In every hobby, every profession, every *everything* there are always risks, known or unknown. As a book blogger, one of the things I always secretly dread is agreeing to review a book and not being able to connect with it. When I agree to read a book it is always my hope that I will enjoy it and be able to help the author spread the word. I must tell you all that I had a hard time deciding whether to review this. In my honest opinion, I feel that negative reviews are counter-productive. Normally if I really don't like a book I chose not to finish it and move on. The purpose of my blog is to promote a book and (yet again, my opinion) raise it up. At the same time, though, I won't lie and say I didn't care for a book if I didn't. And I understand that a constant stream of positive praise can take away from a reviewer's credibility.
Unfortunately, I did not connect with Air. There are some things here that I thought were done very well, but on the whole the book and I simply didn't get along. As always, though, your mileage may vary and this is strictly my opinion. We all like, and are moved, by different things.
The Plot: (Summary from Amazon.com)
It was a rough start to the school year for Shayna and her friends, Jodi and Steven, but thankfully summer break is near. Trying to sort out her feelings for the new guy in town, Shayna agrees to let Jensen join her on a group date with her friends. While out they end up at a local coffee house where their classmate, social outcast Jeremy McCormick, is humiliated by his baseball star brother. When Jeremy runs away from the jeering crowd, Shayna and Jodi hear the unmistakable sound of a thousand wings chasing after him, but no one else seems to hear them. These are not like any air elementals that Shayna or Jodi have ever encountered before and they fear Jeremy has gotten himself tangled up in something too dangerous for him to handle. But when Shayna tries to help Jeremy control his magical abilities she realizes it might be the biggest mistake of her life.
Okay, the first thing I want to say is that Shauna did a great job designing her magic system and describing it. I really did feel that what was going on in this aspect of the story was solid and well planned, which is something that I always appreciate. I also like the fact that we see the characters are learning about their powers. It's not a case of them suddenly having magic abilities and being geniuses who instantly know not only how to use them but how to have them set up on cue. Do things happen on accident? Sure. But control of a power is the only way for it to really become a power and the fact that they need to earn that is good both for character growth and plot development.
The pacing of the book was solid. I like the mix of real world, normal, down to earth things happening alongside learning to harness elements and things getting a little crazy. I'm constantly praising authors for this, but it's so important to get this right. No matter your setting or story, there has to be a certain element of the real to ground everything so that the reader will suspend disbelief. Yet again, this is a part of the story that is done great.
One of the things that really bothered me, however, was the way that these teens devalued their emotions. I understand that Shauna created a magic system where emotion can tamper things, but the level of insensitivity that the main character showed regarding this immediately rubbed me the wrong way. Emotions, and especially emotional upheaval, is a natural part of being a teen. While it's not necessarily the most productive or pretty aspect of that time of our lives, the complete level of disapproval I sensed in regard to it not only threatened to stifle character growth if left to run rampant, it always left me with the impression that there is something 'wrong' with uncontrolled emotion, at least in this universe, which was not a message that I felt able to get behind. It is entirely likely that I am overanalyzing this and that it is completely a personal "button pusher", however.
Here's the big problem: I didn't like Shay. For some reason she just kept doing things that made me think of her as insensitive, cold or rude. Perhaps this is on purpose because her element is earth and that is how Shauna wants earth to be perceived? I'm not really sure. But her interactions with other characters made me cringe, and that's never a good thing. You want me to like your heroine if you want a chance of me liking your book. As always, this is a personal thing. Different people like different personalities. I've heard a lot of praise that Shay is strong, and this is true. But I felt it came at too much of a price.
Jensen was a decent hero but he never really grabbed me. Part of this likely goes back to Shay and her own nonchalance about him, and part of this likely has to do with the fact that, since he was not one of the element users, to me he felt like a bit of an outsider and a plot device.
Jodi and Steven were both alright. I didn't really feel a lot about them either way. I didn't want to choke them the way I constantly wanted to choke Shay, but they never really jumped out at me in any real way, either.
Of all the characters, I think the most likable for me was probably Deb. I admire her patience in working with Shay. We'll leave it at that.
Shay gave off this vibe to me that she really couldn't care less about what was going on in the romance department. Shauna actually tells us that Jensen wants to date Shay but Shay is not interested. And I really never came to feel much differently about that.
Now, not every book needs to be an epic romance, but when I am sitting there and telling the heroine to quit stringing the guy along if she doesn't want him and neither character really takes action -- to convince me they changed their mind, to create a consequence, or to do just that -- I am bound to get annoyed. It made Shay seem like she was using him, and it made him seem like a totally wussy pushover that wouldn't be my thing as a book boyfriend anyway.
The bottom line, I'm afraid, is that this book really was not my cup of tea. Do not misunderstand: Shauna Granger's writing is perfectly fine and her plotting and world building were great. But I am a very character focused reader and if I can't get behind the characters and cheer for them, trouble is bound to happen. I'm only human, though, and I can't promise to love every book I read.
As always, if you are curious about Air feel free to check it out. But can I recommend it? No. It was not my kind of book.