by Victoria Schwab
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Release Date: August 2, 2011
Age Group: Young Adult
Source: Library Check-Out
Rating: Special Shelf
Good for 2011 Debut Author Challenge
About the Book:
The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.It starts with a crack, a sputter, and a spark. The match hisses to life...
If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.
And there are no strangers in the town of Near.
These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.
But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.
The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.
As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know—about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.
Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab’s debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won’t soon forget.
This book made me feel small and innocent again, like before the illusion of Santa was shattered, like Lexi's younger sister Wren, tiny and gullible. Because before school and homework and college applications, and all that other real world crap, this took me back to that time when my mom and dad would sit with me at night and read to me the requisite bedtime story. The writing, gosh, how can I explain it? It's poetic and dreamy and fairy tale-like. It flows beautifully and feels almost as if you're floating in a dream. The way the setting is depicted is just like that - surreal and immersive. The descriptions are lush with fantastical imagery, so that you're sitting there completely in awe of Schwab's writing ability.
The Near Witch truly didn't disappoint me in any way. Not in the heroine, Lexi, another Serious Supergirl with an HoG and such wisdom and open-mindedness. Her courage, her sense of duty, and loyalty and love for her family is just remarkable really. The fact that her well-loved father is dead, her mother's a ghost of a person, and her uncle doesn't believe in her, wishes to hold her back and do the protecting, does not deter her from learning about the enigmatic stranger that suddenly pops up in the town, or from searching for the vanishing children. Despite the consequences, she befriends and allows this stranger to help her hunt for the answers. Her unflinching trust in him - Cole - endeared her to me.
The mystery of the disappearing children, I thought, was NOT going to hold the book throughout. But I was wrong. The plot is eerie and intense, and it keeps you suspended in suspense. As you read on, you grow as hungry for the truths of the town's history and the secrets kept by the town witches as Lexi. It becomes imperative, because Schwab masterfully wraps Lexi's feelings in beautiful packaging so that you get to know everyone in the town, and feel sorry for the children's parents. I felt the sudden loss of the children strongly because of this, because of Lexi's firm connection to everyone there. And it made me worry all the more for Lexi's younger sister, because she could be kidnapped next at any moment. Lexi's love for Wren is palpable, and you don't want anything to happen to her.
I got so FREAKING ANGRY at the townspeople for their unwillingness to believe in and listen to Lexi, for their close-mindedness toward Cole and the Thorne sisters, and for the lies and premature blame placed on innocent people. How and why their children begin disappearing from their beds in the night is connected to this quick-to-blame attitude within the town. And that's another reason why I found this story to be so, well, beautiful. Because, like with all children's fairy tales, there's a lesson to be gleaned from this book. The Near Witch isn't just another book; it has strong themes of acceptance and delivers that age-old, sometimes trite saying, "don't judge a book by it's cover," in a non-preachy and breath-stealing manner. It's timeless, this story.
And the romance is like the cherry on top of a perfect sundae of epic and magical proportions. Cole is sad and in pain and basically introverted. He's not an Agressive Alpha in the least, but he falls under the Sentimental Sweetheart category, which I love nearly as much. And, to me, he fits in perfectly with this mystifying tale. The attraction that sparks between he and Lexi is undeniable and evident, but sweetness can be found in Lexi's prying for details of his life. They swap anecdotes about their lives - well, Lexi does more of the talking - and exchange personal, heartwrenching memories. I wanted to physically reach into this book and give them bone-crushing hugs. They brought each other out of their darkest periods and believed in each other, working together seamlessly to save the children of Near. There's nothing more heartwarming than that, watching them press forward in spite of the towering obstacles.
The Near Witch is like an old bedtime story to be passed down - both original and familiar - or a cherished fairy tale to bring you out of the gloom and believe in happy endings, no matter how bad things get. I want to clutch this story to my chest and hug it, reread it, and then share the magic of it with everyone around me. The Near Witch is memorable and will stay with me for, I imagine, a very long time.