Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book Review: "The Archived" by Victoria Schwab

Ready for a teenage protagonist who will actively choose reason over drama while still managing to keep you on the edge of your seat? Enter Mackenzie Bishop, the badass girl around whom "The Archived," by Victoria Schwab, centers.

This is an awesome first installment of what is sure to be an exciting and creative young adult series. Mackenzie and her parents move into the Coronado, a hotel-turned-apartment complex with a mysterious past, as they try to move past the death of Mackenzie's younger brother Ben. But in addition to family tragedy and relocation, Mackenzie is dealing with another strain on her time that actually keeps her from moving away from Ben's death: she is a Keeper, working for the mysterious Archive, in which all Histories of the dead are kept and tended to by Librarians. If one of the Histories awakes and escapes into the Narrows, a labyrinthine borderland between the Archive and the outside world, it is Mackenzie's job to find them and use one of the myriad doors there to get them to Returns, where they are safely put back into the Archive. 

As she settles into her new Keeper territory at the Coronado, Mackenzie discovers that the apartments have a bloody, violent past that tugs at her morbid sense of curiosity. Her pursuit of the building's history combined with a new friend (who also happens to be a Keeper) and a strange person who appears to be living in the Narrows is a recipe for all sorts of teenage angst and hair-pulling. Refreshingly though, Mackenzie's character displays a stoic pragmatism that feels more realistic than over-the-top teenage love drama in the context of her job as a Keeper. However, this compartmentalization of her emotions doesn't prevent the reader from empathizing and connecting with her. It even, to me, made her more relatable, especially when the walls of her neat little compartments start coming down and she finds herself having to deal with both of her separate worlds at once. 

Reminiscent of Garth Nix and the "Abhorsen" trilogy, Schwab has created a new and very clever representation of death and what happens beyond that veil. as well as who will look after us. Mackenzie's character takes that role very seriously, giving her friend Wes (also a Keeper) ample opportunities to foil her sometimes dour demeanor with intelligent jokes and melodramatic humor. He never fails to make Mackenzie (or me) smile.

If you're ready for a strong female protagonist not so easily swept off her feet and away from her responsibilities to others, if you liked the "Abhorsen" books, or if you're just ready for a creative new look at death, I very highly recommend "The Archived" by Victoria Schwab. I warn you, however, that upon finishing the book you may find yourself madly refreshing Schwab's website, searching her website for the release date of the next installment. "The Archived" hit shelves at your favorite independent bookstore on January 22nd. 

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