Book Review – ‘Caleo’ (Leech # 1) by James Crawford

Promising.

caleo-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, GLBT

No. of pages: 294

From Goodreads:

Every High School has their social outcasts. The band nerds, the math geeks, the chess club, the girl that chews her hair, but at Butler High, even the creepy nose picker in the chess club is more popular than Caleo Anima. No matter what he did, his pale skin, snow white hair, and piercing blue eyes always made him an easy target. He used to think that the only way things could get worse would be if someone found out that he was gay, but that isn’t even the tip of the iceberg of problems after a mysterious stranger shows up and changes Caleo’s life forever.

Hidden amongst our society, a secret and magical race of people known as ‘Leeches’, have been engaging in civil war for decades. Both sides are desperately searching for a weapon with unlimited power that will give them the advantage they need to rule their world. This wouldn’t mean anything to Caleo, except for one problem…He is that weapon!

Forget making it through High School. Caleo has bigger problems! As the search for him goes on, the world is quickly crumbling around him. He’s now fighting for his life and the life of what little family he has left. With the help of new friends, he has little time to try and master his newly found powers as he tries to figure out who he can trust, who is trying to use him, and who just wants him dead. One wrong step and being the awkward pale outcast will be the least of his worries.

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This book made a place in my heart and nestled there. What a wonderful adventure. It was such a pleasant surprise for a gay themed YA paranormal not to be all about the gay thing. Caleo was a story about a teen discovering and navigating the world of his burgeoning powers, and the political landscape of others like him. It was very X-men-like with warring factions and other people with special abilities.

Some aspects of the story-telling really held this book back for me however. The writing style at the beginning felt almost staccatoed. Stuttering along until the story found its legs. As well as the main characters’ behaviour and reactions, more fitting to youths around thirteen and fourteen years of age. And then there were some of those overused tropes: The love triangle, the ugly loner main character who turns out to be the most special one of all, the in love with your best friend thing… I was grinding my teeth together. After the first five chapters this story moves along and gets really good. I just would have liked to have seen some of these stereotypical devices switched out for something a lot more dynamic and turn Caleo into something to knock the competition out of the park.

The pacing is fantastic after we get over that stumbling first section; and it increases and builds with tension right up to the end. I didn’t want to put the book down. I did get a little frustrated about two thirds of the way through when the story line switched gears and the love interests of our protagonist, Caleo, got a switch-hit in dominance from the narrative. It was literally flipped in a page, and nothing was developed around it. A very weak turning point, or change in perception… I don’t know, it just didn’t completely work for me.

caleo-book-review-pic-3-by-casey-carlisleI really liked Caleo’s struggle with hiding who he really is from those who he loves: whether it be coming out as gay, or revealing his ability, different people got to see different versions of him. His fears felt very real and motivated a lot of Caleo’s actions. At times he seemed to have bouts of immaturity or even anger that I found confusing, but I’m chalking it up to a testosterone thing… But on the whole he is a likable, relatable protagonist, and I became very invested in his story.

Jack annoyed the crap out of me. In the first half of the novel he didn’t seem to care much for Caleo, letting him get in harms way far too much. I’m sure there could have been a more palatable dynamic to their relationship. It seemed like they were mates who looked away when the other was in physical danger. That appearing tough and popular to peers was more important to Jack than saving Caleo from some pretty serious beatings. Later in the second half of the story Jack became enraged and jealous, even over small things, which, effectively being Caleo’s step-brother, was somewhat uncomfortable. So I’m on the fence with Jack, he seems impulsive, flippant and a little unstable.

Jillian was everything you’d expect from a pig-headed, yet loving step sister. I was living for her throughout the entire story. As I was Grandma. Both of these women kicked ass.

It was also refreshing to see the family dynamic play out in the storyline, they stuck together, had each others back, and did things without question. I was really cheering for them to survive everything that was being thrown at them.

Nolan turned out to be my favourite. He has a quiet masculinity that appealed to me. He seemed to respect where Caleo’s head was at and never pressured him. So I was angered when the narrative switched gears and suddenly Nolan was pushed to the periphery. It strongly felt like a storytelling device to give Jack some of the spotlight and fuel a love triangle. I was also annoyed at the continual interruptions, I wanted them to have a break so I could really find out what was going on.

Caleo ends with major cliff hangers – I didn’t feel like I got a whole lot of resolution, so, luckily I bought this novel with its two sequels…. It better give me some sort of pay off otherwise I’ll be really angry. The books are fairly short, we don’t get a great deal of answers, I recommend the trilogy as a whole instead of the book as a singular, but only if you sit comfortably with some really overused YA tropes. Great escapism for me 🙂

Overall feeling: pretty good…

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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