Book Review: Destiny Awaits by Jaidis Shaw

This fast-paced novel is the first book in the Juniper Grove Chronicles. I enjoyed the premise of the story: a young woman has moved to a new town after the death of her family. She has always thought herself to be a bit strange, but that was nothing compared to the strange people she meets in her new home, Juniper Grove. The book started out quickly, which made the pages fly by, but I felt that Alayna accepted the strangeness of Juniper Grove just a little too readily, as well as the fact that she was madly in love with Jayden. I would have liked a little more chemistry before they decide they are madly in love (their feelings make sense later, though, after learning some of the back-story).

Still, the quick beginning meant getting to the meat of the story much faster. I was sitting in my hammock reading, and before I knew it, I had read 45% of the book! About a third of the way in, I was hooked: Jayden’s parents had arrived, providing back-story and making Jayden a three-dimensional character whose love for Alayna seemed justified; Alayna was already involved in a major conflict with a woman from Jayden’s home; and the mystery surrounding Alayna’s new powers was beginning to be revealed. I won’t give out too many spoilers, but if you enjoy paranormal elements, you will enjoy this story. The narrator’s voice made her easy to like and compelled me to read on to learn what happens to her.

Now the picky part. As a writer myself (and an English/creative writing teacher), I have a habit of picking apart style. In fact, I have been known to fuss at first-person point of view because often I don’t like the “voice” of the protagonist. But in this case, I liked Alayna’s personality, and I appreciated the story coming from her perspective—it was as if I were sitting and listening to a good friend tell me her story.

In fact there were just two elements of style that stuck out enough to be noticed in this book because both elements slowed down my reading. The first was under-use of contractions in dialogue. The characters often spoke without contractions, making their dialogue slow and stiff. It wasn’t a major issue, but it did slow down my reading just a bit. The second element was the narrator’s tendency to “over-explain,” sometimes providing lots of little details—such as describing how many towels Alayna used after getting out of the shower (too many insignificant details, in my opinion)—and other times providing too many explanations in the middle of dialogue. Many of the dialogue tags contained secondary action, but in my opinion, not all this action was necessary, and it slowed my reading. At times, I felt the dialogue should stand on its own without Alayna feeling like she must re-explain something to the reader that the reader already picked up on in Alayna’s conversations with others.

Still, the story and plot was strong enough to power me through these two stylistic elements. I enjoyed the story: it was suspenseful and compelling, and I felt like I really got to know the characters. I would recommend this book to fans of the paranormal—a fast and enjoyable read. It promises to be a compelling series, and I look forward to the second book.

I was given a copy of this novel in exchange for a book review. This review is my honest opinion.

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