Sublime by Christina Lauren
Genre: Young adult paranormal romance
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Release date: October 14 2014
Source: ARC from San Diego Comic Con/eGalley from publisher via Edelweiss
The nitty-gritty: An atmospheric and creepy tale, written in gorgeous prose, heavy on the romance, but ultimately confusing in the end.
The girl is bent into odd angles when she wakes. It doesn’t seem possible that she could have been sleeping here, alone on a dirt path, surrounded by leaves and grass and clouds. She feels like she might have fallen from the sky.
This is one of my favorite covers of the year, and I was hoping for an amazing story to go with it. Unfortunately, Sublime wasn’t quite what I had hoped it would be. It starts out very strong, as we are presented with a mystery (OK, a mystery you will be quite familiar with if you read a lot of YA): a girl wakes up on a forest path with no memory of who she is and what she is doing there. (Honestly, I can count at least fifteen examples of this premise that have been used in the last couple of years—writers, please come up with something new!)
But despite the familiarity of this concept, I was immediately drawn into the mystery. The authors (Christina Lauren is actually two authors, Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings) have solid writing skills, and they really know how to create an eerie atmosphere and grab the reader with lovely and flowing prose.
Lucy finds herself in the middle of nowhere, wearing odd clothes—a flower-patterned dress and sandals (it’s the middle of winter!)—and completely lost as to what she’s doing there. Even stranger, she doesn’t feel the cold at all. She’s curiously drawn to the nearby Saint Osanna’s Prep School, but when she walks through the hallways, no one seems to notice she’s there.
Until she comes face to face with a boy named Colin. She doesn’t recognize Colin so much as know that he’s important to her, and that she is somehow connected to him. Colin is stunned by Lucy’s perfectly white and clear skin, long white hair, and “mood ring eyes.” In fact, she seems to glow when he looks at her. It doesn’t take long for these two to realize that a) they are completely attracted to each other and b) there is something very different about Lucy: everyone else who sees her thinks she has brown hair. They finally piece together a few of Lucy’s scattered memories and make a startling discovery: Lucy is dead, and she is a ghost.
The rest of the plot—and trust me, the plot is pretty thin—concerns Lucy and Colin trying to spend as much time together as possible. They’re also trying to figure out why Lucy is here. Is she haunting Colin? Does it have something to do with her death? Why is Lucy drawn inexorably to the lake? And how can these two lovebirds possibly manage to do the one thing they’re dying to do: touch each other in every way possible? And then they find a way to do that, but it’s pretty dangerous, not to mention stupid.
Everything you need to know about the story is in the book blurb, unfortunately, so if you plan on reading Sublime, I suggest skipping the blurb. In order to preserve some of the surprises, I’m NOT going to talk about the one element I’d really like to discuss (see above: dangerous and stupid), which frankly shocked and surprised me, since I forgot to read the blurb first. Two stories came to mind as I was reading this book. First, I thought it was going to turn out to be a teen version of The Lovely Bones (it isn’t even close). And later, I was reminded of the 1990 movie Flatliners (and if you’ve seen Flatliners, then you can most likely guess the dangerous and stupid thing I mentioned before).
My biggest reaction after reading Sublime is that it had so much potential to be more. The idea of a ghost girl and a human boy falling in love is a great one, and there was so much the authors could have done with it. Instead, we get a typical YA romance filled with lots of longing glances and angsty drama. The most interesting part of the story was Colin’s tragic past and how he’s coping in the present. His entire family is dead, and he’s become a daredevil on a bike, doing dangerous jumps and stunts on cliffs and such, in an effort to cheat death, or die and join his family, or…I’m not sure I understood why he was so reckless.
The story mostly revolves around Lucy and Colin, and although there are a few other ancillary characters—Colin’s best friend Jay, Dot and Joe, the couple who Colin grew up with after his parents died, and a few two-dimensional students who attend Saint Osanna’s—the story is pretty much Lucy and Colin and the very strange world they inhabit. I very much wanted to learn more about Lucy’s murder, which is barely touched upon. I also wanted more depth to the other characters, because while living in Lucy and Colin’s heads was strange and oddly compelling, the story would have had more depth had the other characters been more developed.
Several too obvious story elements made me roll my eyes. Colin and Jay go out on the FROZEN LAKE and do foolhardy stunts on their bikes. I won’t spoil things by telling you what happens *rolls eyes* And when Colin first meets Lucy, her voice is described as “raspy” several times. I wonder if we can guess how Lucy was murdered? *rolls eyes again*
The writing is lovely, however, and the present tense narrative—which I have to admit usually drives me nuts—does a great job of making everything seem much more intense. I especially loved the descriptions of the way winter affects the characters. Everything is ice and snow and vapor breath, and I loved when these chilly images were contrasted with the heat of Colin’s skin. I could see the glittery, secret world where Lucy and Colin meet, it was so well described, and frankly, I wanted to go there myself!
But while I hoped for an ending that explained all the metaphysical puzzles about why Lucy is haunting Colin, I ended up more confused than ever. The ending was so abrupt, that at first I thought it was a cliffhanger, and that a sequel might be forthcoming. (Not according to Goodreads). Perhaps the authors are leaving their options open? All in all, this isn’t a bad book, despite my review. For YOUNG ADULTS who are looking for an otherworldly romance, a bit of unexpected danger, and more otherworldly romance, this book is for you. Me? I’m beginning to suspect I might be getting too old for YA.
Big thanks to the publishers for supplying a review copy. Above quote was taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.