The Holders by Julianna Scott

May 20, 2013 Reviews 0 ★★★★½

17-year-old Becca spent her whole life protecting her brother from, well, everything. The abandonment of their father, the so called ‘experts’ who insist that voices in his head are unnatural and must be dealt with, and the constant threat of being taken away to some hospital and studied like an animal. When two representatives appear claiming to have the answers to Ryland’s perceived problem, Becca doesn’t buy it for one second. That is until they seem to know things about Ryland and about Becca and Ryland’s family, that forces Becca to concede that there may be more to these people than meets the eye. Though still highly skeptical, Becca agrees to do what’s best for Ryland.

What they find at St. Brigid’s is a world beyond their imagination. Little by little they piece together the information of their family’s heritage, their estranged Father, and the legend of the Holder race that decrees Ryland is the one they’ve been waiting for.

However, they are all–especially Becca–in for a surprise that will change what they thought they knew about themselves and their kind.

Seeped in Irish history and mythology, The Holders is a riveting journey of self discovery that left me desperate for more. I enjoyed the setting and exploration of the mysterious powers the Holders have, the growth of Becca as she realised her temper and impetuous nature weren’t always the answer, and the slow, cute development of the romance. Basically, I liked everything about this book.

The book begins with Becca trying to save her brother from being taken away by two strange men, the latest in a string of doctors and specialists who want to diagnose him as mentally unstable. She reacts with anger and harsh words, which I thought was inappropriate, but eventually realised that what these men propose is probably the best thing for Ryland. She offers to go with her brother to help him settle in, and to make sure he will be safe.

Becca is fiery and prone to loud outbursts whenever things don’t go her way, and although it was entertaining at first, it quickly became annoying. However, in the new setting of St. Brigid’s, she is surrounded by people who won’t take her bullshit, and she has to learn to resolve her problems in other ways. I also liked that Becca was quick to recognise that she was crushing on Alex but was able to push it away to help her brother. She never abandoned her duties and responsibilities to be with Alex, which I found empowering.

As a reader, it was easy to see that Alex had fallen for her as hard as she had fallen for him, but Becca (of course) couldn’t see it. Which, although a little frustrating, made the romance quite exciting. Finally, there is a male lead who isn’t the bad-boy, mysterious stranger type, who wears his emotions on his sleeve and isn’t afraid to show us when he’s hurt, who isn’t any more special than the others around him, is part of a team but not their leader, who is genuinely nice and cares for everyone around him, who does amazing things for Becca without expecting anything in return. Alex breaks all the YA moulds, and boy, was I glad. And finally, a woman who falls for the man, not his usual good looks or powers or eyes or voice or any one of the other hundred things YA girls seem to always fall for without realising the guy behind them is bad news.

One thing I really liked were the interactions between Becca and her father. I think the situation was handled well, even delicately by the author, who never once preached, but managed to show us how anger and hurt can cloud our better judgement. I liked that an adult didn’t back down from apologising to his child, that a child could be shown to take the first steps towards reconciliation, and that never, not once, were Becca’s feelings trivialised.

Another intriguing thing about the book is the world building. We’ve seen it before – in Heroes, in X-Men, and a dozen other places besides, but the twist Scott gives it – the dilution of powers across generations, the longevity it grants the users, the prophesy and the way it unfolds – are cool. I felt uncomfortable the moment Scott made it clear that the powers tend to run in the male lines, and that women, if they do develop powers, are never as powerful as the men. It seemed … defeatist, sexist, wrong. But then, it’s the author’s prerogative to create their world how they want to. I do, however, think it’s a cop out to then have Becca come along and defy all the rules, because I feel that if authors create all these rules in their worlds, it’s wrong to them have the protagonist systematically break them all like Becca does.

I really, really liked The Holders, and I recommend it to all readers of YA who are looking for something a bit darker, more mature. In typical Strange Chemistry style, this book swept me away and I was unable to put it down until I had finished. I am eagerly awaiting the sequel, The Seers, which is due for release sometime next year.

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