Nevermore - Kelly Creagh My goodness. Thank you, Kelly Creagh, for bringing intelligence and insight back to the YA genre. Nevermore managed to resonate with even my jaded mid-twenties worldview. It's interesting how easily we forget that our teenage years weren't all beer bongs and promise rings. (OK, so my teenage years weren't anything like that, but Hollywood had me convinced I was abnormal, damn it!)

I hate to get all personal in a book review, but I feel like the memories Nevermore conjured are important. There's a special type of pain that kids feel in high school. While it's easy to poke fun at the angst in melodramatic love stories that read like wish-fulfillment, the particular brand of mind-freak-itude one experiences from the ages of 12-18 aren't any less real. Perhaps my problems in adulthood are more pressing than not having any friends to sit with in the cafeteria, but then again, maybe I'm dismissing the concept of loneliness and isolation too hastily. When I think about it, teenagers are essentially trapped in a life not of their own choosing. Their parents dictate where they live, what they do, where they go to school. And if you grew up in a town like mine, the school didn't offer a great variety of people to make friends with. So they're stuck, and if they're unhappy, they may feel like they have no one to talk to about their problems. Like Varen Nethers in Nevermore, a teenager may only have the outlet of his own mind for some emotional therapy. And with that in mind, I'll transition into my review.

Isobel Lanley is your prototypical queen bee. She's blonde, pretty, a cheerleader, dating a football player, and well-liked at school. For the most part, she's content with her "charmed" life, but then her English teacher partners her up with sullen Goth Varen Nethers and Isobel's world turns upside down. When Isobel starts hanging out with Varen, her possessive (and borderline sociopathic) boyfriend freaks out to the point that suggests that kid isn't alright, her friends start to turn on her, and her dreams get really strange - like they're real. As Isobel and Varen bond over Edgar Allen Poe, the stories they study in their project begin to intertwine with everyday life. It seems that Varen has unwittingly brought two dimensions to a collision course, and it's up to Isobel to save him from ultimate destruction.

Isobel - Creagh does a wonder job of taking a character who would typically be maligned in any other fiction - a cheerleader AND a blonde (Must be a witch!) - and making her appearance and her hobbies irrelevent. The strongest determining factor for Isobel's success in the book is her strength of character. Of course she's leery of Varen at first, but she's never mean-spirited. She treats him with respect even when her friends ostracize her for refusing to be an asshat. I love that she doesn't withdraw from cheerleading. Creagh offered some dazzling descriptions of Isobel's experiences of flying through the air that made me resent my fear of heights. I genuinely liked Isobel in the story and rooted for her happy ending.

Varen - Oh, be still my heart! Let's take a moment to fan ourselves, ladies and gentlemen (if you so wish). My heart broke for Varen multiple times during this book, particularly during the scene with his father and the ending. He's a welcome change from other YA heroes because he actually has a reason to be all dark and broody. Intelligent, polite and well-spoken, Varen reminds all of us not to read a book for its cover. There's so much soul beneath all of the black hair and piercings, and I fell in love with him along with Isobel. His note to Isobel at the end almost made me cry. VAREN! Why do you do this to me?

Gwen - Isobel's quirky locker neighbor really comes to the rescue a few times. Her sense of humor made me laugh out loud. With all the angst going on, Gwen manages to lighten the mood.

Brad - Okay, so maybe I felt bad for him at the end, but this guy was textbook abusive boyfriend. He should trade some notes with Edward Cullen.

Reynolds and Pinfeathers - I love and hate both of them at the same time. Reynolds is just mysterious enough to be untrustworthy, and Pinfeathers is a delightful villain. And what's up with Pinfeathers' connection to Varen? Are they kind of like the same person? I need to know!

In my status updates, I mentioned that I have vivid dreams. There have been nights when I woke up in a cold sweat screaming or sobbing because my dreams seemed so real. So take my word for it. This book freaked me out a little. Granted, I don't think my dreams are real (at least I HOPE not), but I could totally envision the chaos that Isobel experiences. You know how annoying dreams are when you suddenly change locations without knowing how you got there, or when something normal transforms into something monstrous? Well, Creagh describes that very well. Very, VERY well. So well that I may have gotten a little frightened once or twice, but only a little. I'm not a wimp or anything ... Okay, so I was terrified of Varen's creepy dream world! There's nothing to be ashamed of. :)

If you enjoy mystery, romance, twisty mind games, and teenage characters that don't make you think this world is doomed for eternity, then read Nevermore. Now I must patiently wait for the next book to come out at the end of this month. Le sigh. I'll just read some Poe to tide me over.