Book Review: The Well’s End, Seth Fishman (2014)

March 21st, 2014 12:41 pm by Kelly Garbato

Exciting and Original – But Not Without Its Flaws

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free ARC for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers program.)

To her classmates at the super-ritzy Westbrook Academy, sixteen-year-old Mia Kish will forever be known as “Baby Mia” – nevermind that she’s a star swimmer who can hold her own with the guys. “Baby Mia, who fell down a well.” That was nearly 12 years ago, but it’s a faux pas that the rich kids just won’t let this townie forget. That is, until a mysterious virus sweeps through Westbrook, causing accelerated aging in its victims and ending in a premature and rather undignified death. (Spoiler alert: bodily fluids are involved.) Now “Baby” might be the school’s last best chance at survival.

To find answers, Mia and her friends break quarantine and head for the Cave. Home of Fenton Electronics, this is where Mia’s father – ostensibly a computer engineer – spends his days. Their quest isn’t without its obstacles, however; and for Mia, this means confronting the darkness that’s long since haunted her. In the churning waters of a frozen winter lake; within the secret passageways of an old manor; inside Fenton, Colorado’s imposing aqueduct; and in the heart of the Cave, which houses a secret of its own. All roads lead to the well’s end.

Equal parts medical mystery, coming of age story, romance, and scifi/fantasy, The Well’s End is a rather original piece of ya fiction that’s not without its flaws.

The pros: Exciting and fast-paced, The Well’s End is difficult to put down. (I think I read it in three sittings.) Mia and her clique of townies make for compelling characters, and the sexual harassment and social ostracization that Mia experiences at Westbrook is all too believable. Even though Westbrook is overwhelming white (a fact not taken for granted, but specifically signaled out as if for criticism by the narrator), we have two characters of color in the form of Rob (his mother is Korean) and Jimmy (Latino). I also love that in Mia, we have a conscientious young woman who’s actually cautious about breaking quarantine because she doesn’t want to infect others. (Flash back to The Culling, where we see a CDC scientist boarding an international flight while infected with the bird flu. Ugh!)

The cons: To say that the romance between Mia and newcomer Brayden is awkward is entirely too kind. It’s also weird and uncomfortable and not a little unbelievable. I mean, copping a feel while your parents are being held captive and dying by the second? Really? Teenagers may be renown for their raging hormones, but come on! I also don’t buy that her friends would steer her so terribly wrong. And what was with that locker room scene, where Mia wished that Brayden would walk in on her changing on purpose? Sexual harassment is such a turn-on, y’all!

Once Mia and her crew reach the Cave, the story veers in a direction that’s a little too fantastical for me. The ending is left wide open for a sequel – a little too wide, perhaps. I suspect that many readers will be put off by the lack of resolution. I’m still not 100% sure how I feel about it.

Normally I have more to say in book reviews, but I can’t seem to muster strong feelings either way on this one. It was a fun read, thrilling while it lasted, but not the type of book that’s likely to hold me in its grip long after I’ve turned the final page. Still, I’ll probably give the sequel a try when it’s released.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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