So, I finished Render by Stephanie Fleshman in about a day and a half. A ten hour road trip helped considerably. All in all, it was much better than I expected to be, so I decided to post my review early. First the book trailer to get you started, then my review:
Why you’ll love Render
It’s well written. Are you a writer? Editor? Have an English degree? Have you ever put a book down because despite the story, you were constantly pulled out of it due to the misuse of it, it’s, and its? Don’t worry, you’ll be safe in Render. Lately, some of the big blockbuster hits have had… shall we say less than impressive writing? Instead it’s all drama and feelings and action, but not long term satisfying. There are a couple of metaphors I could think of for this, *giggle* but I’m going to use the PG version. A meal of Chinese take out will taste great but everyone knows you’ll be hungry an hour later. With Render, you get a well-rounded steak dinner with a salad and a dessert. You are full, not stuffed sick, and you will definitely visit this restaurant, I mean author, again.
It’s not angsty.Or at least what I would consider “stupid angsty.”
Its not Twilight. It’s not Mortal Instruments. Its not Percy Jackson or Hunger Games. In fact, Render is the most grown up YA novel I have read to date. Thank you Stephanie, really. As much as we of the “mom” age enjoy reading and remembering our teenage years, it’s refreshing to have something that keeps me from rolling my eyes. The difficulties these characters experience are real, important, and feasible. Not only that, these kids, Koldan, Raya, Lucas, and Ethan, think beyond their own selfish wants. They sacrifice for each other, and even for people they don’t know and may never meet. The main crew could just as easily be 25 as 17, and I dig that.
It won’t slow down. I was never bored. I was never saying, “keep it moving!” I never found my eyes skipping down the page, because I knew if I did, I would miss something important.There are so many subplots in Render, you’re always unraveling a mystery. Then Stephanie switches to a different conundrum and you’re off in another direction. I chased this story the way a cat chases a laser pointer. (Without running into a wall.)
It has history! I’m such a history nerd. As soon as I finished the book I was scouring the web for more about the Russian royal family. Having been fortunate enough to see the Catherine the Great exhibit when it came to the States in… well hell, it was awhile ago. I was little, but I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Have you seen her carriage??
And the end of the Romanov dynasty with the possibility of missing Prince Alexi and Princess Anastasia? Such a good base for some seriously juicy fiction. I’m so glad Stephanie decided to use it. Now if we could get the Assassin’s Creed franchise on board… I’ll sidebar that for another day.
Why Render may not be the book for you
You want the typical, mainstream YA novel. If you need a moody, brooding, teenage vampire/billionaire/angel/half-angel/werewolf/ghost/zombie/fairy/wizard or any combination of those as a leading man. If you need the worst thing that could happen in the story to be not getting to kiss that guy. If you need the world to revolve around that guy and his love interest. If you are 14, or an adult who thinks Fifty Shades was the best novel ever written. If you want the main female character to rebuff the protectiveness of her male counterpart. If any of these things are what you want in a book, you may be disappointed. The closest you’re going to get in Render is Koldan, and he’s closer to Doogie Howser with an ulcer than anything listed above. Maybe Mikihail in later books, but still, he’s not exactly what you want either.
You want strong paranormal elements. No ghosts/vampires/zombies/fae/were-creatures to be found. I was terrified, but that could be from reading Render at the beach, after catching what I thought was a jellyfish, but turned out to be a moon jelly. Oh, and remembering that documentary about those teeny, tiny, evil little box jellyfish, with their nematodes, and how people react to their stings. Yeah, that’s the stuff of nightmares. Give me a vampire and a wooden baseball bat, and I give myself better odds. (Oddly enough, Stephanie mentions the same documentary in her acknowledgements, so I included part of it below. Yeah, she gets it.)
You have to know, right now! Look, we all know that it takes time to craft a sequel, and if its not done right, we’ll all be disappointed. I’m not asking you to wait say, seven years *cough* George R.R. Martin!*cough* or anything. But if you need all the answers at the end of the book, you are so screwed. Render is Lost, but with (thankfully) more answers. I can’t wait to see what happens next, but what I really mean is I can if it means its done right. That’s a good book to me, but you may be different.
You need the characters to be just like you. While I can relate to some of the more personal or moral feelings the main crew has, there’s always a bit of disconnect. My family wasn’t wealthy, nor was I a child prodigy, so I can’t relate to Lucas or Koldan. We’re certainly not in the billionaire club, so Ethan is out. I never even dated a rich guy like Raya. Strip their world away, which sort of happens on the island, and it’s much easier to feel for them. I just worry that it might happen too late in Render for some readers.
My favorite line
Koldan: “It’s not how I want to remember him. But the picture is more oil than water, and I know it will never fade.” I liked this line so much, it became the first intentional bookmark I’ve ever put on my kindle.
My favorite character
Ethan. I want more Ethan. I have a soft spot for Southern gentlemen, being from the south myself. I love his charm, his easy-going attitude, and the perpetual cigarette he’s always sporting. He can be sweet, without making Raya, thus me, uncomfortable or worried about his intentions. Yeah, give him his own series and love interest someday. I’d read that in a heartbeat.
Thing I want to see in the future
Better classification. I’m still waiting to see the paranormal aspect of Render. Unless something easily identifiable as paranormal shows up, I would lose it. Render is strong enough on its own, without adding anything else.
Raya’s back-story. I’m sure this will be covered in future books, but as she is the most relatable character to the other 99% of our country, I need to know about the normal girl. What the hell do I know about billionaires?
A sequel. Post haste!
Two things bear repeating. Render was way better than I expected. Maybe I’m becoming jaded by the carbon copy YA I’ve been reading lately. Secondly, from the beginning, Render reminded me of Lost, a show I loved. I say loved because eventually, I got tired of questions and needed some answers. Stephanie takes care of us in that aspect. Suggest Render to your YA friends, or at your next book club meeting. You won’t be disappointed.
Now, I’m ending this review before it gets any longer… damn. Oh, wait. Tour notes:
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About Render: A betrayal born of blood. A curse for a gift. A love worth saving… Seventeen-year-old Raya Whitney thought she knew Koldan–until a sudden turn of events threatens both their lives. Get it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes.
Stephanie Fleshman graduated with a degree in psychology and has family throughout the United States as well as in Thessaloniki and Athens, Greece. Visit Stephanie on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.