Title: Point of Origin
Author: Amanda Havard
Publisher: Chafie Press
Series: The Survivors #2
Other Reviews for This Author: The Survivors
Sigh. There's always a huge (gigantic, really) worry for me when I'm reading a second book in a series and it's been a while since the first book. Folks, I'm not the best with remembering plotlines. I remember characters. I remember feelings and emotions. Plot events are not my strong suit, especially when they involve a lot of set-up for a larger series to come. The Survivors was a book that stuck out in my memory because of the protagonist's voice and journey, as well as the unique concept - and the concept as a whole, not every plot event. I picked up Point of Origin worried that, having not reread the first book, I would be entirely lost and miss out on important plot-progression details. Point of Origin managed to reel me back in after a third of the novel, and I was reminded about everything good about the first book and then some. Yes, Havard has her stumbles with the writing and plotting at times, but Point of Origin branches out from its predecessor and delivers a richer paranormal experience.
Sadie Matthau has found the love of her life by breaking the laws of her people, the Survivors. Sadie left the confines of the Survivor's City in order to see the world. Nothing in there was enough for Sadie, a girl afflicted by wanderlust of the greatest kind. She's since found her love, a man with extraordinary supernatural abilities that in many ways mimic those of the Survivors - Everett Winters. Everett, like Sadie, has lived through several centuries and understands the weight of age underneath eternal youth. Sadie's in love with the Winters family as an entirety, though their powers and creature type is of a different sort than the Survivors. She's even gone so far as to bring the Winters to the Survivors' City as comrades - something virtually unheard of and completely against conventional Survivor conduct.
Questioning her people has a purpose beyond Sadie's own philosophical differences with the rest of the Survivors. Sadie's journey outside of the Survivor's City has led her to the knowledge that the supernatural world is in turmoil - and part of it has to do with her leaving the Survivor's City. Several Survivors left and became rabid, turning away from their Puritanical teachings and becoming creatures of bloodlust. A dark being also seems to be on the hunt for Sadie. The being is possibly connected to the Survivors and their history, yet said history has been shrouded by the elders of the group of Survivors for centuries. Sadie has no way of uncovering new leads and information without the assistance of the group of people that resent her so much for the disruption of their secluded peace.
To help the Survivors, Sadie has to push her boundaries even further - rocking her relationships and threatening to sever her connection to the Survivors that, for better or worse, cared for her prior to her departure from the City. Corrine, her one human friend that has been her rock, has cracked under the pressure of never getting to see Sadie or understand her schedule. Everett and Sadie are fighting constantly; disagreements between the two of them always seem to end up in bursts of frustration and Sadie questioning - not for the first time - if she should have forgone the supernatural state of things for a more simpler life with Cole, who still loves her. These crumbling relationships only frame the travesties going on around Sadie - the secrets being kept from her, the destruction of innocent lives in the name of rogue Survivors, and the very real possibility that the Survivors may see the destruction of their race.
Slipping into Sadie's voice was much simpler the second time around. Point of Origin is definitely a book that benefits in terms of stylistic voice because of its nature as a sequel. The Survivors started off oddly because of how the protagonist's voice was rooted in the past, but Point of Origin shows just how far Sadie's character came within the first novel. Sadie's voice still retains a level of its initial, formal dialect, yet it is sprinkled with modern influences that make it more accessible to the reader. A returning reader also better understands her character, so they come into Point of Origin with a better idea of what to expect from her character. Sadie is everything people like about YA - she's a strong female protagonist that can be vulnerable (mostly in her love life) but kick major butt if she needs to. Sadie's biggest issues at the beginning of the novel revolve around her ability to reconcile her division between humanity and being a Survivor. Sadie has a sense of humanity that the other Survivors lack, which is why she is attracted to Cole, yet her supernatural origins lead her to be attracted to Everett - who in some ways is like her in how he bridges the gap between ancient supernatural being and man that has acclimated many of his beliefs to the modern canon. Sadie's struggle with her romance directly parallels her struggle with who she is, and Point of Origin, true to its title, explores the origins of her emotions and attempts to reconcile some of the issues that she has as a person. Sadie's growth is primarily related to this. She becomes more understanding of her divided self and attempts to understand both sides of her being. That kind of character arc always interests me, but isn't as outwardly dynamic as it was in the previous book - after all, Sadie's journey in Point of Origin is more about her relationships and their development. Sadie also shows some great developments in how she treats the other Survivors. Havard really nails a dynamic that mimics the feelings of a young adult and their parental units. Sadie treats them with a level of respect because of what they did for her, yet she also understands that they have an ignorant viewpoint of the world and situations because of their limited knowledge base. That kind of thing really ties the book together as a YA work, and it also makes Sadie easy to relate to, though she is a much older protagonist in maturity and voice than YA readers are used to.
Havard has the same type of growth going on with her other secondary characters. Many of them stay fairly static or improve in subtle ways, but in the bigger picture they remain the same. Everett's temper goes off more than in the previous book, ruining any sense of perfection that he may have garnered as a lifelong love of Sadie's. Everett and Sadie's relationship goes through an interesting dynamic shift in Point of Origin. Namely, the two of them fight to keep their relationship together because of their differences. The one issue regarding their relationship simply revolves around the fact that both of them never really discuss their problems in depth with each other. Sadie just goes back to Cole whenever Everett does something that bothers her, yet inevitably she returns to Everett and continues the cycle - though the narration makes it clear that the situation is far from ideal, and Sadie knows that her love for Everett does not change the issues that they are facing as a couple. The decided lack of tackling this issue leaves something to be desired in the text. Point of Origin could get away with a lot of character build up for future books, but this kind of major relationship shift needed a bit more definition and depth to really flesh out the issues that Sadie and Everett were having. However, it does allow Everett to remain dynamic as a love interest. Cole sticks more to his original characterization of being utterly lovestruck and accepting of Sadie - and in Point of Origin he takes his trust to surprising levels. The place that needed the most fleshing out was also the place that Havard took the biggest risk with the narrative. The Survivors set up a very strong friendship between Sadie and her human friend, Corrine, in the first sixty or so pages. That friendship was expected to carry over. Point of Origin takes that friendship and uses Sadie's mysteriously nomadic lifestyle as an area of tension between the friends. Havard unfortunately doesn't do much with the friendship in Point of Origin - a shame, really, all things considered - but it lays a strong foundation for what will hopefully be a major conflict within the series. Havard isn't afraid to show the effects of Sadie's supernatural parts on her friends, and the harsh reality of it helps to give the book a surprising level of character differentiation from the first one.
The Survivors did have issues with the writing - most notably in just how rough the transition into Sadie's voice was (while understandable in its construction, it did leave issues with the initial reading) and the pacing of the first part of the novel. Point of Origin shows an improvement on some of the original novel's issues, but not all of them. The biggest issue is that the novel still has a steep pacing curve. Havard has a lot of stuff going on within the first one hundred pages of the novel that sets up the rest of the plot. Most of the stuff being set up revolves around the struggling character relationships and Sadie's need to hunt down information to continue her quest. This means that, especially for someone who waited between the books to read them, it takes a while to get reacquainted with the world, its characters, and all of the plot issues going on. The plus side is that Havard introduces some new concepts along with recapping the old ones, making the transition less awkward. The pace speeds up throughout the second two thirds, resulting in a much faster and stronger storyline overall. What helped was the ease in Havard's writing of Sadie's voice. The blend of her modernism and her historical background was better than ever, and Havard really made her voice feel like a unique entity in this installment. It didn't match anything else out on the YA market, and the dark maturity that pervaded the pages at times was a welcome relief, although the dark maturity didn't always translate into overly-dramatic angst. Havard's writing still had the occasional slip-ups stylistically, most often in some of the smaller details of the world. I would find myself asking questions about it that should have been cleared up - questions as to how characters could do a particular supernatural activity or, for instance, why people like the Survivors are called Survivors in every language - something that is seemingly implausible because Sadie's group of people called themselves that. It doesn't sound bad at first, but Sadie's group of Survivors believed themselves to be the only Survivors in existence, thus meaning that the self-imposed title didn't come from an outside source (at least from what I remember from the first book). Could there be a reasonable in-book explanation for this that I missed? Quite possibly. I often forget details between series books, especially when the wait between books is long. Those kinds of errors don't majorly effect my enjoyment of the story, but leaving the reader questioning the sensibility of that kind of situation - whether there's an explanation in-book or not - can be an issue, especially if it continues throughout the series.
Point of Origin is a sequel that, in many ways, amps up the good parts of its predecessor. Amanda Havard clearly clicked more with her protagonist's voice and used it to the story's strengths. The secondary characters ranged from being too static to being very dynamic, although there were often cases where the potential of the character's growth outweighed the actual growth done in the novel. Havard's writing, though occasionally prone to some bumps, improved from the first novel and delivered some great scenes and plot twists that built upon the series and its premise. There's a lot for this second book to offer readers of the series, and the improvements in plotting - especially the fabulous historical back story - really make it a worthwhile read. Not to mention it really makes readers want to delve into the next book.
Cover: I like this one better than its predecessor. The texture of the background and the smoothness of the grave stone can be a bit much. The silhouette work is a nice idea that stands out amongst current YA covers.
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Copy: Received from publisher/publicist for review (Thank you, Kelly and Chafie Press!)