Thanks to the success of the Twilight books, the young adult shelves are filled with paranormals with a romantic element. Yes, Meridian is about a heroine who finds herself part of a new world and meets a love interest. At the same time, it’s not the same old song. No vampires and werewolves here. Meridian Sozu is a teen-aged girl who learns she is a Fenestra, a being who helps souls transition from life to death. In other words, don’t read this novel if you hate reading about death. Even animals aren’t safe. Still, while creepy, it’s not gory. <a href="http://www.likesbooks.com/banmanpro/a.aspx?ZoneID=4&Task=Click&Mode=HTML&SiteID=1&PageID=33387 ” target=”_blank”> <img src="http://www.likesbooks.com/banmanpro/a.aspx?ZoneID=4&Task=Get&Mode=HTML&SiteID=1&PageID=33387 ” width=”150″ height=”200″ border=”0″ alt=””>
Meridian always felt like a freak. From the time she was a child, animals would find their way to her and then die. She feels as if there is something about her that kills these animals. When Meridian turns sixteen, she witnesses a deadly accident and starts experiencing the memories of the dying victims. Just in time, her father gets her away, telling her to find her way to Auntie, her great-aunt, in Colorado, and warning Meridian that she might never see her family again.
Suddenly trying to avoid the bad guys, Meridian must make the journey to Revelation, Colorado on her own. On the way, she sees flashing billboards advertising a church in Revelation, and the signs remind her more of Las Vegas than church. After some travails, she meets her Auntie. And of course, the mysterious, aloof Tens, a tall, lanky teen. She finds herself drawn to Tens, although his attitude toward her runs hot and cold.
With help from Tens, the elderly Auntie teaches Meridian about her nature. To Meridian’s relief, she learns that she didn’t kill all those animals. Instead, dying animals instinctively sought her out because of her nature. Meridian is at a crucial stage. If a dying soul were to transition through her now, Meridian would die. Yet she must learn how to transition souls soon because Auntie is dying. Until Meridian learns how to perform her new duties, she is vulnerable. Even worse, the bad guys – the Aternocti – know this, and they want to either kill her or corrupt her. The sticking point is that Auntie, despite her long life and experience, doesn’t know how to deal with the Aternocti. Meanwhile, Meridian and the others have to cope with the growing displeasure of townspeople because the local church, led by newcomer Reverend Perimo, has turned people against her aunt with new rules, accusations of witchcraft, and the like.
Meridian hopes she will learn to transition souls in time, and that she and Tens will be able to cope with her great-aunt’s death when the time comes. How will she cope once her aunt dies? Also, the situation in Revelation gets even more tense, with many of Auntie’s former friends turning their backs on her.
Meridian has always known she is different but has never learned why. She’s an outcast whose parents withheld the truth in a failed attempt to give her a normal life. Yet she’s obviously a good soul, helpful and kind and courageous. Tens is harder to grasp because he keeps so much from Meridian for most of the story. Meridian is the sole viewpoint character, so we have to guess at Tens’ feelings. He starts out teasing her, but Meridian doesn’t let him get away with a lot. Still, from early on, it’s obvious they are drawn to each other. Auntie is loving and open, a patient teacher. The reverend is one of those attractive yet creepy people, the type who quotes the Bible yet gives off bad vibes.
Meridian suffered from a problem many other YA novels have had – while the characters and world engaged me, plotting issues kept me from buying completely into the story. Let’s take the Aternocti. Although Auntie has been a Fenestra for most of her 106 years, she has never encountered them. So how is she supposed to teach Meridian and Tens to cope with these foes? Well, that’s a problem, and it was reflected in the way the ending was handled – too conveniently, with outside forces helping out. That’s something I hate in stories. Also, Meridian and the others take too long to figure out a plot twist that I guessed from reading the inside flap jacket. OK, I know the characters don’t get to read the synopsis of their books before facing the challenges inside, but some obvious clues were missed.
Because the Fenestra transition souls from all religions, from Christianity to Buddhism, this book deals with a variety of beliefs. Some souls go to heaven, while others transition to Nirvana or are reincarnated, depending on their beliefs. I thought that was cool, and I liked the way death was portrayed – as a transition, not something evil. Still, some people might dislike the way the Reverend Perimo and some of his followers are portrayed as a dark force. I suppose they were being used as an example of the dangers of fanaticism, but the townspeople were too far gone to believe. OK, they’re desperate because their town is in dire straits, but does that mean they would accept so many stringent rules from an outsider such as the reverend? Would they accept that women must be secluded during the last three months of their pregnancy and only be allowed bread and juice (and no air conditioning, no pain medication) for the last two weeks, just because the reverend said so? How many modern families would accept that? Would they believe accusations of witchcraft? Sure, there are people who are fearful of nonbelievers and who respond to accusations of witchcraft today, but I would hope they are unlikely to take over an entire town in modern Colorado. Yet they believed the reverend’s claim that Auntie was behind many recent tragedies all too easily. It felt like something out of the Salem’s past, not modern America. All this snapped my willing suspension of disbelief, and that’s a shame as the author’s world was so interesting.
Still, the journey into this world was fascinating. Auntie’s house is wonderfully homey, filled with her homemade quilts that turn out to have a role in the story. The tense moments as Meridian learns to become a Fenestra and faces dangerous situations fit right into to this atmosphere. While this is a young adult novel, it doesn’t skimp on the scares. The atmosphere and tension just about made up for my problems with the plot. I finished the novel in a few days, and I never regretted making the trip. I’m sure there will be a sequel, and I want to read it, but with reservations. Maybe once Meridian and Tens learn more about the evil forces they face, they will be able to fight the bad guys on their own terms.