Chicken River Dance by A.N. Irvano

Chicken River Dance by A.N. Irvano
Publisher: Falling Horse Books
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (242 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Young members of Ryan’s family are killed and he follows an inherent need to crush the crooks that run the killings. He is aided by Cecilia, a girl he has been getting to know for months and her mother, a shaman. Life in the Oakland projects can not move on until the extraordinary and unreal events are able to be questioned. Buoyed by the cultures, conversations, and characters of the people in it, small cultures can survive when small criminals exist.He lets his life’s losses carry him to find that not everything, if anything, can be revolutionized or bettered in this life and time of the American West.

Justice doesn’t always happen automatically. Sometimes you have to seek it out.

At first I wasn’t quite sure what I thought of Ryan. His emotional response to a family tragedy early on in the plot wasn’t at all what I would have expected from anyone who had just experienced such a terrible event. He was clearly incredibly smart and thoughtful, but it wasn’t until the author explained the reasons behind his reluctance to express his feelings that I really came to like this character. Every question I had about him in the beginning was answered in full, and I enjoyed watching his development over the course of this novel.

It would have been helpful to have more detailed introductions of the secondary characters. The actual number of them was just right for something this length, but so little time was spent explaining how everyone was connected to Ryan that it took me a while to put all of the pieces together. It was most confusing when I was trying to figure out who was and was not related to him.

The romantic subplot caught me by surprise due to how quickly it happened. The chemistry between the characters involved in it was strong, though, and seeing how both of them reacted to falling in love added depth to their personalities that would not have otherwise been there. It ended up working quite well with everything else that was going on in this tale.

I would have also liked to see more differentiation between the voices of the various characters. Everyone tended to use the same patterns of speech no matter who they were or what circumstances they found themselves in. The dialogue itself was often poetic. It was especially well suited to Ryan’s personality when he was describing his surroundings or remembering something, but the formality of it was out of place during the most exciting scenes.

Some philosophical questions are much easier to answer than are others. Ryan’s startling self-awareness for someone his age lead to a much deeper analysis of the meaning of life than I was expecting when I started the first chapter. It was especially interesting to see what Ryan had to say about social justice and the tension between the needs of individuals versus the needs of their communities.

Chicken River Dance is the kind of story that I’d recommend to teens and adult readers alike.

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