Sunday, May 2, 2010

LikestoRead22 Goes Bed Hopping

A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of participating in the Indie Twific Awards and it was there that I stumbled upon Strange Bedfellows by the bouquet. I read an awful lot of good stories during my Indie judging stint, but this one immediately sucked me in and stuck with me. It’s a gem. In fact, I almost didn’t finish this review because once I started rereading the first chapter (looking for nuggets to mention) I got sucked in again and didn’t want to stop. But stop I did.

So here it goes…

This AU fic is a twist on Twilight, placing Edward into the role of Bella as the new kid in Forks who can’t help but notice the strange family of adopted kids sitting in the corner of the cafeteria. But, don’t start making any assumptions about what will happen. This story is fresh and different with interesting characters and a multi-faceted plot. Strange Bedfellows reads like a mystery with clues at every turn. And, like any good mystery, it’s evident that the story has been meticulously planned with crumbs for the reader to find in each chapter.

The story starts with Edward Masen, disgruntled high schooler, moving to Forks with his father to get a fresh start after the death of his mother. Edward is a typical teenager, brooding and angsty, fighting with his father, hoping he’ll make the track team and dreading starting a new school.

The intrigue starts his first day in Forks when a speeding Edward Sr. is stopped by Chief Swan, who Edward notices seems grief-stricken when he mentions his 17-year-old daughter. Later that day, Edward takes a walk in the woods and stumbles upon a beautiful meadow. His thoughts immediately turn to his mother:

Mom would have loved it here..."I wish you were here, Mom," I said aloud. I listened to the forest sounds, trying to imagine what she would say if she were here. The only responses that came to mind were trite platitudes about missing me too.

Edward’s grief is real and heartfelt. It’s with him at every turn, until his memories of his mother start to fade and dreams of a young and mysterious woman take their place. But, back to the plot summary…

After spending a few quiet hours by himself in the meadow, the sounds of the forest quiet and he has the “uncomfortable feeling” that he’s not alone. He reaches for his phone to check the time only to discover he’s lost it somewhere along his hike. But, when he returns home…

My phone was laying on the corner of the mattress, squared to the edge and face up. I was certain I hadn't put the phone down like that and the odds that it would have fallen out of my pocket in such a precise position were minuscule. I thought I had it with me when I left the house, but I couldn't be positive. However it got there, one thing was certain – no matter what, I wouldn't ask Dad about it. If he had put it there, I'd hear about it anyway.

The story uses oddities like these effectively to build the mystery and tension within Edward. But, I’m straying again from my description of the plot…

On his first day of school Edward quickly becomes disgusted with the popular group at Forks High, led by Jessica Stanley who’s bold and perky nature makes Edward wonder if she wants him “to think she [is] vapid and shallow.” But, things start to look up when his new Biology lab partner, Emmett Cullen, agrees to meet him after school to help him catch up on missed course material. Jessica warns Edward that the Cullens and Hales are "weird" and never associate with other kids, but Edward finds Emmett and Alice Cullen intriguing though he can’t help but wonder about their “strange golden brown eyes.”

This story is a great flip on Twilight canon because Edward doesn’t merely slip into Bella’s place in this story. He has his own character with a lot of depth. He’s a wonderful storyteller and a perceptive kid. You can feel his emotions as he struggles with the loss of his mother and his often absent and hostile father. Edward is yearning for more contact with people who will take the time to be his friend. He develops a touching relationship with Charlie and learns that his daughter, Bella, is in long term care hospital in Forks. After seeing her picture in Charlie’s home, Bella starts invading his thoughts and his dreams.

I considered making a private ritual of coming here [to the meadow] to think of Mom, but to my surprise, Bella Swan's face was behind my closed eyes. Although I'd never met her, the image in my mind didn't seem frozen like the photograph images of my mother. I could imagine Bella laughing, looking into my eyes….

As Edward learns more about the mysterious Bella Swan, his budding friendship with the Cullens stirs more questions than it answers and soon he’s on a mission to learn their secrets. At the same time, he learns his father is harboring secrets about his mother and Edward's frustration mounts.

OK, so that’s all I’m going to tell you about the plot. It’s a mystery and I’m not about to ruin it for you.

One of the real strengths of this story is the depth of the characters. Through Edward’s perceptive eyes we’re able to see so much. The Cullens aren’t merely canon clich├ęs and their actions aren’t always predictable. Being limited to Edward’s point of view creates an air of mystery about the Cullens and makes them more interesting and darker. And Bella’s character, initially present only in Edward’s thoughts and Charlie’s descriptions, comes off the page.

But, my favorite thing about this story is the careful way in which the plot details have been woven together and are slowly being revealed. This story is a tapestry and each thread has been carefully placed. The pacing is excellent and each chapter brings something new, and often unexpected, to add to picture.

This is one story I’m happy to recommend to one and all. The Indie judges decided this was a WIP with great potential and Strange Bedfellows is certainly living up to that expectation. I’m going to sit back and enjoy the rest of the story. I hope you’ll join me!
LikeToRead22 is an avid reader and the author ofSand and Water and 24 Hours.

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