Hush, Hush, by Becca Fitzpatrick
Hush, Hush is Becca Fitzpatrick’s debut novel, and it’s joining a swathe of young adult literature that focuses on the “other”: be it vampire, werewolf, or fallen angel. Luckily, Fitzgerald delivers a suspenseful and fun roller-coaster ride of a book that ends in the sweet spot that makes a sequel something to look forward to.
First, we land in France, in the 16th century. There, we are witness to a strange meeting between a scarred young man and a Nephil, the child of a fallen angel and a mortal woman. The mysterious young man, a deep scar down his back, demands the fealty of the Nephil for two weeks of each year and then vanishes, and the story immediately shifts to the present day, a high school classroom in Coldwater, Maine, and the day to day life of a girl named Nora Grey.
Fiztpatrick has a deft touch with the ridiculousness that characterizes much of high school, and it appears quickly:
I walked into Biology and my jaw fell open. Mysteriously adhered to the chalkboard was a Barbie doll, with Ken at her side. They’d been forced to link arms and were naked except for artifical leaves placed in a few choice locations. Scribbled above their heads in thick pink chalk was the invitation:
Welcome to Human Reproduction (SEX)
At this point we know that, whatever else happens to her, at least one part of Nora Grey’s high school experience has all of the built in humiliation that makes up so much of adolescence. Sex Ed. is also a convenient excuse to force people to move seats, and Nora ends up next to the mysterious, brooding, and slightly frightening transfer, Patch. Patch and Nora immediately crackle, and this relationship becomes the centre of the book, but Fitzgerald does an excellent job of adding a layer of suspense and fear to Nora’s life and Patch’s every move:
His black eyes sliced into me, and the corners of his mouth tilted up. My heart fumbled a beat and in that pause, a feeling of gloomy darkness seemed to slide like a shadow over me.
It’s this layer of suspense and darkness that separates Hush, Hush from many other young adult novels. The danger that Nora is in, and the unknown threat that stalks her, feel real. Nora is not a run of the mill heroine–she manages to be vulnerable without being passive, and the decisions she makes feel like real, teen-aged decisions–the kind that lead you to saying yes to the boy you know your parents probably would not approve of.
Nora definitely likes Patch, between the smirk, the dark eyes, and the motorbike, it’s hard not to, and Patch keeps appearing wherever Nora happens to be. He’s not alone; there’s a tall, blonde, and handsome boy from the other side of town interested in Nora as well, and although Elliot seems the safer bet, Nora still doesn’t know whom she can trust. Is it even possible to trust someone who may be a fallen angel?
The book moves along quickly, without a lot of introspection from any of the characters. They definitely feel like people we have just been introduced to, and, while there are some excellent details that flesh out Patch and Nora a bit (Patch, for example, smells like “Not cigarettes. Something richer, fouler. Cigars”), there is still a long way to go before the characters feel completely created.
That makes it doubly lucky that Hush, Hush is the first book in what appears to be a series (a sequel, Crescendo, has been announced). The ending sets up the next book very well without resorting to the ever-frustrating cliffhanger. Instead, and partially because we certainly did not learn everything there was to learn of Patch, Nora, and the rest, there is a sense of mysteries that remain to be explored.