It’s unfortunate that Daniel Marks’ YA debut Velveteen didn’t get quite the attention it deserved when it first came out. Velveteen takes a walk on the macabre side and feels quite unprecedented in the YA market. It mashes up horror with paranormal, as the machinations of the residents of Purgatory are explored in this novel. While I am not usually one who LOVES weird books, I have to say that I was totally won over by Marks’ world building and prickly characterization. I definitely would like more people to read this, especially because it’s one of those books that could use a sequel.
Velveteen opens with the sixteen year old main character, also named Velveteen but Velvet for short, haunting this super creepy guy. Turns out the creepy guy is Bonesaw, a serial killer who brutally murdered her. Now, Bonesaw has another girl. As Velvet is a ghost she can’t really do much except mess with Bonesaw’s things. I have to come right out and state that the opening chapter is one of the most exciting openings for YA in a long time. Yet, the book takes on a whole new direction in the chapters to come. Velvet is currently trapped in Purgatory, which is this run down sort of parallel universe where people go if they have unfinished business. Residents of Purgatory do not get a free ride though, each person must perform a function or a job. Velvet serves as part of the salvage team, which basically means she is a member of the elite. Yet, all is not entirely sunny, you see, there’s a faction of revolutionaries known as Depaturists who want to change the way Purgatory is run, among other things. Finally there’s a new guy in Purgatory, Nick, whom Velvet is undeniably attracted to. As you can see, homegirl has A LOT going on.
If you like prickly characters who are kind of guarded, chances are you will love Velvet. She’s very compelling. When we meet her, she’s hellbent on extracting vengeance and fortunately this does not change for much of the novel. She’s consistent and I liked that. Velvet is the kind of girl who seems to hate everyone except her very close friends. She also does not let guys get very close to her. ALSO. She is the leader of her salvage crew, so she’s actually quite competent and capable and far from the simpering too stupid to live sort of paranormal heroine. Further, Velvet has a healthy dose of teenage angst. When all of these elements combine, it’s like the ideal main character for me to read about is created. Not everyone will love Velvet, but I absolutely did.
Daniel Marks definitely is a great wordsmith. I really liked the images he conjectured of Purgatory. It’s a world where paper is extremely valuable and used to craft birds. People enter via train/subway. Residents live in these really weird looking dormitories constructed of whatever the collectors could obtain from the living world. The station masters are the ones who are in charge. It’s actually an intricately constructed world, and one that I definitely would not mind revisiting. Further, while Velveteen is very long, it’s actually quite the page turner. I found myself utterly engaged by the two plot threads — that where Velvet hopes to extract revenge on Bonesaw, and that where Purgatory is besieged by revolutionaries. It’s very dark and creepy and wholly fascinating.
The romance adds a bit of a nice light touch to Velveteen. I liked that Nick the love interest has a bit of a devil may care debonair sort of attitude, although he is also a teenager like Velvet. He’s incredibly confident and maybe comes off as a little arrogant, but it strikes a nice balance with Velvet. She’s the sort of character where it would only make sense that she engage in a relationship with someone who is just as headstrong as she is. I thought their mutual attraction totally made sense and did not come off as contrived or forced. Plus, their kissing scenes are totally adorable and do add a bit of swoon to this dark young adult book.
After finishing Velveteen, I actually hopped onto goodreads to see if there was going to be a sequel. As of now, it doesn’t look like there is, but my fingers are crossed. If you are looking for a book that leaves you wanting more of it’s strange, fascinating world then you absolutely should read Velveteen by Danny Marks. Velvet, Nick, and the rest of the salvage team are definitely worth meeting and spending almost 450 pages worth of time in their company.
Disclosure: Received for review via Amazon Vine.
Other reviews of Velveteen by Daniel Marks:
A Reader Of Fictions – “the whole of the story was so delightfully fresh and funny”
Alice Marvels – “Atmospheric and superbly written”
Hobbitsies – “something different and weird and original and creepy.”