When reality is stranger than fiction, and family history is unveiled in a new light, inner strength and fortitude shine bright for teenager Josephine Lavoie.
Patricia Ward’s new YA novel, The Cherished, is an exploration of belonging, a tale of generational trauma, and a fantasy thriller oozing with mystery around every corner. Readers are introduced to Josephine, who goes by JoJo, through a family party with wealthy grandparents and a mother who has remarried after the death of JoJo’s father.
JoJo is longing for the days she can escape what she sees as a dead end of comfort without enjoyment when a letter arrives at her home announcing she has inherited a house and its tenants from her estranged grandmother in Maine. Ecstatic at the opportunity to leave her life behind for new adventures, JoJo convinces her mother to take her to the property.
The excitement soon turns to cautious intrigue as JoJo is forced to confront her painful past, shared with the reader only in confused snippets of dreams and flashback sequences. Soon, JoJo begins to realize the stories her father told before his psychiatric treatment and eventual death were more than fairy tales.
Mythical lore of cruel kidnappings and a town of terror seep into JoJo’s cherished memories of her father and grandmother as a young girl. Reality becomes a cruel reimagining of everything JoJo thought she knew about her family’s murky past, and the teen finds herself thrown into a violent family history she desperately wants to rewrite. Fairies and otherworldly magic reveal a haunting tale of forgiveness, family, and grief as JoJo races to save a town and protect her mother.
The real crux of the plot doesn’t seem to occur until well into the last third of the novel, but the worldbuilding and character backstories that take up most of the story are filled with complex relationships and humorous quips. The Cherished features a wonderful ensemble of characters who bring depth to JoJo’s angsty teen feelings and ground the otherwise fantastical story in a modern sense. The imagery paints a portrait of decay at the same time JoJo infuses a modern edge to a centuries-old setting.
Among the heavy topics are also moments of relief, as JoJo spends a good half of the book seemingly lost without an internet connection or cell phone reception. At times slow, and at other times all too fast, the pacing of the story is occasionally difficult to grapple with, though this feeling for the reader does mimic the pain of the characters in the race against time.
The Cherished is a great choice for YA readers looking for a story about love and loss who won’t mind that story being built within the fantasy genre. The trauma, grief, and eventual partial healing of the characters take center stage in this novel.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, HarperCollins, for review.