Karen Healey's The Shattering was a gripping paranormal thriller that I just could not put down. The story was involving and the characters very authentic and relatable.
The novel focuses on three characters: Keri, Janna and Sione. These three teens have something terrible in common - their elder brothers all committed suicide. Keri's brother is the latest victim. After his death, Janna comes to Keri with the notion that it was not suicide after all - she believes that it was murder. Janna has been in touch with a visiting tourist Sione, who has a theory that their brothers (and scores of other young men) have been the victims of a serial killer and has been gathering documentation that would support this supposition. Every year a young boy is killed. The only thing they have in common is that they either live or have visited their hometown of Summerton at New Year.
Keri doesn't take much convincing; she was very close to her elder brother Jake and cannot believe that he would have taken his own life. She joins up with Janna and Sione to try and uncover who has been taking these young men's lives. The truth, however, is even more horrifying that they could have possibly imagined. The deaths seem to have been part of some elaborate ritual, something that has kept Summerton prospering, kept it an idyllic haven for its residents and visiting tourists alike. Not knowing who to trust, the three teens are determined to get to the bottom of this but someone is watching them and will do anything to keep them from getting to the truth. What follows is a deadly game of cat and mouse. Can Keri, Janna and Sione stop the town from claiming yet another victim?
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It was gripping, exciting and scary all rolled into one. It was also refreshing for a young adult book not to have romance taking centre stage. There is of course a little romance thrown in but it does not take the turn you would expect it to and does not over-shadow the story. I also really liked the three teen leads. Keri was probably the easiest to relate to (given that her point-of-view chapters were in first person whilst Sione and Janna were in third). I felt for her heartache at the loss of her brother. She deals with this by throwing herself into their investigation but the truth is even more heartbreaking for her when it is finally revealed. Keri was a very strong character, grappling with many issues in her life ****spoiler begins****her coming out was realistically done though I admit I did not see it coming even though there were hints I should have picked up on****spoiler ends****. I also really like Sione. He was not your typical male lead, being very self-conscious and insecure, but he was smart and really stepped up when it was required. His crush on Janna was a little uncomfortable to read about as it was completely unreciprocated ****spoiler begins****I was really glad that the author did not go down the route on getting them together at the end, having Janna see past his insecurities and realize that he is the one for her - it was much more realistic the way it ended up playing out****spoiler ends****. Janna was a little harder to get a handle on at first but by the end I really liked her character. She seemed a little vapid at the start but you soon realize that's mostly a front.
Overall, The Shattering was a thoroughly gripping read. The teen characters, although very smart and capable, felt like actual teens. The story was very different (loved the New Zealand setting) and the paranormal aspects were very well integrated. I will be seeking out Karen Healey's earlier novel Guardian of the Dead very soon and any other works she may have on the horizon.