Title: A Chance for Charity
Author: S.L. Baum
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Rating: 3 Stars
Description/Synopsis: A new family has just arrived in the isolated mountain town of Telluride, Colorado. Welcome the Johnstons - Jason (a doctor), Rachel (a designer), and their niece Emily (a current High School Senior).
Emily has lived the life of a quiet loner in the past, trying to go unnoticed. But with Telluride being such a small and welcoming town, she finds a group of friends at school almost immediately. When Emily meets Link (another new transplant in town) her world turns upside down. She doesn't understand why she feels a magnetic pull toward him, or why she unknowingly lets her guard down around him. Link is just as confused by his own need to be with her.
Emily knows she is playing with fire. She should be doing whatever she can to keep herself isolated, to keep Link from getting too close. Danger has a way of finding Emily's family - that is what keeps them on the move. They arrive in a new town every few years - it is safer that way.
Because... Emily isn't really Emily... her real name is Charity - and Charity has an even bigger secret. Charity and her family are not like other people, they have "skills" that mere mortals cannot begin to comprehend.
Before long, Charity is struggling with the reality that her two lives are coming closer to each other with each passing day. Soon Link will find himself wrapped in a supernatural world that he never knew existed - and discover that mortals are not the only beings that walk this earth.
WARNING - SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT - REVIEW BELOW
Omg look at that gorgeous cover. I am such a cover whore. I judge every single book by its cover. Bad habit.
A Chance for Charity starts out strong. We're introduced to the main character of the story, Emily who is a seventeen-year-old new to the town of Telluride... except she isn't. Unbeknownst to everyone except her "family", Emily's real name is Charity, and Charity is an immortal. Though she's really 80-90 years old, she stopped aging around 20 years old and has no idea why. She isn't the only one though. Charity lives with her "aunt" and "uncle" Catherine and James (alias's: Rachel & Jason) who are also immortals. None of them have any idea how they happened to become immortals, they just are - and that's the charm of this story. I loved the fact that for once the supernatural cast weren't immortal through some tragic accident, brutal assault, or magical mishap. There's no family genetics in play... nothing. It's completely random, and I love it.
As we get into the story we learn a little bit about Charity's past, and as it turns out, she was once engaged to be married to the love of her life: Roger. Unfortunately, Roger went to war and never quite made it back, leaving our heroine alone and heartbroken. Afterwards, she attempts to kill herself (which in this particular case doesn't bother me because I think it was important to show that Roger wasn't just "some guy" that she liked way back when. She adored him... and since we never get to meet him in the course of the story, it helps to solidify that part of her life off-screen.) and discovers that she can't die.
Soon thereafter, she meets Catherine and James and quickly becomes friends with the other two immortals. I have to say that I really enjoyed the relationship between the three of them. In so many stories where there's some kind of supernatural family it always feels like the main character is separate from the rest of the group... yah, they're family, but they're just characters in the background that occasionally show up to offer advice or throw their dominance around. That isn't how this family worked. Catherine and James were very much a part of Charity's story, and even though they were pretending to be her aunt and uncle, I was glad to find that they weren't automatically pushed into the role of "parents". They treated Charity like a good friend and let her make up her own mind about things - and I can appreciate that.
Anyways, as the story goes on, Charity ends up going to high school as part of a "cover" because everyone knows you can't live forever and stay in one spot. That would be ridiculous. (I'm not being sarcastic.) Immediately she becomes good friends with a loyal group of students, and though they sort of faded into the background a bit at times, I also really enjoyed their characters. S.L. Baum certainly has a way of creating depth with characters. For the entire first half of the story, I never got that impression that any of the characters were "secondary", and that was refreshing.
Now here's where the problems begin. About the time that Charity meets Lincoln (or Link... god that's an awful name for a book character... every time I saw it I thought of Link from Legend of Zelda) the book's cohesiveness starts to slip. The romance between Charity and Lincoln is a little hard to swallow. He's 22, and as far as he knows, she's 17. That's a problem. I know it shouldn't have been jarring because obviously she stopped aging when she was 20 and she's really old enough to be his great-grandmother, but it was still a little disturbing how easily he got over the age difference. It just always feels skeezy when a guy "overlooks" that he's dating a minor. Can't help it. Moving on.
After this point, other characters (mainly Charity's friends) start to slip into the background. I'm not even sure when, but at some point I looked up and went "wait.. didn't she have friends?" They just disappear for a long while and are re-introduced once closer to the end of the book. I really wish that they had been more present, even if that means they were just calling Charity on her cell phone during vacation. The overall result was that the story started to lose a bit of that "engaging" quality you look for in books. I went from page-turning like my life depended on it to reading maybe half a chapter here and there over 2 or 3 days.
Unfortunately, it gets worse from there. As the story progresses we're introduced to the real plot: hunters are after Charity and her "family" and want to kill all the immortals because they think they're witches. I have a bit of a problem with this... not a big problem, but still a problem. I could understand hunters going after vampires or witches.... but the immortals don't really have any powers other than living forever and being able to heal people. They're all good people. How is it that this family of hunters hundreds of years after the first is still willing to hunt down and kill these seemingly peaceful beings? Maybe that's my naivete speaking. I never understand hate-mongering.
As the end of the story approaches things just get more and more ridiculous. I actually liked the twist of shape shifters helping out the hunters. I didn't expect it, and it was cool - but I found it rather convenient that in this mess suddenly witches (okay I could get past them at least) showed up to help the immortal family.... then a female shape shifter that inexplicably falls in love with one of the witches after knowing the guy for all of five minutes... even after the witches helped kill her brothers. It was getting pretty cozy in immortal land.
I can admit that though it was rather predictable, I was glad to see Link being transformed into a vamp. I think the author did a good job setting us up with the vamp lore far enough ahead of time that when the symptoms started showing up it was an AHA! moment. unfortunately that too was wrecked with a vamp friend suddenly shows up out of nowhere to conveniently explain the entire situation... including the fact that he once fed his blood to Charity (unbeknownst to her) causing her to be an immortal/vampire hybrid.. and making link a tribred. All touch with reality was lost at this point.
I hated the way this story ended. Things were just too convenient and it felt like the author was just trying to wrap things up in a nifty little bow as quickly as possible. So, while I did like a majority of the book, there were definitely some WTF moments. Either way, it was still worth the read, and I'm glad I read it.