Harlequin Teen Aus
Copy courtesy of the publisher
Alyssa Wood has fled her home and her mother to live with her aunt in bustling New York city. Five years ago after Alyssa turned 12, her mother turned to alcohol, spiraling downward, talking to voices and generally reversing their roles so that Alyssa felt like the parent, always constantly taking care of her mother. After her boyfriend Noah committed suicide the day after Alyssa broke up with him, she couldn’t take it anymore. The small town turned on her, people blamed her. She couldn’t go to school, she couldn’t go to the shops. After two months, she left for New York, unable to take like the way it was there anymore.
Six months later, Alyssa is beginning to put her life back together. Her aunt has welcomed her and although she’s once tried to convert Alyssa to her Wiccan ways before, when Alyssa was younger, she seems to have backed off that for now. Which is good, because Alyssa is a definite non-believer. And she has a budding potential romance with tutor Ronan, who plays the saxophone and writes her songs.
The new life she is slowly putting together for herself is disrupted when Ronan sends her a music clip and at the end of it, Alyssa sees a dead body, murdered. No one else can see it and Alyssa realises that the date on the wall in the room where the dead body is is showing a week from today. She has one week to wrap her head around the fact that she’s seen something she doesn’t believe in, find out who the victim is and try and stop it. She’s never believed in this stuff, she’s lived for the past five years with a mother who talked only to her voices and drank herself into a stupor most nights.
Alyssa is forced into a situation where she feels that she can trust no one. Whoever is doing this to her knows about her, knows about things that she hasn’t told people. Everywhere she turns, there’s suspicion and time is running out. Someone wants her dead and Alyssa is going to have to open her mind to up to believing if she wants to live.
Banish is a young adult paranormal fantasy novel by acclaimed romance author Nicola Marsh that explores Wicca and magic through the eyes of a skeptic trapped in a Wiccan family. Alyssa is a non-believer, thanks to her mother. When she was younger she thought the small rituals were fun but when her mother started talking to spirits or drinking because of them, it suddenly became anything but fun. Alyssa’s aunt is also a powerful Wiccan who used to attempt to bring Alyssa into the fold, something Alyssa’s mother always resisted.
I’m a skeptic about most things including religion and the paranormal so I fully understand Alyssa’s stance. If I had grown up in a particularly religious household (no one in my family is a practicing anything but my in-laws are rather devout Catholics) I’d have probably been even more of a non-believer. I tend to believe in what I can see and that’s also where Alyssa begins to have problems, because she cannot deny what she is suddenly able to see. No one else can see it, just her and her search for a plausible explanation allows her to believe that possibly someone that’s near and dear to her, is involved. She desperately wants to find a rational explanation for what is happening to her.
I liked Alyssa even though she probably did maintain her “there is nothing odd happening here” attitude a little longer than she should have. When you’re faced with what she was facing, I’d be trying to gather as much information as possible so I couldn’t see why she kept running away from people or refusing to tell others. She had someone that she could’ve chosen who would’ve helped her a lot but instead she kept things to herself. I think she’d had an awful lot of deal with in her life and this was mostly down to other’s keeping things from her. At 12 she basically had to grow up and become the adult, taking care of her mother and the home because her mother was too drunk or too busy talking to the spirits. Her boyfriend became withdrawn from her and committed suicide the day after she broke up with him – she was 16 and he was 22, which is a rather large gap at that age. You’re talking about two people who are really in different places in their lives and probably want different things. She also faced blame from the town which was very difficult for her. It’s hard to really place the blame for someone’s suicide upon another person like that, it’s incredibly unfair. She’d managed to move on, to begin a tentative romance with Ronan (also older, at 21) and she has to learn to trust him after the horrific video, to be absolutely sure that he’s not involved. I really liked Ronan – he was down to earth and nice, he didn’t really play games and he was pretty supportive considering Alyssa basically went off the rails a bit the second they started dating. He didn’t dismiss any of her concerns and listened to her and believed her and managed to forgive her even after he found out that she had a fleeting suspicion he might’ve been involved, but not without at least making her apologise properly and justify why she’d thought that way.
Banish was an entertaining story that kept me turning the pages. I expected to probably find it hard to get into given my own position on the subject but it was surprisingly readable, even for a skeptic like me!
Book #207 of 2013
This is book #81 read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013