Title: Hunting Lila (Lila #1)
Author: Sarah Alderson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Released: 5th August 2011
You know how people say they're going to try not to go into a book with high expectations? People like me, that is. Well, it's easier said than done. And it almost always ends in disappointment. Hunting Lila is a perfect example of this. I was so psyched to be holding this after all the high ratings and amazing reviews I'd read, particualrly by some trusted GR friends. Sadly, I found this book lacking.
Lila is a telekinetic. After a mugging reveals the ability she's been trying to hide for years, she flees to California where her brother Jack and his best friend Alex are. Having barely enough time to recover from the mugging, she learns that they have been looking for the people who murdered her mother. More than that, they've found them. And now Lila herself is being hunted. In a series of twists and turns, and a lot of running, she soon discovers that appearances are not always reliable.
Alderson wastes no time in cutting straight to the action, burning an impression on us from the very first page. The thing about that is that you expect it to be consistent, but the opening was impressive nevertheless. Few books get straight to the point so quickly, even fewer do it successfully. Soon after, however, I was instead struck by how the writing didn't seem to flow. I hoped this would improve and to be fair, it did - to an extent. Transitions were another thing I don't think the author was particularly successful at; events, actions, places or pieces of information would suddenly jump from one to another with no bridge between them.
I can't say I felt a huge connection to Lila. When she wasn't thinking about Alex, who she was in love with, she focused on the task at hand, which was definitely a plus point. Granted, she spent a lot of time trying to distance herself from and minimalise her part in situations, but she was determined to find out the truth about what was going on. I liked that persistence; it made her a stronger character. And eventually, she stopped running. She realised that she was a part of this fight and that the best thing she could do was accept that responsibility. I definitely liked seeing that change in her.
But that was the problem - she spent too much time thinking about Alex. Whenever something happened, or something important came up, she was too easily distracted by thoughts of him. Quite frankly, I found it very annoying. She could be quite childish about him, and made some assumptions that were both ridiculous and obviously wrong. Her obsession got in the way of letting the reader know more about her - like what it was like coming back to America and seeing her brother years later; like reflecting on her mother's murder. Important information like that was rushed, which meant we only really got to see one side of her in depth, and therefore hard to connect to. However, the relationship between Lila and Alex was unhurried and sweet; while I wasn't swooning, I liked that he was gentle and respected Lila enough to tell her the truth. His behaviour towards her, and their subsequent relationship, were realistic, making it all the more believable. I loved, too, the bond between Lila and Jack.
One of the great things about this book was how unpredictable it was. As I was reading it, I thought I knew who the good guys were and who the bad guys were, and that I had a fairly reasonable grip on what was going on - only to find out that I, like our three main characters, had got it completely wrong. I have to say, the last 60 pages were probably my favourite section of the book. It had action, emotion and surprise, all of which completely drew me in. I loved the tension that was created, and the opening made for the sequel. The ending is where I started to see character development and to feel more of a connection to the characters - all of them.
While I didn't enjoy this book as much as I'd hoped I would, it remained an engaging read nevertheless. I felt no great enthusiasm for Lila, but I didn't hate her either. The plot line itself was great, and the fact that it wasn't predictable meant that I was actually kept on the edge of my seat at times. All the elements that I felt were disappointing built up to an end which made me more than happy, and it definitely has me wanting to read the second one.