Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Review: Stained by Cheryl Rainfield

This review is part of the blog tour for Stained by Cheryl Rainfield. I received a copy of Stained via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Having read and loved Cheryl Rainfield's novel Scars, I was extremely excited when I was contacted to take part in the tour for Stained. With Scars, which I stumbled upon in a rather roundabout way, I was drawn in immediately, and I was eager to find out whether Stained would have the same type of effect.

Despite knowing I liked Cheryl's writing style, however, Stained also represented a departure in genre for me. While it is still in many ways a contemporary novel, Stained also has suspense and thriller elements. It was very interesting reading something that both delved so deeply into its core characters and moved at a frantic pace, using in-novel timestamps to move everything along.

So, are you curious to find out what I thought of Stained? Read on and I'll share my thoughts. Hopefully I'll also convince you of why you should really sit down and check Stained out, regardless of what genre(s) of fiction you normally settle in with.
There is part of me that wands to skip writing a review all together and just go "Read it! Read it now!". But that would do both me as a reviewer, and this absolutely mind shattering book, a disservice.

The first thing I must tell you all is that while Stained is beautifully written, it is not a book for the faint of heart. Many books about abduction, violence, abuse and rape within YA take place after the trauma to the main character has occurred. We deal with the aftermath, the overwrought emotion, the 'what happens next'.

In Stained we live the experience, which is something that I found very gripping as a reader, but which I am very aware my cause triggers for some people. I'm extremely glad that Cheryl decided to take her book this route, as she is brutally honest and does not romanticize this the way I've seen a few other writers do. This is a journey into the depths of the heart of darkness. There are things that happened in Stained that made my skin crawl. But the important thing here isn't how horrible what happens to Sarah is. What matters is that despite being trapped in this living nightmare, we see a girl with the strength to not only survive, but also have the strength and desire to live by novel's end. (How she gets there and what, exactly, happens along the way? You'll have to read Stained to find that out.)

Stained is both a very tense, emotional novel, and a very meticulous, character driven one. I loved both Sarah and Nick. I think that Sarah is a fantastic main character and I really appreciated the fact that we see both her strengths and weaknesses, and then see these things effect her during her abduction. I think that there is a great deal of challenge in creating a character who can balance having both strength and vulnerability. With Sarah, Cheryl succeeded in striking that balance time and again.

As for Nick? I loved, loved, loved Nick. Nick is not your typical YA hero. He's fat. He's a nerd. He's a little out of the main stream. Yet he is oh so very real, and I loved his feelings for Sarah--both romantically and as a friend. I also really loved how his perspective was used to break up sections of the novel, both to increase and break points of tension, and to give the reader a glimpse of what was going on in the outside world. Further, with the amount that he (and her family) cared for Sarah, the amount they stood to lose if she was not found, my dread increased tenfold. I think that it was vital to show us that Sarah had things to live for, people who loved her. By sharing Nick's perspective, the reader will get that message loud and clear.

The last thing I want to give a nod to is that this is another book I've read this year that has the theme of super heroes being incorporated into showing the progression of a character's awareness of her own self worth. This is an idea that I find really fun and inspiring, and I loved the idea that if Sarah could somehow get out of this mess, she and Nick might be able to make comics together. When things were at their hardest, remembering how much she valued the ideas of her heroic character, Diamond, was one of the things that gave her the strength to keep going... I've never been in the situation Sarah faces in Stained, but as a lover of comics, video games and fantasy novels, I could immediately relate to this aspect of her personality and how it served as both her passion and a method to cope with the challenges in her life.
Stained is the kind of book that I wish everyone would sit down and read. From the beauty of the writing, to the depth of the characters, to the importance of the message, to the absolutely gripping plot... There is so much here that was brilliantly done that it's honestly very hard to get it all into words for you guys without going too far and risking turning this review into a novella.

Just trust me (provided something here didn't flash a warning off in your head)... This is one of the must-read books of 2013 and I'm certain that even as we pass into the new year, it will undoubtedly keep that must read status. Stained is a story of love and loss, hope and despair, sorrow and survival. Above all, it is a story of courage, hope, and the will to live that will stick with you long after the final page has been turned.

Make sure you come back tomorrow! (Oct. 2nd, 2013) I have a great interview with Cheryl and an awesome giveaway you won't want to miss. :D 

Don't miss a stop on the Stained blog tour. For the complete schedule click here!


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