Saturday, July 31, 2010

Arty -- Dread Locks by Neal Shusterman

I have to admit it, I was skeptical when Persy gave me this book to read. It looked like some angsty teen romance with lots of violence and forbidden love. But that's why there's that adage - Don't judge a book by its cover.

Parker Baer is bored of his rich family and their constant un-delayed gratification. They get everything they want, whenever they want. Parker's parents even gave him a statue for his birthday - of himself.

Then Parker finds Tara.

After making herself at home to the Baer house and even trying out Parker's bed, golden-haired, sunglasses-wearing Tara makes herself at home at their whole school. Soon the charismatic stranger has half the school 'wrapped around her little finger.'

When some of the students start developing freakish habits and cravings, Parker knows Tara is to blame. But how? And when Tara starts affecting Parker himself, will even he be able to end her game?

The first book in Shusterman's Dark Fusion series, Dread Locks combines the myth of Medusa and the bedtime story of Goldilocks. Unlikely? Yes. Amazing? Oh yes.

At 176 pages, Dread Locks is short and very, very sweet. There are no subplots, no real character development except for Parker and Tara. You would think this would work against the book, but it doesn't. The continual tension between those two characters is more than enough. The story happens to the other characters; Parker and Tara happen to the story.

The writing is tight, with very few unneeded words and phrases. Dialogue is realistic. The plot is engaging. The ending blows you away with its unexpectedness. A subtle moral that you absorb more than read. There's really not much more to say for Dread Locks - except that any fan of mythology, fairytales, or fiction in general should read this book.

It is a dark, intense, at times horrifying book. You will probably not laugh while reading it. I know I didn't. Readers seeking more light-hearted takes on fairytales and mythology should check out the Sisters Grimm series (fairytale) or the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (mythology). But if you're not afraid of a good, dark book, then Dread Locks is a must-read.

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