I wanted to give V.E. Schwab’s The Near Witch to someone as a birthday present. She already had it and told me I could keep it. Having now read it myself, I’m so happy that I will not be remembered for giving her this painful attempt at a young-adult novel. It’s so formulaic it almost made my eyes bleed. In the introduction, Schwab writes that this was the first novel she had ever written, but it was only published after she’d become a bestseller with her later novels. I wish I had never read this one. Here’s why:
First off, the characters. We have a strong-willed sixteen-year-old girl called Lexi (sporting a long braid, by the way – why do they all need to have one?) with an innocent little sister and a mother who has broken down after her husband died. He was perfect and wise, and seems to be a mentor even after his death. Then there’s a stranger (and that’s weird, because Near, the village in which the story is set, never has any! How odd!), whom our heroine falls in love with. But that’s unfortunate, because there’s already a guy who likes her. So there we have it: the love triangle! Care to make a guess as to who will win Lexi’s heart? Don’t bother, it’s obvious straight from the start. There’s also some other characters, but they failed to come to life at all, and are only there to serve the plot.
And what a plot it is. Like I said, it takes place in a fictional village, Near, in which children are taken every night. Nobody knows where they’ve gone, but of course they try to find the answer. Obviously, it’s up to Lexi to solve the case. Helped out by her new boyfriend (they don’t talk at all, but still fall head-over-heels in love with each other within two days – sorry, I don’t think it works that way, but maybe I’m just too old and bitter to find this type of romance even remotely credible) and obstructed by the grownups (for, yes, somehow all grownups (apart from dead fathers whispering from beyond the grave) are idiots), she finds out what has happened: it was a Witch that did it. A witch that lived only in stories.
And here’s the worst part of this book: it somehow wants to convey the message that there’s a grain of truth in every story, and that we should all pay attention to them. Therefore this novel is riddled with quasi-wise sayings, so-called ancient poems, and endless repetitions of stories surrounding the village of Near. That, and the writing style, really annoyed me. Because the book was written like this. Because somehow this is supposed to be intense. Because it should draw you into the story. So add some stuff about how the wind can call for you so you should only listen to it from the corners of your ears (really), and how you should always listen to your father but not to anyone else, and that’s all there is to this novel. It felt like Schwab wanted to be like all these other successful young-adult writers, but got lost in formulas and cliches. This novel, simply put, has as much substance as the wind it loves mentioning all the time.
If you haven’t read the book, then this review must fail to make any sense to you. That doesn’t matter. Let this ramble of words illustrate how confusing The Near Witch was to me. Let this review, therefore, be my gift to you: it will save you time and money because you will never have to read the disaster that is The Near Witch. I think that’s a gift that’s infinitely better than receiving this book for your birthday.
What do you think of this novel? Which books did you utterly dislike? Please let me know in the comments! Also make sure to follow me for more book-related posts!