The Holders

The Holders - Julianna Scott Actual rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Woah, my feelings about this one were all over the place when I finished it. On the one hand, The Holders was definitely not the book I was expecting or that the synopsis made it sound like it would be. When I first read the synopsis, my first thought was : cool like teen X-Men! I figured it would have more of a fantasy feel, rather then sci-fi. I wasn't wrong about that bit but I had seriously overestimated how big of a role the actual paranormal elements would have. To me this read like a YA romance with some paranormal elements mixed in there. I also thought the pacing could have been a bit more balanced. That being said, I did enjoy the concise storytelling style used by author Julianna Scott and the well-developed & likeable characters did a good job of keeping me interested.

The Holders tells the story of children with special powers. One such example is Becca's little brother Ryland how can hear voices. Becca has had to protect him his whole life from people who wanted to 'help' Ryland, but only wanted to have him locked up or medicated. So when two officials from St. Brigid's Academy show up at their doorstep & convince their mom to allow Ryland to attend their school for other children with abilities similar to Ryland, Becca goes into over-protective overdrive. She convinces the officials to let her tag along so she can be sure they can be trusted. Together, the travel across the ocean and begin to discover an entire race of 'Holders', other people like Ryland who have special abilities. They learn that their estranged father has secrets of his own among this world, and as Becca begins to piece together pieces of her family history - she also begins to fall for Alex, a Holder who's oddly loyal to her and the rest of her family. And just as things couldn't get any more weird, they do. And Becca will never be the same again.

So, as I'm writing this I'm still undecided as to what I thought of The Holders as a whole. I decided that writing my review might clear some things up & I figured outlining what I liked & what I didn't seemed like the simplest way to go so here it is.

-On the plus side:

As the first book in a planned series, there is enough potential here for me to want to read on. I felt like the story-telling was very concise and effective, never overly-descriptive or lacking.

The characters were all likeable and came off genuine. I especially liked the MC Becca. She was level-headed, noble & loyal though she could be rash even temperamental it never caused me to get really annoyed or frustrated with her. In fact it made her all the more real to me. I thought her common sense and judgement a refreshing change from some of the more impulsive or brash female MC 's in YA lit.

The focus on her brother and his powers also gave the story a different feel than the usual. And as seen from Becca's eyes as a normal albeit advanced older sister. Sometimes a little detail like that can give a book a whole new feel.

On the surface, I liked the concept of 'Holders' and how their powers could be controlled with sciaths (special stones or gems worn on the person help hone & direct different abilities)

'Boarding School' = a BIG plus. Especially the fact that the boarding school was in Ireland!

There were some beautiful passages about love & destiny at around 70% that had me highlighting in my kindle like crazy. Just really touching prose and effective wording to have me impressed with Julianna Scott's writing style, especially for a debut novel!

-On the minus side:

The special powers & the Holders elements really took a backseat to the potential romance that slowly emerges, and while the romance was fairly well developed and by no means insta-love, it just wasn't what I was expecting & it threw me off

There is not a lot of action in this one. At all. The first half of it not much happens to be honest. It was still compelling to read but I can see readers getting frustrated. I'll admit when I reached 50% I was like:nothing of substance has happened. And then BAM! Stuff started going down at around 51-52%!

While the love story was cute & I found it well developed, it was still kind of vanilla & I can see some people being put off by the whole thing. For me, the issue was that the whole 'romance-aspect' seemed to be the big focus of the plot. I was expecting a paranormal read with some light romance sprinkled in. Instead, I got a romance heavy read with a little bit of paranormal sprinkled in.

The actual variety of special abilities used isn't overly original. Don't expect to be blow away by their types or even the usage. Though the fresh-take on everything including concept of 'the Holders' and the usage of sciaths may be enough for some, it may not be for everyone.

All things considered, I'm still (obviously) of two minds when it comes to The Holders. On the one hand, I do see a lot of potential for the series to progress & develop that has yet to be taped in to. While the story is lacking in the action department & on overall originality, the characters & overall writing style were big pluses and that mostly made it worthwhile for me. Some passages were surprisingly touching and despite it's slow start, it still managed to keep me reading. I do hope the next installment amps it up in the magic or paranormal department. I'd recommend this one for fans of light paranormal reads with a penchant for more of a love-story mixed into it than actual action & magic.