I’ve had this book in my to-read pile for a few months now and finally got to it this week. And I have to say, it was worth the wait.
The Replacement has everything I love in paranormal fiction: moody cover art (in both editions I’ve seen), original mythology, lyrical writing, sharp dialogue and an engaging plot that brings something new to the YA paranormal genre.
There’s a love interest, but you wouldn’t call it romantic. There are other-worldly beings but they are creepy, and often brutal. And there’s a cute guy, but he has a few issues…
Quick plot overview: Mackie Doyle is a Replacement, someone not quite human, left in the crib of a human baby 16 years ago to replace the real child, who was stolen by the creatures who live in the murky tunnels under the small town of Gentry.
But now Mackie’s fatal allergies to iron, blood and consecrated ground are slowly killing him. And when he’s forced to face his connection to the dark characters of the Slag Heap, he has a chance to work out once and for all where he belongs.
One of the things I particularly liked about The Replacement is that Mackie knows from the start he’s a Replacement – as does his family. Even his friends know he’s not quite normal. And everyone accepts and protects him, while the town around them lives in denial about their missing children.
The driving character arc in The Replacement is not in Mackie discovering who he is, but discovering how to belong in the human world.
Yovanoff has created an exceptionally atmospheric novel, with a disturbing mythology that’s not only enthralling, it also provides some truly creepy moments that almost push this into horror territory.
Male narrators tend to be reasonably rare in the genre, and Mackie is a complex and well drawn character, who – along with his buddies – actually talks and acts like a teenage boy, not an overly idealised version of one.
He’s not a hero. In fact, he’s often physically vulnerable, and his moments of courage come when he pushes through his own limitations to try and make things right in Gentry again.
Mackie is drawn to the delightfully foul-tempered Tate, whose younger sister is the latest to be “replaced”, and whose disappearance is glossed by a town desperate to not face the reality of the unspoken – and largely unconscious – blood-soaked pact made generations ago to keep their town prosperous.
She’s the one who finally has the courage to demand the truth and set Mackie on his dangerous path of self-discovery.
This is YA paranormal/supernatural fiction with an edge. It’s evocative, well-written and completely enthralling. I’d definitely recommend it for readers who aren’t afraid of a little darkness in their paranormal adventures.