They do say you can't judge a book by its cover. I don't necessarily agree with that. I have found sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. So, I was in the store looking for something new to read and this cover just caught my eye. I sat at the café and read the first chapter of Beautiful Decay by Sylvia Lewis. It was enough to sell me on the story. I figured it was a good story to read for Halloween as it seemed kind of creepy.
Book Description (From GoodReads):
Ellie Miller has always needed her space. Literally. With a touch that rots whatever she encounters, Ellie must keep people at a distance for their own good. Not that her classmates are itching to be best friends with the "freak" of the high school.
So when newcomer Nate MacPherson makes it his mission to get close to her, Ellie has her suspicions. But when he identifies her as a viviomancer who can work the forces of life and reveals himself to be a necromancer who can manipulate death, Ellie finds herself trusting Nate and the romance that is blossoming between them. Unfortunately for the two, family secrets can kill, and they will need more than their abilities to keep a zombie mom and a conglomerate of evil-doing supernaturals under control.
After spending her life pushing everyone away, Ellie's realization of the full extent of her power and willingness to let people get close to her may be the only way to save the ones she loves.
Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 9th 2013 by Running Press Kids (first published April 2nd 2013)
The book opens with Ellie talking to a spider through her window. From the very beginning of the book, I got a sense of her loneliness and longing to be normal, to be able to touch, well, anything.
The story is an intriguing one. Ellie has a "condition", for lack of a better word. Whatever she touches rots away. Fungus and bacteria are drawn to her and by touching them, they grow out of control. She has to wear gloves to avoid touching anything. She can't touch any person without the gloves because she can cause sickness by touching and even death.
In order to cover up the real story, her parents told the school she has a condition and she can't come into contact with other students. So, she does attend class, but no one sits in the seats around her. Her fellow students think she's a freak. They have even given her the nickname of Typhoid Mary. She thinks she's a freak. What's worse, her parents think she's a freak. Her parents are conveniently never home when she is home and her mother routinely scrubs the entire house with ammonia just to ensure there is no fungus or bacteria in the house that Ellie could touch.
Her one source of comfort is talking to her online friend, Mackenzie. She can't tell Mackenzie what is really up with her, but she tells her as much as she can. I had suspicions about Mackenzie all throughout the book, but I was way off base. I won't reveal her role in the book as that would be a spoiler.
So, Ellie goes to school at the opening of the book to find a new kid in class. His name is Nate and he tried to sit next to Ellie She basically gave him the cold shoulder. I realize that part of her response was a defense mechanism, but she was pretty bitchy, to put it bluntly. He tried to extend his hand to make a friend and she just totally shut him down. Although, he did ask, " You have an...ability?" He seems to know something about her. Something intriguing.
She pushes Nate away and he seems to make his way to the cool crowd. It really gets under her skin and she can't stop thinking about him. Then, the unthinkable happens. Nate sits down with Ellie at lunch after one of the popular boys throws a grape at her head. He sits with her for several days, which draw the attention of the popular kids. When one of them says nasty things about Ellie, Nate stands up for her. After they have words, Nate makes to shake the other boys hand, but he goes all white, looking like he was in pain or having some sort of attack. So, Nate's been keeping some secrets of his own.
Ellie confides to Nate that she is basically a plague bearer, but he doesn't act surprised. Instead, he tells her that he could tell she has an ability and he does as well, although his ability is the opposite of hers. She can manipulate life. He shows her what he can do by bringing an insect back from the dead.
Then there is a zombie, a wraith, an evil business man who is hunting Nate, life, death, decay, broken bones, a car chase and maybe, just maybe a little romance.
While I enjoyed the book enough, it is not an instant favorite. The story was actually pretty slow paced for most of the book. A lot of the story also took place inside Ellie's head. She felt sorry for herself a lot. Heck, I felt sorry for her. She had parents who seemed to be afraid of her because they were never home while she was awake, but they somehow held onto their conviction that she was a normal girl that could do normal things like go to college. I can't imagine what it would be like to never be able to reach out and touch someone.
Nate, at first, seems like a normal guy, good looking, makes friends fast, but we do find out that he has a lot of secrets he's hiding. Secrets that wouldn't get him elected as prom king. Sitting with Ellie and sticking up for her has basically caused him to commit social suicide, but it doesn't seem to phase him. He has an ability and he tries to help Ellie understand what she is. I really felt bad for Nate. He had a lot going on, a lot to handle for one so young. He had his own reasons for needing to keep people at a distance, all of which slowly unfolds and is too horrifying to imagine.
All in all, though, it was an okay Halloween read.