An acclaimed fantasy author navigates the world between myth and chaos in this compelling exploration of identity, told with a Caribbean lilt.
Sixteen-year-old Scotch struggles to fit in—at home she’s the perfect daughter, at school she’s provocatively sassy, and thanks to her mixed heritage, she doesn’t feel she belongs with the Caribbeans, whites, or blacks. And even more troubling, lately her skin is becoming covered in a sticky black substance that can’t be removed. While trying to cope with this creepiness, she goes out with her brother—and he disappears. A mysterious bubble of light just swallows him up, and Scotch has no idea how to find him. Soon, the Chaos that has claimed her brother affects the city at large, until it seems like everyone is turning into crazy creatures. Scotch needs to get to the bottom of this supernatural situation ASAP before the Chaos consumes everything she’s ever known—and she knows that the black shadowy entity that’s begun trailing her every move is probably not going to help.A blend of fantasy and Caribbean folklore, at its heart this tale is about identity and self acceptance—because only by acknowledging her imperfections can Scotch hope to save her brother.
I really wanted to like this book more than I did! The first third of the story is kick-ass: contemporary setting with wonderful characters, strong protagonist voice, and mysterious foreshadowings. Then the rest of it happened, and I lost the plot.
Part of the problem is that the first third is so VERY strongly rooted in contemporary YA language/style. It’s Real Life and it’s totally convincing. And then the Chaos incident happened and things got weird.
And not in a good way! Admittedly, having a bunch of fantastic things happen to one city over the course of two or three days is enough to send anyone in a spin cycle of denial. But along the way Scotch lost the characterization she had in the beginning, and I didn’t like that. As a person, she definitely needed a kick in the pants (which she got). She’s hardheaded and prejudiced and kinda homophobic and she needed to work on that.
But her characterization went from “stubborn teenager” to “confused 8-year-old having a series of really weird dreams.” And so did everyone else! EVERYBODY talked in the same strange, dream-like way as Scotch did. They acted in ways that seemed contrary to their previous characterization. Maybe it’s just because I’m not looking at the effects of the Chaos properly? But I didn’t believe a second of any it.
Believability! That was my problem. I know, it’s a fantasy book where the majority of the story happens while the fabric of time and space unfolds. How believable does it have to be, right? But, again, that first third was SO believable it hooked me deep; the wonkiness of the last two thirds meant my sense of disbelief couldn’t be maintained any longer. It was like once Scotch became lost, I became lost, too.
Nobody really freaked out. They kind of just wandered around in shock. Which makes sense (super traumatic things happened!), but makes for a somewhat boring story. A weird thing like the Chaos should be terrifying and exciting, but instead everyone became, like, cottage cheese people. There was no lasting impact, even after View Spoiler »it all went away. Pakistan got bombed! World War III started! And yet they’re back in school like nothing happened? Nobody talks about it? Scotch is happy with her new skin color, and that’s all we get? Really? « Hide Spoiler
Despite that whole thing, I did like how very inclusive it was. There are several queer characters, one wheelchair user, multiple persons of color, things from Jamaican mythology and Russian mythology, generational/cultural differences, and more. I loved it!
And though I didn’t much like The Chaos plot-wise, I did like certain parts of it enough that I’ll definitely keep the author’s other books on my wishlist. Maybe I’ll click better with another one of her’s.
Read: September 10-16, 2014
Sidenote: I love the cover! It’s what made me want to read The Chaos in the first place.