Title: Emerald City
Author: Alicia K. Leppert
Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Theme(s): Angels, Suicide, Depression
Length: 320 pgs
Published: 10 April 2012; Cedar Fort, Inc.
Buy: amazon.com, bn.com
Synopsis: Olivia Tate is a broken shell of a girl haunted by the tragic events that fill her past. She has closed herself off from the world, each day grasping at something—anything—to live for. Convinced there will never be a way out, she seeks solace in the depths of her medicine cabinet. When she wakes up days later in the hospital she is introduced to Jude, the quiet stranger responsible for saving her life. She never could have guessed then that her mysterious rescuer would end up saving her life a second time, while simultaneously turning her world upside down.
My Review: I am not sure what it was about the synopsis of Emerald City that caught my attention. Yes, I am a sucker for romance and "mysterious" heroes, so maybe it was that aspect of the summary that made me click the "request" button on netgalley. I definitely don't regret it, even though this debut novel by Alicia K. Leppert turned out to be quite different then what I expected it to be.
As the synopsis states, the story opens with a harrowing scene of attempted suicide. Olivia is a 20 year old shell of a young woman, broken down by losing everyone that has meant something to her. Abandoned by even her best friend, Olivia has attempted to eke out her own life by working and owning her own apartment. But she lives like a robot, going through the motions without truly seeing or feeling, barely eating or full-filling other social or physical needs. After a particularly bad day at work, swallowing a bottle of anxiety pills becomes her answer to her problems. One minute Olivia feels nothing and is greeted by white light, the next she is waking up in the hospital, told she has been saved by her mysterious neighbor named Jude. And so Olivia's journey begins, her fight back to mental and physical wellness, finding something worth living for... Sounds like a pretty straight forward, contemporary novel, right?
I battled back and forth on how much I should reveal about Emerald City in my review. But after some careful thinking and seeing that other reviewers have talked about what I wanted to reveal, I decided to go for it. If you haven't figured it out already, Emerald City is actually a paranormal romance and our mysterious hero, Jude, is an...angel! Now hold that thought.
Here is what I liked about the novel. I think the author did a great job with capturing the realistic nature of depression and suicide. I completely disagree with another reviewer in regards to how long it takes to heal after suffering a great loss. In the book, Olivia's mother killed herself a year before. Another reviewer felt that her depression lasting a year over the death of her mother felt unrealistic. They felt that after a couple of months, Olivia should have been able to start healing from her loss. Seriously?? Who puts a limit on the grieving process? Everyone deals with loss differently, so I thought the author dealt with the subject conscientiously.
Emerald City is filled with great characterization. The author really takes her time to build the relationships between her characters. While some other reviewers felt it may have taken too long for the relationship between Olivia and Jude to begin to really blossom, I thought it was a nice change from some of the typical "instant love" romances out there. I also like the fact that the author didn't bog the story down with tons of secondary characters. Not that I have issues with secondary characters, but Alicia K. Leppert does a great job making the characters she has three dimensional. One of my favorites is Hal, the mysterious homeless man that Jude always goes to when he needs to borrow materialistic things, like a truck, money, etc. I know, sounds weird, right? How can a homeless man have those kinds of connections? Read to find out :)
Even though the paranormal element wasn't really evident until about halfway through the book, I liked the angel mythology that was introduced. In Alicia K. Leppert's world, her angels don't have any wings. Heaven is not located in the sky, but is hidden in some sort of alternate dimension. Spirits are kept separate from angels. There are also many different kinds of angels, like ones that comfort you before you pass on, those that guard you, etc.
Now to my issues with Emerald City. A few are minor and are just thoughts/questions I had while reading. Olivia owns her own apartment in Seattle, but only works at a cafe shop. Is that realistic? Olivia swallows a whole bottle of pills but somehow Jude convinces the hospital it was an "accident". Really?? Apparently he did not use any of his "heavenly" influences to convince the hospital staff that it was an accident. It doesn't sound plausible.
When Olivia is at one of her therapy sessions, she thinks to herself that she doesn't want to reveal that Jude is the one that saved her. She tells Dr. Robinson that she has been spending time with a guy and that he is her neighbor. Then later in the conversation, she mentions that her savior the night she tried killing herself was her neighbor. Wait, didn't she just give it away??? I think it was one of those unconscious errors the author made and the editor didn't catch it. A little proof reading and rewording would have solved that mistake.
Also, without giving away too much, there is a part where Olivia is able to "meet" Jude's mother on the other side. I thought this was a bit odd since I would have thought that if the author was going to go in that direction with the story, it would be Olivia's mother that she would be able to see. Considering the fact that she has regrets about her mother's death and wishing she had the chance to talk with her one last time, I'm not sure what purpose was gained by making it be Jude's mother whom she meets. Again, maybe it slipped the author's mind, but I thought adding Jude's mom to the mix was a bit of an odd angle.
Lastly-- and this is my biggest issues and sadly, I don't think this is the author's fault-- I think Emerald City was completely marketed wrong. Back to my earlier comment, I first went into this novel thinking it was going to be a contemporary YA novel. Then I started reading it, and with Olivia's age being revealed at 20 and the serious/grimness of the depression and suicide attempt, I thought wow, maybe this is more of an adult novel. Then the angel concept was intertwined and I came to the conclusion that this is a YA paranormal romance for older teens. On top of the genre confusion, throw in a completely ambiguous cover art and book title, and you have yourself a hot mess of confusion. Now, I have talked to enough authors to know cover art is usually completely out of their hands. But I am still stuck on the title. Sometimes authors have a say, sometimes they don't. Other then Jude's green eyes which are mentioned quite a bit throughout the novel, I can't figure out what "Emerald City" means. And it absolutely does not help market the book at all.
Emerald City was not a bad read. I think the author captures the realistic and ugly stages of grief, depression, and suicide. I liked that the paranormal elements were introduced a bit later in the book. It was a nice change to see the relationship between two characters take its time to develop rather then using the instant love formula that we see so much in YA novels. Great characterization, interesting angel mythology held the story together. But a few plot holes such as poor editing, combined with the terrible marketing of this book is why it only gets a 3 out of 5 star rating. I think paranormal romance fans will miss out on Emerald City because they won't know about it. Thank God I am open minded! Someone who picks up this novel thinking its a contemporary romance may leave a worse review simply because they felt misled.