Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: January 5, 2010
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Love can be a dangerous thing…Hanna simply wants to be loved. With a head plagued by hallucinations, a medicine cabinet full of pills and a closet stuffed with frilly, violet dresses, Hanna’s tired of being an outcast, the weird girl, the freak. So she runs away to Portero, Texas in search of a new home.
But Portero is a stranger town than Hanna expects. As she tries to make a place for herself, she discovers dark secrets that would terrify any normal soul. Good thing for Hanna, she’s far from normal. As this crazy girl meets an even crazier town, two things are certain: anything can happen and no one’s safe.
Sixteen year-old Hanna has traveled to Portero from Finland along with her father’s ghost to find her mother, who had abandoned them both years ago. She had to bash her aunt’s head in with a rolling pin to get there – she might have killed her but she’s more concerned with the stains she didn’t get out of her dress - but it’s worth it to finally be in her mother’s house. Rosalee is horrified to see Hanna and wants nothing to do with her, especially when she finds out Hanna’s bipolar and only occasionally takes her meds. She repeatedly orders her out of her house, calls her aunt in Finland to try to get her to make her leave – she didn’t die – and eventually grudgingly gives Hanna two weeks to either fit in or leave forever.
She doesn’t fit in well. Labeled a “transy” – short for transient, a new person in town who’s going to see what’s going on and leave skid marks when they leave – the kids at school mock her, especially since she doesn’t seem to have any idea about the dangerous and weird supernatural things that fill the town. On Hanna’s first day at school, she found out about the colored glass Lure at school that tries to get students to come to the window so it can turn them to glass - the kids are all issued earplugs to keep from hearing their irresistible call. She ends up finding her “in” with her classmates when she walks in on cute guy Wyatt fighting the Lure and rather than freaking out and running, she helps him capture it and ends up being whispered about as the girl who helped him make the school safe again.
Wyatt is an initiate with the Mortmaine, a sort of quasi-military unit in Portero who fight the paranormal evil that’s infested the town. Hanna blackmails Wyatt into taking her with him on a couple of his missions and after some initial queasiness – even for her, being killed by Wyatt then eaten by a giant bug was a little gross – decides she loves the power and notoriety she gets from doing it. She’s hoping that by being a badass and proving to her mother that she can fit right in with Portero’s freaks, Rosalee will have to love and accept her, which of course she really doesn’t, leaving Hanna to want to - and do - some amazingly warped, repugnant things for her.
First and probably most importantly, I wouldn’t let anyone younger than thirteen anywhere near this without thinking hard about it. I bought it specifically because I’m going to read the second Portero book, Slice of Cherry that I’d already ordered from Amazon, and when I went to pick this up from Border’s, it was in the Young Adult section (which I’d expected, since it’s labeled as YA). But this is gory and there’s one passage that’s so flat out nasty, I flinched. I’ll give a little taste of it under some colored text – you can highlight it if you want to read it:
Despite the weirdness and the gore, I actually really liked this, although it might be hard to tell. Hanna was a strangely sympathetic character in spite of her questionable sense of right and wrong and the sense of glee she had when she hurt people sometimes. She was so determined to make people love her in spite of what she worried was her unsurmountable, incurable insanity. When she saw the things Wyatt could do, she saw a kindred spirit in him and she latched on, then was terrified when he seemed to have other interests. Sex with him seemed like almost an afterthought – something like putting on makeup, something you did to be more appealing to someone but not really something that meant a greater emotional connection. That came in the sharing of her hallucinations, of her weirdness and his belief in her and his reciprocating with his admitting his oddness and the separation he felt from everyone else in town. Wyatt ended up being the most normal character though, which was a welcome respite from the craziness – he was Hanna’s moral compass at the exact place when she needed one.
My Summary: Portero, every nook and cranny of it, is wildly imaginative and deeply disturbing - sometimes too much of both. There were times I wished Reeves had dialed it back a few notches and at least left a few corners of the place normal. By the end of the book, I was still hanging on right along with Wyatt and Hanna but I was also thinking that some things would have been best left as her hallucinations. A little mystery about what was real and what might not have been would have made this an A+ book.
My Rating: B+