“Refraction. The way fog scatters the lightning. The way a prism breaks sunshine apart into a rainbow. How a lens can focus light to make things seem bigger, or smaller, or distorted.”
After an attack on earth, all reflective surfaces become weapons to release monsters, causing a planet-wide ban on mirrors. Despite the danger, the demand rises, and 17-year-old Marty Callahan becomes a distributor in an illegal mirror trade―until he’s caught by the mayor’s son, whose slate is far from clean. Both of them are exiled for their crimes to one of the many abandoned cities overrun by fog. But they soon realize their thoughts influence their surroundings and their deepest fears begin to manifest.
WOW. Just wow. This book definitely did not turn out the way I expected it to, in the best way possible. We all know that we have here an action-packed science fiction adventure full of monsters coming out of reflective surfaces. What I did not expect is how much I will root (and ship) for the main characters Marty and Elliot, the thoughtful and authentic OCD rep, the blood and horror, the plot twists, the Doctor Who-esque elements and the appearance of an adorable AI. I don’t know how to do this review without spoilers but I will try my best. 😅
First off, the worldbuilding is superb. I have always believed that the best science fiction are not really about which ones have the most high-tech robots or space cars but those that could really absorb the readers into any speculative story and make it into a reality. I can’t discuss all of the technology included in the book in fear of giving out spoilers, but I can safely tell you that the creature/monster design here are really detailed that they all made my skin crawl. Just take a look at this paragraph:
“The oil slick on the mirror’s surface darkens to a gray curl of fog. Something carved from night reaches up through it. A paw—its joints too long, too close to being fingers—curls through the mirror. Scythe-like claws scrape trenches in the wall below.”
“Another paw joins it on the other side. A terrible face rises up: pointed ears made of darkness, a foxlike muzzle that spreads into a panting smile. In one push it’s out of the mirror and on the ground, shadows rising from its back like tendrils of mist.
It unfolds itself.”
That seriously made me want to cover up all the mirrors in the house, my friends 😰 I absolutely loved how fast-paced the plot of the book is, but it always takes time to slowly build the tension on all the right moments. It also doesn’t lack in the mystery and suspense area. We are kept guessing all throughout how exactly the mirror monsters work and the reveal and the plot twists it will take for us to get there are some of the best (and most unexpected) I’ve encountered in the genre. The best thing about it is that there’s A LOT MORE in store for you if you do decide to pick up this book, the monsters are just the appetizers.
In terms of the main characters’ development, I think it’s wonderful how the author did not focus so much on their age or class or sexuality but rather focused in showing the main characters’ personalities and chemistry so beautifully. The frenemy dynamics is so fun to see, even in the midst of all the death and violence. In my personal opinion the two characters may even end up falling for each other. But that’s just me. The writing is great enough that it doesn’t really need to spell out if it’s a romantic or platonic relationship, but the sparks are there. In my fanfiction dreams they get married and live happily ever after.
“Don’t die, you jackass,” he says sharply. “I still have to kill you, remember?”
But potential romance aside, of course the really important thing is how we see Marty and Elliot– two polar opposites work together and meet halfway. They perfectly complement each other, their strengths lift each other up, while their weaknesses serve as bridges for them to get closer and find a reflection of their better selves in each other.
“…it worms into your head, plants doubt, makes you question the most basic, fundamental crap until you can’t be sure of anything anymore, and it is exhausting and petrifying and aggravating as hell because goddammit, I am freaking dying and I still can’t stop worrying that maybe, somehow, I don’t actually know my left from my right.”
I love that the OCD character of Marty is not just there to tick a box for mental health rep, it is actually an essential part of the plot. It helps the story evolve to more of a psychological horror — of seeing your darkest fears come alive, while at the same time still allowing the reader to learn a bit more about the nature of the disorder.
“You can’t run from your fears. And the more you do to stop them, the more powerful they become.”
In the end my favorite part of the book is its message that as human beings we are in possession of both brains and hearts and though it is always a struggle to balance both intelligence and emotions, we need to be responsible and make an effort to always be unbiased and not pass judgment against things we don’t understand. It makes us realize just how much of the monsters we are facing are actually created from our own fears, and that the first step towards having peace is to learn how to face this uncertainty–with an open heart and mind.
Overall Rating: 4/5
About the Author
Naomi Hughes grew up all over the United States before finally settling in the Midwest, a place she loves even though it tries to murder her with tornadoes every spring. She writes quirky young adult fiction full-time. When she’s not writing, she likes to knit, travel with her husband and daughter, and geek out over British TV and Marvel superheroes.
*Refraction is an ownvoices book for OCD per the author’s note in Goodreads.
Refraction by Naomi Hughes
Published November 5th 2019 by Page Street Publishing
ISBN 1624148905 (ISBN13: 9781624148903)
Genres: Science Fiction | Young Adult | Horror
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Follow the Blog Tour
I apologize for posting my book review a couple of days late. I had a lot going on during the past week and I loved the book so much I wanted to really take my time to write my thoughts about it. I am truly grateful to Raf of The Royal Polar Bear Reads for always trusting me to join his fabulous blog tours. Big thanks also to the publisher and authors for the opportunity. 🖤
Below are the other awesome bloggers participating in the tour:
Rafael from The Royal Polar Bear Reads
Joel from Bisaya Reader
Jenny from Levicorpvs
Dexter from Dexterous Totalus
Shaine from Wanderer in Neverland
Jonathan from Wander with Jon
Yna from Yna The Mood Reader
Princess from Princess & Pages