Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Returners by Gemma Malley

Title: The Returners
Author: Gemma Malley
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Hardcover, 252 pages
Date Published: March 2, 2010

Description (Taken from Goodreads)
London teenager Will Hodge is miserable. His mother is dead, his father’s political leanings have grown radical, and his friends barely talk to him. To top it off, he’s having nightmares about things like concentration camps. Then Will notices he's being followed by a group of people who claim to know him from another time in history. It turns out they are Returners, reincarnated people who carry with them the memory of atrocities they have witnessed in the past. Will realizes that he, too, is a Returner. But something about his memories is different, and with dawning horror, Will suspects that he wasn’t just a witness to the events, he was instrumental in making them happen. Set in the near future, with the world on the verge of a new wave of ethnic cleansing, Will must choose to confront the cruelty he's known in his past lives, or be doomed to repeat it . . . again. 
The Returners is a thought-provoking, interesting and surprisingly intellectual read. The premise is that Will, a teenage boy, is a ‘Returner.’ He is someone who has lived through past lives and returns again and again. These ‘Returners’ have a certain responsibility and destiny during their time in their lives. Will doesn’t remember who he was or what he is now supposed to do. The death of his mother and his father’s careless attitude toward him have left the young man beyond lonely and hurt.

Out of all of this, we begin to get glimpses of who Will may have been. Gemma Malley employs vivid nightmares and waking visions of different times in history filled with hate and littered with unimaginable pain to show us what Will has lived through in his previous lives. The plot moves along somewhat slowly to begin with, but once the nightmares begin to build in intensity, so does the plot. Malley’s clipped writing works so well for the story and makes many of the scenes that much more effecting.
It is days later. I can smell it. Death. Burning flesh. It fills my nose, fills my chest, I am choking, spluttering, it is consuming me. I am screaming, screaming, screaming… ~ pg. 38
Will’s increasing self-awareness and resurgence of his past leads to an incredible ending. The historical background information, combined with the looming political war, creates such a devastating image of the future. Malley has done something incredible with The Returners. The story is, at times, difficult to read, but impossible to put down. The picture she paints of a world where discrimination, racism, abuse, and shady political agendas run rampant is sadly not unlike things we still experience today, but she presents them so cut and dry. It seems like she is just telling us, ‘this is how it is, now can we do something about it’? Will becomes a friend, a brother, he becomes the reader. Everything he feels, we feel. At times, it is devastating. Other times, it is absolutely terrifying.
A hand on my shoulder, another on my head – friendship, understanding, I feel it all, like osmosis through my skin. ~ pg. 132
Malley has created a contemporary masterpiece that doesn’t fit any mold or conform to any standard. The Returners will make you think, make you question things, and leave you with a sense of responsibility; a purpose. Maybe even a destiny.

I don’t want to give any major plot points away, so go pick this one up. Devour it, treasure it, and never forget it. I know I won’t.

Opening line: There was this day, a few weeks ago. ~ pg. 1

Favorite line(s): Everyone has a choice. Everyone. All the time. You can walk through a door or decide not to. ~ pg. 243
 *This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.


Orchid said...

Wow! The Returners sounds like one powerful book. Thanks for the awesome review, this is definitely going on my list of books to get. ^_^

AtenRa said...

Malley's Declaration is one of my favourite books so I trust her writing completely!Is this its continuation, or is it a stand alone?

Kaitlyn (Kaitlyn in Bookland) said...

I definitely need to check this out--I love the cover!

Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books) said...

@ Orchid: This really is a powerful book and it has so much more depth than I had imagined.
@ AtenRa: As far as I know, this is a stand alone novel. I haven't read Declaration, but I don't believe they follow the same storyline at all, so I think they are two entirely different books.
@ Kaitlyn: I hope you do check it out. It will be so worth it!

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