“Here are the really good things about this book:
1. It's not Twilight.
2. It's far better written than Twilight.
3. There are more things going on in the story than just boy-meets-girl.
4. The ambience is suitably gothic and creepy throughout.
Here are the bad things about this book:
1. It came out after Twilight and will therefore draw comparisons no matter what.
2. The paranormal love thing is a tired plot, albeit one readers keep craving, so publishers keep publishing.
By that count, this book is more "good" than "bad."
It's probably more telling about me (and my cold, reptilian heart) that I found the love story the least interesting part of this book. Lena's relationship with her family, Ethan's struggles with his own and the small-minded "townie" mentality all were more driving than "ooh, they're in love."
It's not that the love part is bad, but it's sort of insta-love and that rarely plays well outside of Shakespeare. Sure, Ethan and Lena go through tough parts and they work through them, but it never feels like their relationship is real, more like a plot contrivance to drive the story forward. The lovers' spats rarely add depth to the character or even twitch the plot forward. Rather, they appear to be there to demonstrate the strength of their bond, even through arguments.
That being said, I like both of the characters. Neither of them are (generally) too stupid to live, and they actually (occasionally) act like real teenagers. (Emphasis on "occasionally").
But really, it's the periphery characters that make this book work. The eccentric uncle, the stern but loving housekeeper (the requisite "magic black person," unfortunately), the hyper-controlling crusading mother, the mean girls, the wannabe mean girls, the dumb jocks. They might all be walking stereotypes, but at least they are people who exist outside of Ethan-loves-Lena. There are even historical plot-point characters that show up that are interesting by themselves. Huzzah!
However, like I alluded to before, given that "Ethena" is not the ONLY focus of the book and how they are feeling and how they love one another and OMG LOVE LOVE LOVE, this is not quite the, ahem, love story that Twilight was. Readers who pick this book up expecting to see the self-destructive, all-consuming "passion" that Edward and Bella share will probably be disappointed. (I can't believe I just wrote that sentence. There are not enough quotes in the world to put around "Edward and Bella's love.")
I honestly wanted to read this before seeing the movie, but after finishing it, I'm not sure that I even care enough about it to go to the theater. I'm not sure if that says more about me or about the book. Either way. I did, however, instantly pick up the sequel to start reading, so it couldn't have been all bad. ”