Black Flowers, White Lies by Yvonne Ventresca
To be completely honest, I approached this second full-length fictional work by Yvonne Ventresca will a fair amount of trepidation. First off, I don’t really read much Young Adult these days. Secondly, because of my current field of study, I usually find myself engaging in what my program considers “works of literary greatness” and which I tend to refer to as “historically important, and yet, so very, very, dry and disinteresting.” Thus, I wasn’t sure I was even in the right place to fully appreciate such a book and worried that I might not give it a fair chance. Nonetheless, I was approached to do a review by a very trusted book blogger. In fact, I often refer to her as my book twin. Supernatural elements you say? Well, she does know that I have a weakness for anything related to hauntings. So, I figured, why not? I have to start reviewing books sometime right? So here goes…
Turns out, this book is just the kind of thing I am always looking for. As you can see from the Amazon description I’ll link below, this novel focuses around Ella Benton during the summer before her sophomore year. Already dealing with the typical problems of teenage life, Ella is processing the upcoming marriage of her mom and the addition of a step-brother she has never met. Compounding this is the growing disconnect between her and her best friend, Grace. Seem stressful enough? Have I mentioned that she also has a near obsession with her dead father and a preoccupation with the supernatural?
Like many of my favorite books, the supernatural elements in this book start with a slow burn and rapidly culminate after the first five chapters. Mixing together the ideas of never truly knowing others, or ourselves, Ventresca weaves a completely believable tale of teenage longing: the longing to be connected to something bigger, something outside ourselves. But what is this thing Ella is connected to? Is this a story of a haunting or a story of mental instability? The best part about this narrative is that rather than keep you guessing the entire book, the author cleverly lays clues to misdirect the reader at every turn. By the time the truth is revealed, it is no longer a question of whether or not you guessed the truth, but rather, how did Ventresca have us wound so tight? Like any great storyteller, her version of foreshadowing actually creates an atmosphere where you wholeheartedly relate to Ella. And what more could we really ask for in any book?
Therefore, I would recommend this book to anyone who loves the YA genre, anyone who loves tales of the supernatural, or anyone who likes to feel connected to a protagonist while also experiencing a fast moving plot. Believe it or not – good character development with a fast moving plot can be hard to find these days. As far as low points? I could only find two. The first is that some of the transitions between scenes felt a little choppy. However, I think this was solely due to the formatting on my kindle. If this kind of thing bothers you, I’d recommend the print version. Secondly, while I love the ending to the story, I do wish that the author would have unpacked the content in the last few pages a little more thoroughly. And by thoroughly, I really mean in greater length! By this point, I was so invested in Ella, that I just wanted a little bit more of her. If this sounds at all like something you would like, please check it out. Trust me, you will read it in one sitting.
Curious about more content? This book would make a great book club pick to discuss mental health, family dynamics, belief systems, inadvertent bullying, and differences in emotional needs.
I will be posting a spoiler free review on my YouTube channel to coincide with the release date of October 4, 2016.
In late October, I will also be posting a spoiler review so that I can talk about many of the details I particularly liked about this book.
Links for more information