Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Indie Spotlight Book Review - Harvest Moon by Megan McCooey

A year after Lexie Stone lost her sister Angela to a brutal murder, Lexie's self-obsessed mother walks out, leaving her with her alcoholic father. When Lexie becomes the target of her father's physical abuse, she makes a life changing decision...to keep her secret from everyone.

But, on the night marking five years since Angela's death, the secret Lexie has kept almost kills her, forcing her to face the aftermath of her decisions.

However, while in the hospital, Lexie receives an unexpected diagnosis and again chooses to keep secrets - denying what the doctors have told her to be true, regardless of the consequences.

Torn by her love for her sister, her three best friends and the inescapable feeling that unless she can let go of the past she may not survive...

But to do so, may mean leaving behind everything she has ever known.

I’ve been warring with myself for the past week, ever since I finished Harvest Moon.  Warring with the decision between honesty and sugar-coating, between expressing my deep admiration for the author and my…not-so-deep admiration for her novel.  In the end, of course honesty won out, but please know that I write this review with the heaviest of hearts, because the author, Megan McCooey, is one of the sweetest authors I’ve ever had the honor to talk to.  Her bright enthusiasm and kind words are going to ensure a week-long guilt binge after I post this review, but here it goes

Harvest Moon is about a teenage girl, Lexie, who was brutally abused by her father for years, and abandoned by her mother.  Her beloved sister was murdered a few years ago, and now all Lexie is left with is her small group of close friends, and her job at a bank.  Right from the concept, you know this can go one of two ways.  Handled skillfully, with class and depth, or overdone, wrought with melodrama and inconsistencies.  Unfortunately, Harvest Moon falls into the latter category.

The first thing I found hard to swallow was the fact that Lexie had been beaten brutally by her father, to the point of broken bones, for years, and yet none of her so-called best friends had any idea that she was having problems at home.  Victims of domestic abuse often try to hide it from their friends, but going through it to the degree that Lexie suffered would leave scars on her psyche that anyone who spent any length of time with her would notice.  She was abandoned by her mother and showed no love by her alcoholic, abusive father, yet we as readers are expected to believe that she managed to lead a normal life outside of her house?  I kept hoping it would get better, show some sign that her friends knew but didn’t know how to handle it, or that the abuse wasn’t as bad as the beginning would lead you to believe, or even that her father did love her beneath the alcohol’s destructive hold on him, but it really didn’t.  In fact, mere days after her father actually tries to murder her and Lexie stays with a friend’s family, during which time she’s diagnosed with cancer, her most pressing concerns are boy drama.  I’m sorry, but...no.  That is just too unrealistic.

During the novel, her father goes on trial for his crimes against his daughter, which are finally known to the world.  I won’t give all the spoilers away, but let’s just say that his final verdict was very unbelievable.  I know McCooey did an awful lot of research for her novel, and maybe with the right loop-holes and completely unfeeling monsters of a judge and jury the verdict reached could possibly maybe be justified legally, but it just rang so false and plot-devicey.  It wouldn’t happen.  Attempted murder of a minor, of a child, is not taken lightly, and the perp would find himself thrown behind bars as soon as the evidence would allow a judge to put him there.

The grammar wasn’t very strong in this novel, either.  Too many commas, misused words – especially “to” and “too” – and other obvious errors.  I’ve said it before, I’m saying it now, and I will be saying it again; grammar is soooo important to writing.  Any serious writer, self-published or not, must go through extensive editing.  Find grammar-proficient beta readers, see if you can find an aspiring editor willing to look over your manuscript either for free or at a very steep discount.  I don’t care how you do it, just make sure the final copy is clean, because poor grammar kills a writer’s credibility.

Between the plot holes and the grammar issue, I’m led to believe that McCooey hasn’t been writing for very long.  Which may actually be a good thing, because despite all the technical and plot issues, the pages of Harvest Moon are brimming with potential.  Once you look past the grammar issue, there are some genuinely immersive chapters in this book, and the writing does seem to get better as the novel goes along.  With more practice, I don’t doubt Megan McCooey can deliver something that fully realizes the hidden potential she shows in this one.  I know she’s very enthusiastic about her writing, and I sincerely hope she doesn’t give up, because I very much want to read what she’s releasing five years from now.

It is my deepest hope that she takes something positive from this review, and puts it toward bettering herself as a writer.  Because I’ve seen new writers grow into great writers, and I am confident that Harvest Moon is the novel of a writer with raw talent that just needs to be honed a little better.  But as far as Harvest Moon goes, she’s just not there yet.

Now to go drown my guilt in a gallon of ice cream while I try to convince myself that “I did the right thing”.  Blah.

Harvest Moon - 2 out of 5 stars

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