Hunting Lila (by Sarah Alderson)

18 04 2012

Hunting Lila is a novel that promises so much, yet fails to deliver on almost every intellectual front and finally only barely passes as a flimsy, made purely for instant entertainment value, paranormal thriller. Yet again, the cat feels cheated out of a great adventure thriller. The elements to make it such really were there, except, once again, you get the almost formulaic focus on the romance part of a story. Moreover, the romance bit of this story is so cliché (and honestly disturbing) that it ruined the half-assed attempt at thriller-action. At more than one point the cat wondered whether Alderson – for who this is a debut novel – hadn’t just been told that paranormal and romance are what sells today, and pretty please put in lots of a gratuitous romance and swooning and wanting to get groped.

Lila is 17 and has this special ability – which btw, aside from being mentioned on the first page only shows up again at around p. 100 of the novel  … talk about sloooow –  in that she can move things with her mind. For all intents and purposes this is a pretty damn cool power to have, yet so under-used by Lilah and Sarah Alderson in favor of cheap romance. Anyway, the first 100 pages basically focus on Lila page after page declaring how much she’s been in love with Alex, her brother’s best friend, her entire life, and how swoon-worthy that blue-eyed boy really is, and how much she really wants him to pick her up and do whatever with her. The whole damsel-in-distress pining for the blue-eyed boy is not only way too stereotypical, it’s downright offensive if you want to make a credible heroine who can do things on her own and with her own mind! Because seriously, all Lila seems to want is making sure she gets The Alex.

Anyway, got a bit of track here. So Lila displays her special abilities on page 1 of the novel after which she escapes to Los Angeles, where her brother and The Alex live – forget talking this through with your father, because at 17 of course you can just hop on a plane from London to LA on your own, right? After her mother’s death, Lila’s father uprooted Lila to London, where she never quite felt at home, because you know, The Alex wasn’t there. So where to escape to? Of course, where The Alex is. Once there, Lila discovers that her brother and The Alex work for a special black ops section, called The Unit, but it’s not quite clear what’s so special about it, except that they drive around with very expensive black SUVs and that everyone who works there is not allowed to have any special relationships (which is of course why Jack, Lila’s brother is in a relationship with his co-worker Sarah), and everyone’s house has to be protected by a special alarm, oh and they are not allowed to talk about what it is they’re doing. So yeah, of course, things were bound to take a turn for the worse when Lila *finally* learns who or what The Unit is, and that they’re actually hunting down people with special abilities, like Lila… there’s a whole lot of hoopla about who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy, and there are twists and turns in the plot to make your head spin, but of course, like in all such sort of novels, this is – sadly – not a standalone novel, but a first in a series, so I’m sure the hunting Lila thing will pick up right where Alderson left it off at the end.

So here’s the cat’s vow: I will not get sucked in again with first novels in a series that promise the sky… ends up being a disappointing endeavor anyway. Also, I probably made this out to be worse than it actually is. It’s a bit thriller, a bit adventure, a bit of paranormalcy and a whole lot of romance. In all of this, this is a book that reminded me of Rachel Ward’s Numbers, and a lot of people also seemed to like that one. The cat, though, is through with these generic type of books. Why not focus on female characters that are not so stereotypical in their gender roles, especially when you give them freaking special brain powers!

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