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The Haven: A Novel

Review

The Haven: A Novel

Carol Lynch Williams' THE HAVEN succeeds, above all, as a puzzle --- frustratingly coy, this acclaimed author's third novel, like Emily Dickinson's poem "I like to see it lap the Miles", dolls up an otherwise unremarkable subject with a thick coat of suspense. Though chilling, THE HAVEN's premise, in a literary climate all but congested with dystopia, fails to distinguish itself as anything more than yet another pessimistic depiction of the future. But protagonist Shiloh's poignant first-person narrative, along with the aforementioned heavy dose of suspense, elevates THE HAVEN from bland to compulsively readable.

THE HAVEN revolves around a band of four teens --- Shiloh, Gideon, Abigail and Daniel --- who are incarcerated at the massive Haven Hospital & Halls and afflicted with a mysterious illness that, although it fails to manifest in any visible symptoms, routinely claims the lives and limbs of its victims.
 
And their memories.

Due to their "illness," hospital authorities forbid patients from venturing beyond the institution’s impregnable stone wall. But an intrepid bunch of "terminals" dream of living outside the hospital, among the Whole. And they will risk anything to get it.

Williams' prose sings; dream-like in its surrealism and fierce in its clarity, THE HAVEN's wording captivates readers and shines with Shiloh's authentically tender emotions.

As masterfully as Williams crafts her sentences, however, that doesn't excuse her tendency towards over-description. Or the serious glut of rhetorical questions plaguing Shiloh's internal dialogue. When a genocidal maniac's crouching beside her bed, Shiloh doesn't need to ask any "What if...?" questions, since readers will ask these questions themselves. Having Shiloh ask them does little more than bog down the action.

Williams' prose sings; dream-like in its surrealism and fierce in its clarity, THE HAVEN's wording captivates readers and shines with Shiloh's authentically tender emotions.
 

Although THE HAVEN's plot, beneath its intoxicating veneer of poignancy and suspense, drags a little at the novel's beginning, its pacing quickens considerably by the book's 208th --- and final --- page. Of Williams' three plot twists, the first both shocks and satisfies readers, while the second infuriates them (although I begrudgingly concede its plausibility.) THE HAVEN's third twist, although it doesn't come as much of a surprise, confirms what readers have been secretly hoping was the case all along.

Though the plot can, at times, seem a tad too simplistic, Shiloh's emotional metamorphosis --- and discovery of her own self-worth --- endows the book with a sense of purpose.
 
Whereas Shiloh's first-person narration affords readers an intimate and richly vivid window into her emotional life, a few of Williams' secondary characters come off as two-dimensional in comparison. THE HAVEN does, however, exquisitely chronicle Shiloh's romance with Gideon, capturing all the sweetness of first love in the process.

Reviewed by Alison S., Teen Board Member on March 5, 2014

The Haven: A Novel
by Carol Lynch Williams

  • Publication Date: March 4, 2014
  • Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult 13+
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
  • ISBN-10: 0312698712
  • ISBN-13: 9780312698713