Review: Light Beneath Ferns by Anne Spollen

Light Beneath Ferns by Anne Spollen
Anne Spollen's website here // $9.95 from {amazon}

Publisher: Flux (February 1, 2010)
Paperback: 216 pages
Summary: from {goodreads}
Elizah Rayne is nothing like other fourteen-year-old girls. More interested in bird bones than people, she wraps herself in silence. Trying to escape the shadow of her gambler father, Elizah and her mother move into an old house that borders a cemetery. All her mother wants is for them to have "normal" lives. But that becomes impossible for Elizah when she finds a human jawbone by the river and meets Nathaniel, a strangely hypnotic and mysterious boy who draws Elizah into his world.

Only by forgetting everything she knows can Elizah understand the truth about Nathaniel—and discover an unimaginable secret.

Rating: View my rating system.

My Thoughts: I hate to give such a negative review, but the truth is I just didn’t “get” this book. I didn’t understand the role of the characters, the characters themselves, etc. and I still don’t even understand the plot. I had a hard time convincing myself to continue reading, and though I really, really wanted to love Light Beneath Ferns, that just didn’t happen.

I went in expecting chilling, supernatural story, and I admit that partially proved true. Or should I say: the promise of a supernatural plot was almost the only thing that kept from completely setting this book down. The beginning started off slow, and I continued reading in hopes that Anne Spollen would eventually reveal some big secret that would explain everything or churn out an unexpected plot twist. But I kept waiting and waiting and waiting... and waiting, you get the drill. The story constantly alternates between the supernatural aspects and Elizah’s social life, and the changing focus never really allowed time to go in-depth with the supernatural storyline. My main problem with the plot was that everything that happened just happened. No explanation, no reason; it's just there – period. I read the entire book feeling like I was missing some crucial piece of information, and that vital piece never revealed itself. The ghost plot felt generic and, quite frankly, boring, especially considering I could correctly predict almost everything from the very beginning. I can see the supernatural aspects being further expanded on in the future, but it just never reached its full potential in Light Beneath Ferns.

As for Elizah, she's simply an enigma I cannot figure out. The introduction portrayed her as slightly eccentric and unique, and I expected to find an intriguing, independent heroine. Unfortunately, I soon found that wasn’t the case. Or I should say I *think* Elizah was neither strong nor special, because I honestly don’t understand her. I felt like Anne Spollen wanted to create an unique character, but in trying too hard, Elizah's personality fell flat. Elizah is the typical, sarcastic teen when with her mother and quiet and brooding by herself and with others – making me question: who is she really? Elizah claims she just wants to be silent, but why? I can understand wanting to be solitary, but Elizah has this almost "need" to be alone, a desire I never saw a solid basis for. Because she just “feels” like she has to? It was extremely annoying to see Elizah push everyone away, even her friendly classmates that were always there to support her. I can understand kindly brushing someone off or just being up-front about it, but not only is Elizah unassertive, she also rudely ignores them and gives off a feeling of superiority. Maybe she’s supposed to be “above” high school and adolescence, but her behavior didn't give me that impression about her maturity.

Romance-wise, there was definitely something there, but, again, it seemed so stereotypical. First we have Nathaniel, the mysterious, enticing boy that Elizah finds herself thinking about 24/7. I’m not going to lie, I would probably follow him too, but I didn’t see any foundation for their attraction. It seemed like they fell in “love” too fast, and the only time I really liked Elizah was when she asked Nathaniel where he planned on taking her instead of mindlessly following him. Elizah finally displayed some admirable resolve... or at least until Nathaniel was like “do you want to come or not” and Elizah just dropped it – what? She's not afraid of someone who, at that time, was practically a stranger? Though I didn’t like her obsession (sorry) with Nathaniel that much, I liked Elizah’s relationship with Kyle, Nathaniel's basketball-star-and-most-popular-guy-in-school competitor, even less. She obviously didn’t like him and considering how independent and defiant she was with her mother, why couldn’t she tell him she wasn’t interested instead of leading him on? I felt all of the other characters were generic as well, particularly Elizah’s well-meaning mother that just wants to fit into their new community but is constantly being discouraged by Elizah. *sniffle*

Despite all the flaws I saw in this book, again, there is definitely hidden potential here. Anne Spollen’s writing flows easily, and she subtly scatters beautiful imagery throughout the book. Though I mostly missed the concept as a whole, a number of less-known or less significant details sparked my interest that Anne Spollen skillfully tied into the plot. Light Beneath Ferns also integrates some solid lessons with Elizah’s broken family, and despite my mountain of complaints with Elizah, I admire her wit and resilience. And can I add that I like the name "Elizah Rayne?" :)

Romance: Mysterious and tentative. I didn't necessarily like the characters involved in the romance, but we're talking about first love here and with Nathaniel? Very mysterious.
Cover: 4.5 -- A little monotone, but very, very pretty. It fits the mood perfectly, and it's soft.
Writing: 3.5
Characters: 1.0
Plot: 1.0 - The plot felt like an introduction; there's an interesting setting, but nothing really happens.

Bottom Line: If you haven't noticed the numerous question marks in my review, Light Beneath Ferns constantly made me wonder "why, why, why?" I didn't feel myself connecting with any of the characters, and, overall, there was nothing in the book that stood out to me as extremely original or a step-up from the usual ghost story. If ghosts strongly appeal to you, you might want to give this book a spin, but though I might still try Anne Spollen's books in the future for her lyrical writing, I won't be be first in-line buying her books anytime soon.

Source: Thank you to Tricia from Flux!