Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Length: 416 pgs
Series: Goodnight Family #1
Format: Hardcover, borrowed from my local library
Amy Goodnight knows that the world isn’t as simple as it seems—she grew up surrounded by household spells and benevolent ghosts. But she also understands that “normal” doesn’t mix with magic, and she’s worked hard to build a wall between the two worlds. Not only to protect any hope of ever having a normal life.
Ranch-sitting for her aunt in Texas should be exactly that. Good old ordinary, uneventful hard work. Only, Amy and her sister, Phin, aren’t alone. There’s someone in the house with them—and it’s not the living, breathing, amazingly hot cowboy from the ranch next door.
It’s a ghost, and it’s more powerful than the Goodnights and all their protective spells combined. It wants something from Amy, and none of her carefully built defenses can hold it back.
This is the summer when the wall between Amy’s worlds is going to come crashing down.
It’s official: Rosemary Clement-Moore is an unsung hero of YA literature. This is the second book of hers that I’ve read in the past year or so and I’m hooked. I just want to follow her around and beg her for more, more about the Goodnights, more about magic, more about Amy and Ben. I’d even settle for hearing more about those infuriating goats that wouldn’t stay out of the trees. Texas Gothic gets five stars because it made me laugh out loud, it made me cheer for the characters, and it was fun. The perfect read to get away from the mundane of everyday life.
Ten Reasons Why You Should Be Reading Texas Gothic RIGHT NOW:
1.Atmosphere. Clement Moore is gifted at creating locations so vivid that the reader can’t help but feel as if they’re standing right behind the characters in a tiny ranch town in Texas. Earlier I read The Splendor Falls and Clement-Moore has such a gift for creating such beautiful novels that really seem to capture the essence of the South, whether it be the culture of the townsfolk, the geography of the rolling plans and fields, or the eerie forests and caves the characters often find themselves in. I’ve never been to the South, but through Celement-Moore’s novels I have been, and it’s a place that’s so beautiful I have to trouble believing magic thrives there.
2.Good ‘ol Fashioned Mystery. I grew up on Harry Potter and Nancy Drew and Clement-Moore manages to capture the purity of mystery those series both have- a whodunnit? vibe that’s fun and keeps the pages turning. There’s good old fashioned sleuthing, tons of trespassing, and a lot of knocking-out and kidnap. Just like Nancy, Amy serves as a protagonist that becomes way too entrenched in a mystery to let it go, and as a reader I found myself turning the pages late into the night every time a new clue came up. Even though the plot may have been a bit predictable, the journey through the story was so much fun that it didn’t really bother me.
3.Witches!Back before the paranormal craze took off, it was witches running the show when it came to spooks and fantasy, rather than the plethora of vampires, werewolves, etc. Paranormal in Texas Gothic is that of the traditional witches and ghosts variety, which plenty of hauntings, omens (the “heebie-jeebies”, which serve as a sort of family-emergency intuition system), and potions (Goodnight “Clear Your Head” Shampoo literally does just that). I wish the book would have introduced us to more of the Goodnights and their “kitchen magic,” and as much as I sympathized with Amy’s desire to keep her family out of scrutiny and ridicule, it was refreshing to see how unashamed they were of their magic.
4.The Goodnights. Amy’s family was charming (ha-ha, unintentional pun). The whole premise of her family, that they use their powers to market products to the rest of the world, such as Aunt Hyacinth’s lotions and soaps and Phin’s crazy gadgets that aid her paranormal research. It was fun to see science, anthropology, and magic merged into one, and I liked the idea that paranormal research can be academic. Amy’s family may come across as exasperating from her POV, but personally each one is captivating in their own quirky way, from Phin’s extreme literalism and explosions to Daisy’s omnipotence and ironic goth clothing. Also, the fact that each of the members of the family have their own specific magical affinity? So good.
5.Mild Creeps. I’m definitely more in the faint-of-heart category when it comes to horror. I can count the number of horror movies I’ve seen on one hand, and they’ve been pretty tame. I do better with scary books, but not by much, but I won’t admit that sometimes there’s something fun about being scared (but am I the only one who was equally horrified and intrigued by La Llorona? I want to know more). And Clement-Moore does a great job creating a spooky atmosphere in the novel that’s just enough to set you on a bit of an edge while reading without being unable to read it alone at night (which is usually when I did). Texas Gothic was actually less creepy than The Splendor Falls which actually made it hard for me to sleep for a couple of nights…regardless, the book has enough fantastical elements that you want to be ghost-hunting right along with the gang, and it’s hard to be a skeptic when there’s so much enthusiasm from the characters.
6.The Romance. Ok, so I’m probably a tad bit older than the intended age group for this kind of romance, but I just really loved the realism of it- Amy goes through the ups and downs of trying to deal with teenage hormones and hot and cold boys in a way that’s so frustrating it has to be true. And Ben. Maybe it was just the southern manners and charm, but I just loved his character. He was so down to earth, irritatingly practical, and had real person worries, rather than the paranormal love interest who’s so unrealistic but happens to fall for the completely normal girl somehow trend going on in YA fiction. Though there’s a lot of bickering throughout the book, and a lot of unfair prejudices and emotional barriers that have to be taken down, there’s a lot of chemistry and a resolution at the end of the book that’s not neat and precise- it’s meaningful and messy, just like real relationships are.
7.The Peripheral Characters. Clement-Moore did a fantastic job fleshing out even the characters who only appeared in a few scenes without making the book to cluttered. The dig team was hilarious and you learn just enough about each member to a)remember who they are, b)care about them, and c)feel as though you’re right there along with them at the dig site or the hitching post. And who doesn’t like Mark, the totally normal grad student who takes the Goodnight way of life in stride, being a nice juxtaposition to all of the rest of the skeptics in town. See, normal people can totally believe in magic too.
8.College Kids I’ve noticed others mentioning that this book is unique in that the cast of characters are all in undergrad or grad school, a nice change from the usual high schoolers that appear in YA novels. As a college student myself, I often feel trapped in that limbo where my age group isn’t often represented in literature, falling into the awkward category between the adult section and the YA teen section (leaving you feeling super awkward in the library when all the teenyboppers are glaring at you like you’re a freak from behind their headphones while they watch Youtube videos instead of read and the adults glare at you as if you’re a nuisance in the regular fiction section from behind their newspapers). I think the YA genre has a great potential for a broader base of college characters- in fact, it could be a brand new genre of its own accord!
9.A Normal Protagonist. Ok, so Amy’s a witch, so she’s technically not “normal,” but she’s believable- she’s not built like a supermodel, she doesn’t always have the perfect witty response at the tip of her tongue, she’s not overly clumsy, and she acknowledges her lust as what it is, and not life-alterting-love-at-first-sight. She gets sunburns and scrapes, isn’t always camera ready and is stressed out about dealing with family drama. Amy sounds a lot like my friend, or my classmate, or even me.
10.It’s just Fun. Ok, I know I’ve said this a thousand times in my review, but it’s the truth, Not every five star rating belongs to something in the canon. For me, this book gave me an outlet, an adventure, it took me away and into the story, it made me want to be bickering with Ben and brewing potions over a burner on my stove. Don’t take yourself so seriously, and read something that really lets you feel like you’ve just hung out with some of your best friends or your own crazy family.
Overall: I’m in love with the goodnight family, in love with the author, in love with the magic, and super devastated that the “sequel” doesn’t focus on Amy’s story, but rather follows her cousin Daisy’s…although I sincerely hope this means that Clement-Moore has a lot more left to tell us about the Goodnights.
[…] 5) Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore- A recent read with a throwback vibe to the old school mysteries of Nancy Drew and Scooby Doo. With the much neglected witches in YA paranormal fiction and a vivid southern atmosphere, this was my first five-star read of 2014. Read my review here. […]
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