Book One of The Innocents series
By Lili Peloquin
Available now from Razorbill (Penguin)
Part of the Fall 2012 Breathless Reads
I had an issue with THE INNOCENTS that I don't think I've ever had before. Basically, Lili Peloquin did one thing so well that it left me wanting too much.
Sisters Alice and Charlie (Alice being slightly older) move to Serenity Point in New England when their mother marries Richard Flood the III shortly after divorcing their father. The girls' middle class upbringing didn't exactly prepare them for living in a town where everyone is a member of the country club. Charlie has the social skills to carve out a place for herself, but she honestly finds it easier to hang out with one of the waiters.
I absolutely loved the atmosphere of THE INNOCENTS. Although there are no science fiction elements, there's a bit of that Stepford Wives feel - there has to be something nasty beneath the glossy surface of their new life. Their new stepfather is touchy about the oddest things and has removed all pictures of his late daughter Camilla from his home. His late daughter who looks amazing like Alice. (Dun dun dun.) It's a great setting and feel for soap opera-type shenanigans.
And a soap opera is basically what happens. But at the same time, I felt kind of disappointed at the reveal. It's clearly something that will affect Alice and Charlie deeply, but . . . it isn't super crazy. I mean, as I think about it, it isn't normal, but . . . there isn't, for instance, anyone who contracts amnesia and is mistaken for a princess and marries another royal before remembering her husband back home who meanwhile thinks she's dead and has been seduced by her archenemy. (I cut my eyeteeth on soap operas.) Basically, it would've been a great reveal in a normal contemporary, but the atmosphere of THE INNOCENTS was so creepy and exaggerated that I was expecting something less mundane. Perhaps Peloquin is saving the true craziness for future installments? (Book two, THIS SIDE OF JEALOUSY, comes out this summer.)
Both sisters get a romance. I'm hoping their romances will be fleshed out more. There's obviously something hinky about Alice's, considering she's dating Camilla's ex. Tommy acts like there's nothing odd about the resemblance, but dating someone almost identical to your tragically departed girlfriend is strange. Charlie's romance didn't interest me much, mainly because I didn't get the appeal of Jude. He may be super hot, but he's an alcoholic. And not a charming, hiding it alcoholic, but a vomit-on-yourself-and-pass-out alcoholic. Maybe that's hot when you're a teenager and don't have experience herding drunks as the designated walker? (Herding cats is easier.)
I know I sound like I'm complaining a lot, but I'm definitely going to read THIS SIDE OF JEALOUSY. I'm just hoping Peloquin takes the series off a simmer and turns the crazy up to eleven.