The Holders by Julianna Scott – Advance Review

The Holders 2

Book Jacket:

17-year-old Becca has spent her whole life protecting her brother – from their father leaving and from the people who say the voices in his head are unnatural. When two strangers appear with apparent answers to Ryland’s “problem” and details about a school in Ireland where Ryland will not only fit in, but prosper, Becca is up in arms.

She reluctantly agrees to join Ryland on his journey and what they find at St. Brigid’s is a world beyond their imagination. Little by little they piece together information about their family’s heritage and the legend of the Holder race that decrees Ryland is the one they’ve been waiting for – but, they are all, especially Becca, in for a surprise that will change what they thought they knew about themselves and their kind.

You can read an excerpt here.


Well, this book started out in a promising manner, but it didn’t take long before it veered onto Exposition Highway and drove right off the Cliche Cliff. And there is nothing more painful than watching an interesting idea be slowly murdered by an army of boilerplate tropes. (It was like watching Caesar being stabbed to death in the forum in slow motion.)

Oh boy, where do I even begin? First off, this story is spectacularly generic. Paranormal boarding school, check. Mysterious powers from mysterious heritage, check. Girl discovers she’s “important,” but of course. Beautiful boy is mysteriously bonded to her via insta-love, check – and after one hugely unbelievable “obstacle” they are insta-forever. Mysterious McGuffiny artifact with world-saving powers, check. Prophecy of the Chosen One who will save us all, check… And not only was it all ridiculously boilerplate, worse it was all revealed in a blatantly obvious way – everything about this story is rampantly predictable and heavily telegraphed, such that I was literally groaning aloud as I read the book.

Honestly the only thing – the ONLY thing – that kept me going until the end of this book was a tiny, lingering spark of interest that remained from reading the opening. Because here’s the insanely frustrating thing – the opening of this book I really, really liked. I loved the protective big sister, doing whatever it took to keep her “special” younger brother safe, and I was absolutely loving the idea of a normal girl forcing her way into a crazy paranormal world so as to keep her brother. There were fun family dynamics, with a pushover mother and an estranged father (who Becca detested and Ryland worshiped, even though they’d never met), and it really was shaping up to be a lovely story of family in the face of a paranormal storm. And I was genuinely excited to read THAT book – the book where Becca had to fight tooth and nail to be let into the secret club, even as she’s trying to figure out if it’s best for Ryland to stay or go – but sadly, that book was a mirage, because this book makes Ryland a stage prop pretty much two minutes after Becca arrives at boarding school, the better to whiplash us into an insta-love fest. And as a result, the romance feels spectacularly staged – it’s a personality free case of overly-perfect-but-sad-boy and plucky-nice-girl who are Destined For Each Other, no wooing required – and worse, everything about Becca that made her a fun character – her determination, her gumption – gets lost in the sea of swooning. And then, then our lovebirds literally sit around and make eyes at each other for over half the book, while all the while Alex drops steaming info dumps directly into Becca’s lap. So there’s no conflict, no struggle, no action Becca has to take, no battle to be won, and really, no plotting whatsoever – they just sit, and chat, and everything about the world and magic and prophecy is laid out at Becca’s feet. Told, not shown; given not earned. And wow was it painful.

So yes, this book frankly pissed me off with its bait and switch, with the way it set up an interesting idea and then betrayed it in every possible way in favor of ridiculously generic dreck. And like a fool, I stuck it out, feebly clinging to the hope that maybe I was wrong, maybe this book wouldn’t keep doing the ridiculously obvious next thing, maybe it would surprise me and redeem itself and fulfill the promise it started out with. But sadly, it never did.

Yet for all the aggravation this book caused me, there were two things about it that I did like: the beginning, as I said above, and surprisingly, the end. Because after all the hugely obvious things finally played out, the story actually let Becca do something for a change, and there was even a nice bit of action for a finale. But sadly, it was far too little, too late. What a waste.

Byrt Grade: B-/C+

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

B. Rose on Goodreads says:

Oh, interesting premise. I was so excited about you. I thought, how cool! Powers! And Irish culture! And relics! And a protective older sister! Ireland! SUPER POWERS. This oughta be fun. Alas, interesting premise, you have been failed by poor execution.

Stuti Rai on Goodreads says:

This review is going to contain spoilers. But the good thing is, it won’t really matter because everything in this book is bloody obvious.