And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!
-- from "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe
Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due—so unfair—on the day of the rival game. Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can’t help but give this enigmatic boy with the piercing eyes another look.
Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.
As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind. Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares.
His life depends on it. (Publisher's Summary from Powell's Books)
If you are a fan of Edgar Allen Poe’s Gothic tales and ghostly poems, paranormal romances, and dark complex tales that twist you into knots then Kelly Creagh’s debut novel Nevermore is a must read. Creagh uses the mysterious circumstances surrounding Poe’s death to build a sinister world underneath the surface of her plot. The result is a macabre mystery that has both the main characters and the reader racing to find answers.
From the start, Creagh pulls the reader into the mystery. I loved how she begins with an account of the last conscious moments of Poe’s death. From there, the story moves to present day and introduces Isobel and Varen, the two must unlikely characters to ever fall in love. Pairing them for an English project was brilliant and while sparks started flying immediately, they were sparks caused by the friction of two totally opposite personalities (cheerleader and Goth guy) having to coexist to accomplish a mutual goal. As Isobel’s contact with Varen increases, so does her attraction. This subtle building was one of my favorite parts of the story because it was far more realistic than love at first sight.
Creagh also builds suspense like a pro, and once again, I was amazed at how quickly and subtly she accomplished this through her characters and plot. Tension builds as Isobel’s idyllic cheerleading life falls a part. As Isobel tries to make sense of the bizarre unearthly events taking over her life, she sheds the stereotypical cheerleading image and becomes a courageous heroine on a quest to save Varen, who is a wonderfully complex character. He is almost ethereal but still sexy, caught up in a nightmarish world carefully designed and greatly influenced by Creagh’s fascination with Poe’s death. The book has several great scenes that add layers to Isobel and Varen’s unusual relationships. My favorite, however, is the presentation of their English project, which is superbly written and an excellent beginning to the story’s creepy and action packed ending.
While the ending is a real nail biter, I did find it to be confusing at times. I am also disappointed that I will have to wait for the next book to unravel questions left unanswered. I desperately hope that Isobel and Varen’s romance reaches another level and will be anxiously anticipating the sequel.
Nevermore is a brilliant first novel and Creagh’s has more than established her talent as a writer. I look forward to reading more from this author and have no qualms recommending this book to the YA community.