Friday, April 26, 2013

Book Review: Levitating Las Vegas

Levitating Las Vegas, the first non-YA novel by Jennifer Echols, was born via a writing prompt from Diana Peterfreund: "A young woman confronts her parents after discovering that she has inherited telekinetic powers." The concept was a perfect match for Echols' fascination with Las Vegas and its people, and she ran with it, winning NaNoWriMo with flying colors. You can read more about that here on her blog. While I plowed through Levitating Las Vegas and thought it explored some interesting ideas, overall I might like its origin story better than the actual book.

All her life, Holly has been a showgirl in her family's magic act at a Vegas casino. Her classmate/crush, Elijah, and his mother also work at the casino. When they're fourteen, Holly and Elijah both experience the onset of intense powers – telekinesis and mind-reading, respectively – after their parents inexplicably forbid them to date each other. Both are told by their parents that they have a dangerous mental illness, must never tell anyone about it, and must take medication to keep their delusions of power under control. Seven years later, Holly and Elijah are still walking the line and keeping their distance from one another. Then their medication suddenly becomes unavailable. Terrified of going crazy, and newly aware that they're both mentally ill, they go on a road trip together to the city where their medication is made. There, they begin to discover that there's much more to their powers, their history, their families and friends, and the casino they grew up in than they'd ever imagined.

I have mixed feelings about this novel. Vegas is full of characters and craziness that you won't find anywhere else, and I agree that it's ripe for fantastical plots. The pacing of the story was great – as I said, I had a hard time putting it down. It would make a fun movie. Romance-wise, revisiting a lost first love is one of my favorite plotlines. The ethical dilemmas raised by having strong manipulative powers are also fascinating. But something about Levitating Las Vegas just rang a little false for me. It seemed a little unpolished. I couldn't totally suspend my disbelief, and I couldn't totally trust Elijah as a character (but maybe we're not supposed to). I was bothered by many of his actions and his claims that they were for Holly's own good. I also felt excessively stressed at several points – much more so than usual while reading a suspenseful book. Maybe this narrative pushed some personal buttons I haven't identified.

Bottom line, I enjoyed Levitating Las Vegas. But I was slightly disappointed after LOVING the only other Echols book I've read, Major Crush. I'll have to try some of her other stuff.

Recommended for fans of: superhero stories, Justine Larbalestier's Magic or Madness trilogy

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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