Thank you to the lovely Southern Book Bloggers for allowing me the chance to be on the ARC tour for this book!
I've been trying to get my mind around The Archived enough to write a clear, concise review. There is a LOT going on in this book that merits discussion.
Then I remembered I never write clear, concise reviews, so we're going to do this all haphazard, as usual.
Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.
Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.
Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.
Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous-it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da's death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.
In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.
THE ARCHIVED is undeniably well-written. Victoria Schwab created a thought-provoking, beautiful, frightening, and eerie world in the Narrows and The Archive. Her descriptions are always spot-on, never overdone. Read slowly and take the time to visualize what she's writing about. It's worth it.
Each character and his or her reaction to the losses they've faced were heart-breakingly well drawn and true-to-life. And therein lies my issue with The Archived: This is such a sad book for me. I don't mean that it ends in a tragic way. It closes on a rather hopeful note, actually.
But the novel is almost a meditation on grief and loss, and Schwab does the dang thing right, people.
I cried. A lot.
Mackenzie is so broken inside from the loss of her Da and even more from the unsolved hit-and-run death of her little brother Ben, she's kind of a shell of a person. And that's hard to read, when it's written so believably. Maybe it's because I have a ten year old son (Ben's age when he died), but when Mackenzie really lets herself feel the loss of Ben, I was just a blubbering mess.
There's not much comic relief, but the lighter moments come from Wesley Ayers, and he is a different love interest from many I've read lately. He has an almost violently chipper demeanor, and is so determinedly positive he's like a ball of sunshine next to Mac's nearly constant sadness. You know who he and Mackenzie reminded me of a little? Jesse and Becca from Pitch Perfect. But that might just be because I am currently obsessed with the music from this movie.
*Just put that heavy eyeliner on the guy instead of the girl, and mentally erase the smile on her face, and Presto! You've got Wes and Mac. BTW, I have been singing all the Pitch Perfect songs in my head for days...I'm beginning to think I have a problem.*
Nitpick: I have a little bit of a hard time believing Mac can kick butt so thoroughly at age 16 against deranged Histories who are fueled by terror and desperation as they try to escape The Narrows. And I have an even harder time believing she had been doing it since she was 12.
I'd give the book a solid "B". The characters were nicely developed and their situations interesting, but I needed more action and less grieving. That's just a personal thing, because I don't handle sad very well. A book as lovely as this deserves all the praise it's getting, but I was a bit overwhelmed by all the loss the characters endure. Still, it's a unique book and like nothing I've read before. Definitely worth giving it a shot.