the baggy kind like all the guys in school wear, and a white T-shirt three sizes too big, hanging to his knees like a nightgown. His boots look new, Timberlands with the laces only halfway up, the huge tongue sticking out from the sagging denim hem of his jeans. He's wearing a watch on one wrist and a bracelet––I think it's silver––on the other. His hair is kind of curly on top, cut low on the sides with some lines of a design or something.

I suppose he's kind of cute.

But he's kind of transparent.

Excerpt courtesy of Lisa Roe at Online Publicist.


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