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The Shattering by Karen Healey

December 28, 2011

So ultimately, I was a bit disappointed by Karen Healey’s debut novel, Guardian of the Dead. But I ended up absolutely loving her new book, The Shattering.

As children growing up in the tourist town of Summerton, New Zealand, Keri and Janna were close friends. They grew apart as they got older, but when Keri’s brother commits suicide, Janna is the only one who can break through Keri’s grief. It took only one sentence: “If you want to find out who killed Jake, follow me.”

Ten years ago, Janna’s older brother killed himself. Now she’s sure it wasn’t suicide, after all. Janna’s friend Sione has done some research and uncovered a string of suicides across New Zealand with a few key similarities. One of them being, all had been in Summerton on New Year’s Eve the year prior to killing themselves. Skeptical at first, Keri soon believes that Sione and Janna are right. There’s something unnaturally perfect about Summerton, and whoever is behind the perfection doesn’t want Keri, Janna, and Sione to interfere.

The basic plot of The Shattering is not new, but Healey executes it very well. Keri’s family is devastated by Jake’s suicide, and although their grief lingers throughout the story, Healey introduces the main plot—figuring out who is killing the young men who visited Summerton and framing it as suicide—almost immediately. The Shattering has an ominous, foreboding feel that reminded me a bit of Lois Duncan (though it’s been years since I’ve read any of Duncan’s books, so perhaps it’s more accurate to say it reminded me of some of her books as I remember them).

Books that alternate first- and third-person narratives don’t always work for me, but Healey effectively switches between Keri’s first-person narration and and a limited third-person from Janna and Sione’s POVs. The different POVs also contribute to one of The Shattering’s greatest assets: its diversity. Not just racial and ethnic diversity, but also in terms of sexuality and socioeconomic status. In some ways, it feels like I’m doing the book a disservice by mentioning it, because I would have enjoyed the book without it (or without as much of it), that it’s like a huge bonus. And it’s so well-integrated into the story—the influences on characters are visible and important without, for the most part, being an issue or the source of problems—that it never feels forced or false. Never feels like a book ABOUT diversity, but simply a book about three diverse characters who have each lost someone and come together to try to stop the killings.

Book source: public library.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 28, 2011 8:07 pm

    Sounds like an exciting read, and we all need books that deal with diversity without being heavy-handed. I actually really liked Guardian of the Dead, so I’ll be sure to look out for this one.

    • December 30, 2011 2:09 pm

      Yeah, I think I’m in the minority about Guardian of the Dead. There were parts of it that I really liked, but it never gelled cohesively for me, plus I was dissatisfied with the ending. But this one completely worked for me.

  2. January 1, 2012 1:48 pm

    Thanks for the review. My students keep asking for mystery/suspense books and I think this certainly fits the bill!

    Happy New Year!

    • January 2, 2012 1:54 pm

      As long as they don’t mind paranormal elements, this definitely fits the bill. Plus, it’s a Cybils finalist! Yay!

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