on August 25, 2014
To seventeen-year-old Aiden Ortiz, letting the dead walk through his body to reach the other side comes with the territory. Being a Gateway isn’t an easy job, but someone’s gotta send Bleeders where they belong. Heaven. Salvation. Call it whatever you want. Dead is dead. But when his search for Koren Banks––the girl who went mysteriously missing seven months ago––leaves him with more questions than answers, he finds himself involved in something far more sinister and beyond his control.Buy the Book (Book Depository) • Buy the Book (Amazon) •
With the threat of the Dark Priest's resurrection, and his plan to summon his demon brothers from hell, Aiden is left to discover his identity before the Dark Priest's curse infecting his blood consumes him, and before the world as he knows it succumbs to the darkness of hell on earth.
Well. This won’t end well.
There are three types of psychological horror. The first is where a protagonist you like slowly loses their minds and you as the reader feel increasing dread as you realize you’re trapped in a book with a crazy person. The second is where the boring protagonist discovers they were CRAZY ALL ALONG and probably EVIL ALL ALONG. This is what writers who’ve only watched horror movies on Netflix that one weekend when nothing good was on TMZ think is clever. Then there’s the third type, where everything is such a confusing mess that you can feel your sanity slip into oblivion as you hopelessly struggle to figure out what the hell is going on.
I’m not sure what this book wants to be, this may sound like a nitpick, but knowing what a book is effects how I read it. I don’t read romance expecting monsters to jump out and eat the characters, and if I read splatterpunk I wouldn’t expect endless scenes of refined British ladies having tea parties and being perfectly pleasant to each other. In this case, I expected something along the lines of Anna Dressed In Blood, general horror with an occult/’mythological’ twist. That’s what the synopsis lead me to believe.
Then Aiden starts thinking he’s going insane by the third scene. But… there isn’t enough context or contrast yet to tell one way or other. This part was so jarring I thought my e-book was missing a section. At this point the book pivots and tries to evolve into a slow-burn psychological novel. These two sub-genres should work together, but the execution here makes everything such a confusing, frustrating mess that I that I still don’t know what the overarching story is.
Okay, let me back up.
First off, Heather Marie has a wonderfully diverse cast of characters. Aiden is Hispanic. His best friend is gay. Both are realistically portrayed and they are a welcome relief to all the Whitey C. Whitebread characters I’ve read lately. Aiden is the first MC of color I’ve read for review since The Merciless and Trevor is only gay character I’ve come across in the last seven books I’ve read. Full kudos to Heather Marie here.
Things looked promising for the first few paragraphs of The Window Through Which They Threw The Brick. Heather Marie has good flow and the best male voice I’ve come across since Daniel Kraus’ Scowler.
And then came the flow-breaking flashback to shoehorn in the angsty, out-of-place teen drama.
So Aiden Ortiz is a gateway, someone who the dead pass through to cross over to the other side. Here’s where the first snake in this tangle of snakes raises it head. Outside of getting really cold and occasionally passing out, there’s not really a cost to being a gateway. In horror, paranormal, whatever they’re calling it these days, there needs to be a high, nerve-wrecking cost in order to create a sense of dread. As it stands, being a gateway looks really easy, but Aiden complains about it endlessly. So he ends up sounding like he kicks the crutches out from under cute, wide-eyed orphans for the lulz. This bleed out my sympathy until I wanted to punch him every time he opened his freaking gop. They’re. Dead. Dude. Take time out from your busy moping schedule and bloody help them.
Another reason I’m still so utterly confused is that there’s never enough information or context to understand Heather Marie’s world. Endless paragraphs are devoted to telling me the context for all the relationships, but the book doesn’t dive into the rules of the world for over half the book. Every time it seems like someone will finally give some info, something happens to prevent it. For no good reason. One time the priest mentor figure had to reschedule because of something or other, a flat tire, I think. The scares work the exact same way. Something tense happens, then build-up, oh it’s another human being, drama talk, end scene. Every time. This was probably building to a twist, but I stopped caring.
At this point, I reread the synopsis of the book and thought I was going nuts. Aiden spends a flashback asking a school secretary about the girl he likes but then the girl shows up out of the blue by the fifth or sixth scene. So he never actually looks for her. The whole curse bit actually spoils the book because going by the text alone I never would’ve guessed curses were even possible. So the first part of the synopsis isn’t true and the second part needs a spoiler warning.
By the time I reached the multiple paragraph Firefly reference I finally said enough. My father was a Firefly reference, dammit. I’ll have none of this! I stopped at the halfway point before my confusion and questions and frustrations and irritations turned me into this:
In spite of the tangled mess I’ve detailed here, Heather Marie does shows a lot of talent, she’s trying to do the things that make a good paranormal/horror novel—likable characters, ambiguity, atmosphere, etc, etc, etc, but her execution isn’t there yet. My only regret in DNF-ing this review is I won’t find out how Trevor and Evan ended up. (You deserve better, Trevor.) Once Heather Marie has a few more books under her belt I’ll probably read her again, like I said, there’s a lot of promise here, but The Browser Through Which They Read Tumblr is not that book.