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The Suburban Strange by Nathan Kotecki
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The Suburban Strange

by Nathan Kotecki

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I had a hard time engaging in the very beginning, but I'm glad I didn't give up. Deep and true friendships, paranormal phenomenon, a terrible "curse" upon innocent girls and a sweet romance are interwoven in this unique story.

This book begins with our main character, Celia, and Regine, a member of an elite "clique" called The Rosary. The Rosary created itself for the purpose of enjoying the beauty in things that others tend to pass over. Music, art, clothing and intellect are all places that they pursue the 'different." Regine sees the potential in Celia and pulls her into the group.

Unlike other "cliques" the primary goal of The Rosary's existence is to get the most out of their experiences. They want attention and they definitely want to stand out. But it's not their driving purpose. Like many clique's, the true strength of The Rosary is their dedication to one another.

A parallel but interwoven story takes place with Celia, a female friend and a love interest. It is this triad that involves the paranormal/supernatural aspects of the story. The parts of Celia that draw her into this triad, are the parts that most likely made her so attractive and integral to The Rosary.

It is a fascinating read and good metaphor for the reality that all things are connected in some way, even if it is not immediately evident.

( )
  Angelina-Justice | Feb 3, 2014 |
Highly Recommended

Celia Balaustine transferred to Suburban High at the start of her 10th grade year. She wants to reinvent herself and not be the same person she was at her old school. Celia is a highly talented artist, who catches the attention of a girl named Regine. Regine introduces Celia to her tight knit group of friends who call themselves The Rosary. Celia become part of this group and for the first time in her life, has a place to belong. The Rosary wants everyone in the group to do their homework, study, have an after school job, look sophisticate and expand their artistic horizons. They hang out at a club on weekends to listen to music and dance. Then weird things start to happen at school. The story takes on a paranormal twist and every 16 year old girl is at risk of getting hurt at Suburban High. The Rosary may have the answers to this school curse.

One of the first things to catch the readers’ attention in this series are the character names. They are definitely unique. The cover gives off a dark, eerie, gothic vibe and the reader can expect the same from the writing. I think readers will be introduced to new music and artists that inspired parts of the writing. The characters were really into discovering new music (being the perfect outlet for the author to share the music he likes). I would like to know the reaction of today’s high school students to the music references. Most of it seemed to be 80s-90s dark alternative music. I enjoyed it because I was familiar with most of it…but I am not sure about the average 16 year old. I love that some of the setting takes place in a used bookstore and the conversations about visual arts. Unusual for a YA book. I think this book can be classified as an urban fantasy. There are elements of romance, mystery, intrigue and the paranormal. I like how the story did not end with a huge cliffhanger, but hints at the future. I am looking forward to the second book.

I think this book is appropriate for a school library. It will appeal to the visual arts/music students and those interested in the gothic or indie scene. I would promote this book to both boys and girls. I don’t see it fitting into the curriculum directly, but it’s definitely a good pick for fun reading. I think it’s the perfect book during a school break (I’ll put it on my Spring Break books display). It would make for a good book club pick. The book made me want to go listen to the author’s playlist. Overall, it was a unique and intriguing story. I’m rather surprised that I was not able to find professional reviews of this book. ( )
  kmjanek | Aug 29, 2013 |
This little story was definitely different. For the most part I found it enjoyable. The story is about a girl named Celia who goes to a new school where she is taken under wing by a group of students who call themselves The Rosary. Suddenly accidents start to happen at school to girls on their 16th birthday. It soon happens so many times that no one can pretend its just a coincidence anymore. Things really start getting strange when Celia meets a boy at a gothic type dance club and then he disappears.

So the plot peaked my interest. However all through the novel I kept waiting for some secrets to start unraveling with these mysterious Rosary teenagers, but to be honest they had very little to do with the mysteries. Looking back, its almost like they didn't have much to do with anything except giving Celia a few friends and talking about their cool indie music. Unfortunately even that was stale because the music was all cool indie music, but it was almost all from the 90's and real teenagers today would have also been referencing cool indie music from today. This just read like the author was paying homage to the indie music he grew up on which is beautiful but didn't fit into this story in a realistic way. (For the record I am an avid Tori Amos fan and loved his reference to 'Crucify').

The mystery was interesting and I didn't completely figure out the whodunit before all was revealed which is a huge plus in my book. I also was shocked by a turn of events with a character I thought was far more interesting than the Rosary kids. The love story was also somewhat unusual and I liked Tomasi and his backstory. Celia herself was a take her or leave her character and even after her 'growth' in the story I feel like I maybe would have liked the old Celia better.

Despite any criticisms I don't want to turn away potential readers because this is a different story from a lot of what is out right now and I think the author has a nice style. The tale was slow to take off but I was never bored by it and never wanted it to just move along. It was definitely worth reading and I think anyone who finds the plot appealing would probably enjoy this tale. ( )
  pacey1927 | Oct 20, 2012 |
Celia Balustine is shy, unsure of herself, and new to Suburban High School. By chance, she meets a girl named Regine, who changes her life. At her new school, Celia is accepted into a small group called the Rosary who all act aloof, listen to music not on top 40 lists, dress in grey and black, and generally set themselves apart from the rest of the school population. Celia conforms to her group and has a good time at school for the first time in years. Then strange things start happening at her school. Every girl with who has a 16th birthday suffers some sort of misfortune on the day before consistently throughout the year. As her own birthday nears, she tries to investigate what is causing it. Could it be her chemistry lab partner Mariette, who seems to have odd, impossible things happen around her? Or is it someone completely hidden?

The Suburban Strange has a gorgeous cover that mixes mediums in a very cool way. Despite its beautiful trappings, the actual story is a mixed bag of good and bad. Let's start with the good. I like a lot of the characters, especially Celia. At first, I thought she was a mindless sheep that just cared about being cool, but as the novel goes on, she becomes a force to be reckoned with. She really comes into her own and becomes comfortable with herself, acting how she thinks she should act instead of how others want her to. Her strength and resolve near the end of the novel serves to support her friends and helps her in the main conflict with the villain. She also has amazing artistic talent, which I am always fascinated to read about because I just draw stick figures. Mariette is probably the strongest character because she always stands on her own. She doesn't conform to other people's views or style and accepts that not everyone will like her. For most of the book, I also liked the Rosary. They are basically pretentious, hipster teens who like 70's and 80's music and act like they are better than everyone else, which I know doesn't sound flattering at all. However, they lead Celia into an exotic world of indie clubs, new music, new literature, new clothes and style, and a new way of viewing the world. Kotecki recreates for me how enchanting things are when they are just discovered and how magical they feel.

There are also a lot of flaws in this book. Tomasi is a tolerable character, but the instalove after knowing each other for like two seconds is ridiculous. The pacing of the book is odd. Long stretches of the book have basically no action at all and are just ham-handed infodumps. I get that the world needs to be explained, but there's a better way of doing it through showing rather than telling. The buildup to the end where Celia is doubting herself and trying to find answers is way too long, making the actual finale and denouement rather short. Also, the references to music and art are cool, but made the story completely halt at times, stilting the pace further. It should be used as flavor and not as the substance of the story. I really enjoyed the Kind and Unkind supernatural world aspects. The Unkind are said to be mistaken for creatures like vampires and werewolves. This book doesn't delve completely into that world. Both sides are rather untrained and bumbling, not letting us see the depth and breadth of this very promising world. I did hope that the Rosary were enmeshed somehow in this world, but they proved to be normal, pretentious teens.

The Suburban Strange has a lot of good things going for it, but a lot of mediocre things hold it back. The writing is engaging and made me forgive a lot of these flaws. I would definitely read another book and give Kotecki another try because of his ability to capture emotions and build characters. ( )
  titania86 | Oct 19, 2012 |
Young Celia is new to Suburban High School, a somewhat prestigious high school full of the haves and have-nots. And most importantly, an influential group of sophomores known as the Rosary, who seem to know what darkness is unfolding at the school. Young girls are having near-fatal accidents on the night before their sixteenth birthdays. No one seems to known what is happening or why, and as Celia nears her sixteenth birthday, she is drawn into a mysterious conflict between good and evil.

Strange is a good word for this book It come across as an odd bag of attempts at literary commentary mixed with the day-to-day struggles of high school students in a more market-friendly package. From the blurb, I was expecting something of a slightly off-beat teen mystery with something of a supernatural flair. Instead, Suburban Strange is more of an obscure collision of commentary about teen sexuality and the social pressures of high school with a dark/heaven and hell type mystery. All with far too many goth-y overtones. (And the gothic overtones were so darn angsty and annoying that I almost couldn't stand them. They made the entire book very drab and somewhat difficult to enjoy.)

Unfortunately, the flaws don't end there. Strange has some serious issues with pacing, especially at the beginning. It was far too slow and took too long to really get going. Yet, when it finally got going the plot did have a lot of promising ideas and some interesting commentary plus some really graphic and lovely writing. But I just felt like this book had some compelling concepts that just weren't realized. ( )
  BookAddictDiary | Sep 4, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0547729960, Hardcover)

Shy Celia Balaustine is new to Suburban High, but a mysterious group of sophomores called the Rosary has befriended her. Friends aside, Celia soon discovers something is not quite right at Suburban. Girls at the school begin having near-fatal accidents on the eve of their sixteenth birthdays. Who is causing the accidents, and why? As Celia’s own birthday approaches, she is inexorably drawn into an underground conflict between good and evil—the Kind and the Unkind—that bubbles beneath Suburban High. Plentiful references to music and art—along with the intriguing underworld mythology—make this supernatural series debut a page-turner.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:02 -0400)

Fifteen-year-old Celia Balaustine discovers girls at the school are having near fatal accidents on the eve of their sixteenth birthdays, and wonders if she can find out the mystery before her own sixteenth birthday.

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