Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Nocturne, by Christine Johnson, is the sequel to Claire de Lune, reviewed here. I finished this book pretty quickly, not so much because I loved it but because it was so emotionally painful I had to see how it would end. If you plan on reading Claire de Lune, don't read this review. It will contain SPOILERS.

In Nocturne, Claire is a full werewolf, but one more ceremony remains to see if she is a complete werewolf. Incomplete werewolves are so rare that the others in her pack even joke about it, believing she will have no problem showing off all her new skills. But they don't know that Claire can't start a fire in the werewolf way, an elementary skill, and if Claire can't get it right by her New Moon Ceremony, she will become an outcast. To complicate matters, her mother avoids any part of her human life, and her boyfriend, a secret-keeper for the all-female pack, doesn't seem to want to have anything to do with her werewolf life. When her best friend, Emily, finds a new friend to hang out with, Claire believes it might be for the best, since if Emily ever found out the truth, the pack would have to kill her. But Claire can't bear to give up her human life and friends entirely. Torn between two paths, Claire becomes alienated from everyone she loves, and if she doesn't start a fire, that will be her life forever.

You see? Emotional pain. That's what this book is about. I have occasionally come across books like it, not that all books don't have a little of it. This type of emotional pain is unique. It involves a teenager who is trying to do the best she can with no one listening to her or helping her. The odds are so stacked against her that all the reader wishes for is that the end will even things out and bring her some vindication. But the process of getting there is painful, especially because the girl keeps all her problems to herself and seems not to even try to fight the alienation. It's rather frustrating for the reader. I felt a little of this reading Claire de Lune, too, but that was resolved mostly satisfactorily.

I didn't feel quite the same about the end of Nocturne. I felt a little cheated, even though there was certainly emotional resolution, enough to bring a tear to my eye even; it just wasn't the resolution I was looking for. Just as in Claire de Lune, in Nocturne there are a lot of mother/daughter issues, but I confess, I understand the daughter far better than the mother. Claire's mother is kind of cold. She's Alpha of the pack, so she has to keep the rules. But I feel like she always treats her daughter as a Beta wolf and never as a daughter, especially since she's not interested in Claire's human life. The Alpha has her reasons, but they don't resonate with me on an emotional level. While Claire and her mother come to an understanding by the end, I feel like Claire just accepts how things are without ever receiving the support that she needs and that the reader desires for her.

It's the same with the boyfriend. He explains himself in the end, but I don't buy it. I take Claire's side on the issue and don't understand how she can put aside her feelings without at least one of the characters saying, "You know, you're right." The other characters do tell her she's right about her decisions in the end, but not about her feelings. It's just unsatisfactory, and Claire's reaction is not quite believable. But maybe she's just a bigger person than I am. I fully admit, Claire makes her own mistakes. In every relationship, there are two sides, and just as her mom and boyfriend don't understand her, she doesn't understand everything they do. Yet, I feel she has a better grip on their lives and shows more concern for them, especially for the boyfriend, than they show for her.

Aside from the plot and story, there are other issues to be aware of in this book. I noticed the cursing in the first book, but I noticed it even more in this second. It might be considered minor cursing, but I'm not a fan. Also, there's more sexual foreplay, for lack of a better term, in this book. The characters never go all the way, which I very much appreciate, and nothing is ever graphically described, which is especially great for young adult fiction, but I still found it was too much. Claire and her boyfriend are always alone together, and they're all over each other. I just didn't think it set a great example for young, even teenage, readers.

I will still give Nocturne three stars for being a fun, semi-unique werewolf story, and I'm curious to see where the author goes from here. Book 1 is about becoming a werewolf. Book 2 is about defining what a werewolf's life entails. I would like to see Claire evolve more in following books. I'd like the stakes to be raised, and I'd like to see a more confident heroine involved in more meaningful, satisfactory relationships. Because, with that, this series could be good.

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