Last week I received an ARC copy of Airicka Phoenix’s book Touching Smoke, book 1 in the Touch series, through the Never Too Old for Y.A. and N.A. group on Goodreads. This book was fantastic. There’s no better way to say it. Here’s why:
Garrison to Fallon: “Have you asked yourself why you want Isaiah as badly as you do?”
Fallon (to herself): “I hadn’t, but then again, I was a seventeen year old girl and Isaiah was
Oh, and of course:
“What would Buffy do?”
Why these quotes? Because they demonstrate how much of an idiot that Fallon Braeden isn’t. Especially the Buffy one because, well, anyone who’s ever met me should know how much I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the series, definitely not the movie). It really confirmed the awesomeness of this book for me. But I’m sure that doesn’t matter to anyone else, so, on to the more important stuff.
The other day, my high school students got into a discussion about the difference between love and lust. The general consensus was that the intense I’ll-die-without-you “love” teenagers often feel is more likely a product of lust rather than love. It develops quickly, and often is very brief. But when they’re in it, the world stops and they’ll be with each other forever. I remember how it was; I (unfortunately??) haven’t entirely blocked out high school. But oh, how I knew my 10th grade boyfriend and I would be together forever! We met, fell in love (big, OMG love), and broke up within the span of 4 weeks. It was super.
Why do I bring this up? Because Fallon said exactly what I should’ve been thinking at 16 or 17. “I was s seventeen year old girl and [insert hottest boyfriend ever’s name] was gorgeous.” That about says it all. Could it be love? Sure. After two days? Probably not. It’s more likely because he’s hot and there’s an intense physical attraction (it turns out that wasn’t the case, but kudos to her for acknowledging the possibilities). This is one of my biggest gripes with YA series, and almost killed Twilight for me. It’s still my guilty pleasure, though. I can’t help it.
Touching Smoke was about a 16 (almost 17) year old girl named Fallon and the mysterious biker who has been tracking her, Isaiah. Fallon has been on the run with her mother her entire life, bouncing from one private school to the next and living in dirty hotel rooms. It all comes to a halt after Isaiah finally catches up to her and her mother (after her mother runs him off the road to escape him). Isaiah has been following Fallon around for a good deal of time when the book begins, and she feels an odd pull toward him, although she’s never even seen his face or spoken to him (I had to do an eyeroll at this one, but I took it back later). After he rescues her from evil flame throwing mutants and a guy who can multiply himself to create his own army, the two make a break for it.
It turns out Fallon has some pretty bizarre personality traits that she hasn’t quite figured out yet, like having to eat every few hours or else she turns into an evil monster who wants to rip her mother’s throat out. After being nearly killed several times for reasons still unknown to her, Isaiah, who has some interesting powers of his own, lets her in on a good chunk of her life story. The basic gist was, she was created by a God-playing scientist named Garrison as the perfect weapon, but her mother has kept her hidden from him her whole life. Now, he wants her back and Isaiah is helping prevent that from happening. They end up being taken captive by Garrison and his cronies and they both discover that their uniqueness goes far beyond special powers.
What I Liked:
1. Pretty much everything.
2. Other reviews I read called Fallon self-centered, bratty, etc. I honestly found her quite realistic under the circumstances. If I were in her place, learning that my entire life had been an epic lie, I’d probably be a bit obnoxious and uncooperative, too.
3. I liked the different take on paranormal. They weren’t supernatural creatures, they were man-made humans, which in my mind is even creepier. Phoenix isn’t the first author to do this, obviously, but her take on it was new, which I liked.
What I Didn’t Like:
1. Fallon’s bizarre eating thing wasn’t really explained until kind of far into the book. Until it was explained, it just randomly showed up. It was obviously important, but it was annoying not knowing what the point was. It was also a bit inconsistent. After just a few hours without food, she’s ready to tear her mother’s jugular out, but she manages to survive on just a few french fries later on once she’s with Isaiah. And does she wake up every few hours to eat?
2. Fallon’s draw toward Isaiah was really annoying and childish in the beginning, so I was a little concerned that that was the way she was going to be toward him the entire book. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case, but it got on my nerves enough that, if I were the type to not finish books after the first few chapters due to annoying protagonists, I would’ve missed out on a great book.
3. Fallon doesn’t seem too concerned as to why she and her mother have been on the run for so long. She accepts it as part of life and isn’t super crazy about it, but she doesn’t question it as much as you’d expect, even internally.
4. Fallon’s mother was a Brat. Yes, she was trying to protect her daughter, but for crying out loud, just tell the damn girl the truth already; there are guys throwing FIREBALLS at her! And come on, you almost run a guy off the road because he’s trying to keep tabs on your daughter, then when said daughter throws a piss fit because she is inexplicably drawn to him and wants to make sure he’s ok, you let her out of the car on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere and DRIVE OFF?!?!
Yeah, no. Just. No.
The time it took to really get the information I needed to fully enjoy the book took away from it a bit, but the fact that I was disappointed when it ended made up for it. I’d encourage anyone into YA paranormal to give it a try. And to be fair, my annoyance with Fallon’s mother isn’t going to affect the rating because honestly, if an author is causing a reader to feel this strongly about a minor character, she’s probably doing something right.