Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review: CLARITY by Kim Harrington

As I stated in the intro post, my looks at books are not so much reviews as what I learned about writing from reading them.  But I'm going to use the term "review" for simplicity's sake and so that they can be easily picked out on the page for those interested!  Now...


I got this book at Tatnuck Booksellers.
I read it in 2 sittings.
You can buy it here, or visit the author's website.

CLARITY came out back in March 2011, and I was fortunate to be at the launch party.  Kim Harrington is an extremely sweet, friendly person who also happens to be hilarious and a very talented writer!  CLARITY is about Clarity "Clare" Fern, who gets visions of emotions or moments of the past by touching objects.  She uses this skill at her family's psychic readings studio on Cape Cod, and also to help solve a local murder (or 3). I'll go with the pack here in saying that CLARITY is a bit like a paranormal Veronica Mars, and last I heard, the series has been optioned for a possible television production, which is fantastic.  Fingers crossed that pans out!  Overall, CLARITY is a quick, fast paced read that's suspenseful without being stressful, making it fun and perfect for summer.  Plus, it takes place in Massachusetts, so my heart is already hooked <3

My three favorite things about the writing in CLARITY:
  • Pacing. This book hits the ground running. Since the first few chapters are often all people in the publishing industry will see (if that) when you're trying to get your work out there, I always pay particular attention to what authors do with that prime literary real estate.  There's so much packed into the first 30 pages of CLARITY! We see Clarity ostracized by bullies in town, her family giving a reading, her banter with her brother, an exploration of her gift, many demonstrations of her lovable snark, the introduction of 2 boys (although one of them didn't end up being a love interest, which intrigues me still) an arch nemesis, a murder, family angst, and a rival psychic moves to town! There was no question about if I wanted to keep reading - too many interesting threads were introduced for me not to follow. Harrington accomplishes this by not dwelling for too long on any one aspect. She gives brief snippets of all of these tantalizing things and then switches to the next one without overdeveloping them at the beginning. The result is a whirlwind, and the constant alternating focus moved the book along quickly and with a lot of tension. On a bigger scale, CLARITY is the first of a series, and this book introduced enough lingering material (like her mysterious, MIA father!) to propel me on to read the next book, PERCEPTION, with excitement. 
  • Parents in YA Lit: There is a tendency for parents to be completely absent or evil in YA literature. I think this is because people think that a teenager could not get up to any real adventure with parents who are loving and caring and constantly present. CLARITY is fascinating because Clare's mother is not only a loving, caring participant in Clare's life, she's also a telepath who can read her children's thoughts! You'd think this would put the brakes on Clare's fun, but actually it's quite the opposite. Her mother, Starla, butts out when appropriate, gives her children room to breathe, and pipes up at hilarious moments.  One of my favorite parts was when Starla makes a comment about Gabriel checking out Clare's legs. HA! 
  • Sexuality in Passing: Sexuality in YA can be tricky subject, and I find that discussions of it are usually the part of the book where I disconnect from the characters and remember that this isn't a teen narrating, really, but a grown adult, usually a parent. The treatment of sex in CLARITY is really refreshing because of how matter-of-fact it is.  Clare's brother is a total womanizer. Her boyfriend cheated on her and slept with someone else. Clare's aware of her own appeal despite the boys in town disliking her because of her unusual talents. Clare accepts her conflicting attraction to two very different boys without too much preamble. It feels authentic because it's simply a part of Clare's life and her world, rather than something constantly hyped up and anticipated or cautioned against.  That's not to say there's no conflict or thought given to these interactions, just that the narration rings true, and I believe that's because sexuality is treated as something real with ups and downs, rather than as something mythical and magical. This isn't news to me or to most people, but CLARITY is a really great example of it.
I'm looking forward to reading PERCEPTION, which recently came out, and more of Kim Harrington's work!

Kim Harrington and her editor, Aimee Friedman, at the CLARITY launch last spring.

1 comment:

  1. I loved this YA mystery. It kept me guessing whodunit until the end. It also has a nice dash of romance when Clare is divided between two men, an ex who betrayed her and the snappish police chief's son. I'm so glad there's an upcoming sequel to this.
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