Moa by Tricia Stewart Shiu
My rating on a 100-point scale: 62
I read Moa, by Tricia Stewart Shiu, for its Novel Publicity book tour. Below are my comments and thoughts on this supernaturally-focused novel.
First, I really like the way each chapter begins with an"spell" or ritual. This is original and unique, and I find it interesting, as I have never explored this kind of spiritual release. I love that the author has added such a personal and unique touch to this amazing story.
Second, I found the story of the novel captivating. The author developed points of view well and the story was well told (here, I am referring mostly to detail, evocation of emotion, etc).
However I may like the author's story and unique twists, I must focus on the simply superficial for a little while, since I feel these things raise questions. Consider that I do not intend to draw attention to the faults of the novel or author, but I must mention the following things for my piece of mind. These statements are my personal opinions, but I must be honest. Take these statements with a grain of sugar and salt; they are meant to be constructive criticism at best. Keep in mind as you read the following that I tend to focus on the negative side of works that I have most recently read, and that it is human nature to focus on the negative.
First on my negative side of this review, there are a few things that tend to put this book alongside many others by novice writers. I only point out these things to bring attention to them for those who may be willing to fix them, so that they do not distract the reader as they did me. The writing is rocky at times: there are problems with using punctuation correctly and the wording tends to be odd or confusing sometimes, so that the reader needs to reread sentences to understand them on occasion. Though details are great in places, there are many more places than not that need better description and detail. The drawings/sketches and paintings distract further alongside the typos/errors in the text; they are obviously hand drawn/hand painted and seemingly unrelated to the text, though most are abstract and the main character is technically abstract. It feels like the narrator is talking down to the reader sometimes; this tends to happen when the narrator is directly telling the audience things, when she is setting up exposition, for example. Also, dialogue tags are overdone sometimes: she "quips," for example. I even caught a second-person perspective pronoun amidst the mostly first-person told story. And my last comment concerns Hawaiian names, which I know virtually nothing of: are they naturally really long? or is the author playing with the audience's ability or inability to read foreign names?
Overall, I feel this is a great story that should be shared with the world, and I feel like it belongs in the category of youth fiction, if it isn't already. I personally think the author needs a better editor and better feedback from readers before publishing.
Eighteen-year-old, Hillary Hause’s left thumb searches frantically to turn on the “I’m Okay to Fly” hypnotherapy recording. Her nerves on edge, fuchsia fingernails press into the blue pleather armrests of her airplane seat.
“No spells can help you now,” she whispers to herself under her breath—then checks to see if anyone notices. Nope, they don’t.
The plane lifts through the early morning, gray fog of California, “June Gloom” giving way to the azure sky, and Hillary covers her curly brown head and retreats beneath the questionably clean plane blanket cranking the volume to drown out the drone of the engines.
“Outer shell close to breaking.” This time she doesn’t care if anyone hears.
I hover just beyond her “outer shell”—a movement in the periphery, a faintly familiar scent, a fond memory just beyond recognition, a non-human observer. Before the week is up, Hillary will save my life, as I will hers. But, for now, more about Hillary.
The drink cart rolls past the blanket, which has, by now become a moist steamy cave.
“Hey, freak. I hope your plane crashes.” The memory reverberates through her brain despite her attempts to distract herself with the hypnotherapy recording. She increases the volume, but the ugly conversation, which occurred just before school ended, still haunts her mind.
“I guess the only people they check on those flights are the suspicious ones,” Krystal Sykes, a bully from her home room, leans in as Hillary hastens to grab books for her next class. Krystal, also a senior, has hounded Hillary since the first day of freshman year and this is the final day during the final hour at this tiny high school of 376 students —where everyone knows everyone else’s business.
“Look, Krystal.” Hillary turns her eyes toward the sneering blonde. “It’s the last day of school, we’ll never see each other again. Can you give it a rest?” These are the most words the two young women have exchanged in the entire four years of high school.
A look of shock replaces Krystal’s smug snick, “Oh, so now you talk.” She leans in, so close that her spray tan becomes a patchy Impressionist painting. Her pores are blotched with cakey, two shades too dark powder, her unblended cream eyeshadow creases across the center of her lid and her tropical breeze flavored breath threatens to strangle the words right out of Hillary.
“I know all about your witchcraft practices and have made a few spells of my own. Trust me. You’ll never make it to your sister’s house in Hawaii.” Krystal’s backpack jingles and Hillary watches her spin around and skip down the hall.
Hillary is not a witch. She has, however, carefully crafted a “shell” to protect herself from bullies like Krystal—who, as far as Hillary can tell—is not a witch either. She has watched Krystal throughout elementary, middle and high school and has not been able to discern whether or not she practices witchcraft. No matter what Krystal’s background, her intent is to harm. And there is nothing worse than a spell with an aim to hurt. Hillary has had no choice but to remain in a constant state of defensiveness.
The twenty-minute recording ends and Hillary falls into a troubled sleep—feeling every bump and hearing every creak of the plane.
With about an hour left in the flight, Hillary awakens with a “turtle headache.” Hillary’s older sister Molly taught her this term which means a headache caused by sleeping too long underneath the covers of one’s bed.
Sadly, Molly lost her husband, Steve, last year in an unfortunate surfing accident. The throbbing pain in Hillary’s left temple could be the result of remaining submerged beneath an airplane blanket and wedged between the window and armrest, or it could be from worry about how Molly and her niece, Heidi are dealing with their devastating loss.
Disoriented, Hillary pokes her head out just in time to glimpse puffy clouds and sparkling sea below. A flood of excitement and sheer wonder flows through Hillary in the form of a tingle from her head to her toes. And then, a lovely thought: “…And for an Everlasting Roof, The Gambrels of the Sky…” She will enjoy this plane ride, thanks in part to Emily Dickinson.