Friday, July 11, 2014

The Purgatorium by Eva Pohler

The Purgatorium (The Purgatorium Series #1)I loved the idea behind The Purgatorium. It is a fast paced YA novel that mixes adventure, horror and romance. It involves kids sent to a resort like island that is part nature reserve and part historical ruin, and something else entirely. One of the characters (the main) is a very troubled girl. All of these points hint at a really great read. So when I received the novel in exchange for a review, I was eager to get started with it.

In the story, the main character Daphne Janus and her best friend Cam travel to an island resort that is clearly not what it appears to be. Strange things happen almost from the moment Daphne arrives on the island. First Daphne witnesses a possible crime and then is terrorized by people dressed as ghosts. Many unusual and even dangerous events follow. Daphne begins to wonder about what is really going on at the island and makes arrangements to leave, but her attempts to leave are foiled. Worse, she begins to wonder if she can truly trust her best friend. As the reader moves through the story, it is revealed that Daphne has experienced a family tragedy. She blames herself for the tragedy and has not been able to cope for some time. The real reason Daphne is on the island is not for a resort holiday but for extreme therapy (experimental therapy). But is the extreme therapy going to be effective or is it dangerous enough to get her or others killed?

The best parts of the novel, I thought, were the descriptive paragraphs that gave the reader an excellent view of the island. Also, the plot kept moving and the main character was busy enough to not dwell too much on a few emotions that could slow the story down. Although the character does return again and again to her guilt and the reason she is on the island. I would have preferred that the author give the Daphne character more details from her life, and more detailed interactions with the other characters to build character depth, rather than just the replay of guilt.

Although I really liked the idea behind the story, there were a few things that completely held me up at places. A strong feeling that the story was a kind of... what would happen if the Hotel California was made into a YA novel - was one of those things. I can't help it. It just really made me think of that old song even though the island was more of a treatment centre than an asylum. (The story just had that *patient is trapped and surrounded by dangerous possibly crazy people feel*). That feel also kind of spread out into the plot. The plot jumped around quite a bit and took the reader in a few very different and unexpected directions. It's almost impossible to explain without giving away too much of the story.

The other hold back point was the love interest angle. It was problematic for me. It's a YA novel with romance, so it's not unusual for the main character to have at least three guys interested in her. However, two of those guys (one being her ex boyfriend) seemed to be too old for her (yuck) - although I admit that I was a little confused about what her age was supposed to be (17) and exactly how long after the family tragedy this therapy was taking place (2 years) when I was reading the story. It made me think of those reverse harem animes that don't make sense (and have those too old guys interested in too young girls). I know that some high school girls date college age guys, but given the main character's circumstance, it just felt creepy. Other readers might not see it that way.

Overall though, I really did like the idea behind the novel and I think that the story moves quickly enough that the series has potential. Oh, and the title is awesome.