Jane Alvey Harris
Jane Alvey Harris (2016)
Reviewed by Faryal Jabbar (Age 14) for Reader Views (8/16)
“Riven,” by author Jane Alvey Harris, is pleasantly distinct from the mainstream flow of utopian/dystopian young adult novels. Harris has created a book that tackles abuse, fantasy, and psychological thrill.
Emily, the seventeen-year-old protagonist, has gone through many hardships. Her dad is in jail for security fraud, and her mother is no help taking care of the family, as she is bed-ridden on pain medication. Emily loves her younger siblings Claire, Aidan, and Jacob, and stays strong for them, hiding her pain as well as the mysterious symbols cut into her arm. Her dad is due to come home soon, setting Emily on edge. More events are added to the mix when Gabe, the hot and intrigued lifeguard, discovers the brands on Emily’s arm. Also, two opposite voices start to battle in her head, a young girl who wants Emily to escape into a fantasy world, and a stern woman who wants to keep Emily’s secrets hidden. Amid the chaos, Emily struggles to find her own voice and loses herself to sleeping pills and the dreaded nightmares from her childhood. The line between reality and fantasy becomes blurred among the faerie of her imagination, as Emily realizes she is very powerful, causing her to be hunted by a dangerous man, greedy for her power. Emily must realize and conquer her demons in both her fantasy and reality worlds before it’s too late.
This was the first psychological thriller I have ever read, and I was a little overwhelmed and confused while I was in Emily’s mind during the scene changes. However, being able to see her alter egos and vivid dreams, made me really understand the impact abuse has on a person. I was aware of abuse beforehand, but when I read “Riven,” it felt as though I was discovering the issue for the first time. I felt connected to Emily, repulsed and upset about her abuse. Emily was unique compared to the other heroines I have read about, and I saw the side of her people usually keep to themselves, in other words, her raw feelings and emotions. “If I hold my breath I can even hear the surface of the pool swirling in every direction, absorbing and being absorbed by the calm depth of the blue-green pond.”(Page 144). As much as I loved the main characters, I think some of the secondary characters could have been more developed, as I had questions about them after completing the book.
I would recommend this book for people ages 14 and older because it contains mature topics and complex ideas. Personally, I have always been curious about people who have split personalities and human psychology, so I was excited and surprised to find a book that features the different voices of a character. “Riven” by Jane Alvey Harris is truly unlike any book you will ever read, combining so many components into one book!