Article first published as Book Review: Riser by Becca C. Smith on Blogcritics.
Chelsan learned at a young age that she has a strange and macabre talent when she killed her brutal and malevolent stepfather. Using her own talent of re-animation, she has maintained the facade not only for her mother but also in order to live a seemingly normal family life. Finding she could not be very far from the corpse though, she found herself quite restricted, including in her choice of schools. The only school close enough to keep up this charade, was a wealthy private school. Understanding she would be out of her element, she is accepted to attend.
Living in a trailer park, barely eking out an existence, she and her family do not have the type of money that those from her new school find necessary. Befriended by two different students, Nancy and Bill, she is relieved. They like her and are not ashamed to be with her. Nancy, because she can and does not care what others think, and Bill, while he has the same motivation, is also one of the richest kids, and makes his own rules. It is Ryan Vaughn though that really intrigues Chelsan. While he tutored her, he was kind and considerate, and just a bit shy. Once the tutoring was completed though, he then barely seemed to acknowledge she existed.
In Riser by Becca C Smith, we follow the lives of Chelsan and her friends. When Chelsan’s life is turned upside down by the death of her beloved mother and her already dead stepfather, she feels as though she has nowhere to turn. In an odd dream like state her mother is able to communicate to her how she was killed as well as how Chelsan became the way she is. It is only now that Ryan makes a stand to stick with her, but Bill and Nancy rally around as well. However, one student in the school, Jill, continues to mimic and create problems for Chelsan, setting her up for trouble at every turn.
Now hunted by the man responsible for her mother’s death, she must make some decisions, and utilize the help and ingenuity of her friends. Death and danger seem to follow them everywhere, and Chelsan finds she must take a stand. Can she and her friends end the killing and find a way for others to hold those responsible, accountable for their actions? Using her skills and talent, can she overcome one of the most powerful men in the world?
Smith has found an interesting and unique talent to highlight her heroine. She brings us a futuristic world, and yet maintains a realistic verve, by creating a very life like rendition of high school as a backdrop. She introduces many of the same games and hazing that occurs in schools everywhere, an used this spring board to catapult our characters into danger and despair.
The characters are wonderful, very much like those we encounter at school and at home, although coming from a high-end lifestyle. They have the same fears and prejudices that create many of the same problems world over, and it is easy to understand the insecurities. Even Jill our protagonist engenders a bit of sympathy at times, based on the information we learn about her own background.
This is a fast paced book full of energy, but with a unique blend of both the believable and unbelievable. We have a form of zombies, a bit of transference, a futuristic world, great friendships, and romance.
This is a fun and frenetic YA read, and if you are your family enjoy fantasy with any of the above mixtures this will be a hit. The action is exciting, the story is both sad and yet a bit strange and the romance is fun. Throw in some re-animation of not just dead people, but bugs and plants as well, you get a generous helping of this unique and strangely credible talent. Smith has written a distinctive and compelling story full of generous and interesting characters, with just that blend of evil and destruction that keeps you guessing.
This book was received through the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.