Olivia is a girl with a destiny. A birthright. One she has been trying for the past 7 or so years to ignore. You see, Olivia has superpowers, inherited from her mother, as does the rest of her mother’s side of the family. When Olivia’s mother dies rescuing a bus full of children, a death that Olivia blames herself for, she decides to turn her back on her powers and destiny forever — that is until she and her boyfriend are caught in the middle of a bank robbery, and there are a couple of bodies on the floor. She saves the day and then has to contend with her mother’s family again, including several cousins who don’t think too fondly of her.Olivia’s life changes forever at that point, having to contend with training to control her newly rediscovered powers, figuring out who is behind a series of explosions around the Portland area (which she may or may not be responsible for), all the while having to deal with the things every normal teenager has to deal with, bullies, boyfriends, and a single father.
Dormant is writer LeeAnn Elwood McLennan’s first outing, and, for a first novel, expanded from a short story, the author shows promise. In fact, the main issue I had with the book was that I found myself wishing it would live up to this promise. I understand that, since this is a “young adult” novel, and I am in all actuality an “old adult”, I am not in the target demographic for this book. However as an involved, reading, parent of two teenagers, I have read the first book, if not the entire series, of every major YA franchise to be released in the last 8 years, starting when my eldest, at the tender age of 8, asked if she could read “Twilight” (the answer, should you be interested, was “no”).
Ms McLennan does a fine job of laying the ground work when introducing us to the Brighthall family — Olivia’s aunts and uncles, and their children. However, besides the brief physical descriptions of them, there is little way, or indeed need, to be able to tell them apart. As a matter of pure fact at the time of this writing, less than 12 hours after finishing the book, I would be very hard pressed to name more than the single Aunt (Kate), one of the uncles (Alex), and one of the cousins (Emma); the only ones truly necessary to the plot.
Add to this the other “supernormal” family in the Portland area, and their one son, Ben (who is named after the most notorious “supernormal” of all time, one who killed hundreds of families of supernormals, around the world, with a single thought, and yet his inconvenient naming is lamp shaded) plus the school bully, the best friend, and the (ex)boyfriend and we have, in the span of 270 short pages quite a cast to keep track of.
Keeping track of the cast isn’t as much of an issue than finding reasons to actually care about them. None of the characters are particularly likable. Now, this could be due to the fact that the story is written in first person, from Olivia’s point of view, and when taken in context, she isn’t very likable either. So their reactions could just be normal. In any case, it is very hard too relate to any of them, in the brief chances we are given reason to.
One of these reasons, that we are handed on a silver platter, is when Ben discovers the leader behind the mysterious explosions happening all over the city. In less than 5 minutes. By “remembering” something he saw on the internet. Stepping back a moment, we know that Aunt Kate has either the technical prowess, or the contacts at least, to alter or remove Olivia’s face from the media blitz surrounding her foiling of the bank robbery. However we are to believe, or at least not notice, that she completely skipped Google in her investigation?
There are other nitpicks, such as the author’s over reliance on knowledge of the Portland area to be able to replace descriptive text, unrealistic teenage dialogue, a sub plot involving Olivia’s father’s knowledge about what is going on, and an ending passage that seems like there are a few lines of text missing. However, these could easily be overlooked if not for the above issues.
The larger issue, is that this was written as the first book in the “Dormant” series. Not that the author has other books planned with these characters, but the book was written as it was because it was just “part one.” This is an annoying trait that has cropped up after the huge successes of other series in the last decade or so. The one thing a majority of these series have in common though, from Twilight, to Harry Potter, to The Hunger Games, to Percy Jackson, was this: the first book, while leaving the reader wanting more, was always self-contained. Any of the authors could have disappeared immediately after the first book was published, and we would have still been left with a complete story. Dormant doesn’t share that. It feels like the first half of a longer, better book.
And I’m sorry I didn’t get to read that book.