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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Clarity by Kim Harrington

When you can see things others can't, where do you look for the truth? This paranormal murder mystery will have teens reading on the edge of their seats. Clarity "Clare" Fern sees things. Things no one else can see. Things like stolen kisses and long-buried secrets. All she has to do is touch a certain object, and the visions come to her. It's a gift. And a curse. When a teenage girl is found murdered, Clare's ex-boyfriend wants her to help solve the case - but Clare is still furious at the cheating jerk. Then Clare's brother - who has supernatural gifts of his own - becomes the prime suspect, and Clare can no longer look away. Teaming up with Gabriel, the smoldering son of the new detective, Clare must venture into the depths of fear, revenge, and lust in order to track the killer. But will her sight fail her just when she needs it most?
love mysteries. I really do. I love finding out the hints and twists and intricacies of a story, figuring out whodunit and trying to solve the mystery before the characters. Most of the things I've written are mysteries, and I'm not embarrassed to say that several mysteries top my "all-time favorites" list.

Another thing I love is girl detectives. Most people know the most famous ones -- Nancy Drew, etc. I haven't been able to find as many girl detectives in YA -- correct me if I'm wrong. There are girls that solve mysteries, but none that really act as detectives, working together with the police and their friends to solve the case (as Clare and her friends do in this novel). So I was excited to read this book, hoping it would be a good mystery with a fantastic girl detective. I was even more excited when I read the Publishers Weeklystarred review, which stated that "Clare is a teen detective for the 21st century". 

So I was very excited to read the book. 

It had its flaws and shortcomings, but it turned out to be a good mystery with a strong female character. 

Clarity "Clare" Fern lives in a small town along Cape Cod with her mother and brother Perry. The three of them each posses supernatural gifts: Clare is a psychic; Perry is a medium; and Mrs. Fern is a telepath. They live in a pristine Victorian home, running a business giving psychic readings to people, which causes the townspeople to scorn them and brings in tourists. The town of Eastport is peaceful and calm, filled with tourists. When a girl is discovered murdered, though, Clare is asked to solve the case and team up with her friend and the son of the town's new detective, using her powers. She soon suspects that her brother is involved in the case, and may be the murderer, and must find the truth that he is innocent. 

Now, the plot follows a pretty interesting curve. Harrington knows what she's doing. She carefully tosses out clues, leaving you to decide if they're the truth -- or false herrings. The plot was very twisty and curvy, and she did the mystery well. It's hard to figure out whodunit, but the clues carefully show the way towards the final answer. There was one qualm I had with the plot. The book seemed to wrap and end up too neatly. All of a sudden everything was fine, the mystery solved, the only thing that seemed hanging was the romance (and from the beginning that seemed to be left for a sequel and the rest of the series). The outcomes of some of the characters were also fairly obvious, and seemed to be wrapped up just as predictably. I feel like I'm being vague here, but there are too many spoilers. So in a nutshell, the plot was intriguing and fascinating, and very mysterious, but wrapped up neatly with unsurprising results for the characters. 

Clare was a very strong heroine. She knew what she wanted and how she was going to get it, and she had close ties to her family members. She was a realistic character and very well-rounded with flaws and strengths. She also had a strong sense of humor, a snarkiness that didn't go too far or simply fall into the background, and a snarkiness that made me laugh several times aloud. The author also did well showing how she solved the mystery; she became upset, got frustrated, etc. The love interests felt a bit more iffy. Gabe was a nice guy but his "secrets" started to annoy me. His character seemed built more on the secrets than his actual emotions, feelings, thoughts, and personality. I personally liked Justin better. Harrington portrayed him well, and he really felt like an ex-boyfriend: hopeful but resentful towards his former girlfriend. He also seemed to be further developed and have more of a personality than Gabe had. 

A brief note on the supernatural elements, as they are a key part of the novel: the supernatural elements were well developed and interesting. Clare, Mrs. Fern, and Perry's powers all made sense, and the author showed and described the powers in a realistic way. The one qualm I had was how the Ferns didn't believe in psychics being able to see the future. This statement was never really backed up like the rest of the paranormal features, and didn't really make sense. I did like how their assumptions of people with that paranormal gift changed by the end. 

The writing was crisp, clear, and fluid, simply getting to the point in a sentence without adding in too many unnecessary adjectives or verbs. Harrington's writing also sounded realistically like a teenage girl ("SkankyMcSkankbag" anyone?) and used Clare's snarkiness and humor wisely. 

If you're interested in mysteries, this is a strong, sweet read with a love triangle and a clever, twisting mystery. I'll keep an eye out for the sequel, and while I had my issues, this was a novel I truly enjoyed as just as fun, sit-down-and-read book. 

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