Thursday, January 28, 2016

Book Thoughts - The Siren by Kiera Cass - on writing and rewriting

The Siren by Kiera Cass
first published 2009, re-released 2016

Original synopsis -

"You must never do anything that might expose our secret. This means that, in general, you cannot form close bonds with humans. You can speak to us, and you can always commune with the Ocean, but you are deadly to humans. You are, essentially, a weapon. A very beautiful weapon. I won't lie to you, it can be a lonely existence, but once you are done, you get to live. All you have to give, for now, is obedience and time..."

The same speech has been given hundreds of times to hundreds of beautiful girls who enter the sisterhood of sirens. Kahlen has lived by these rules for years now, patiently waiting for the life she can call her own. But when Akinli, a human, enters her world, she can't bring herself to live by the rules anymore. Suddenly the life she's been waiting for doesn't seem nearly as important as the one she's living now.

New synopsis -

Years ago, Kahlen was rescued from drowning by the Ocean. To repay her debt, she has served as a Siren ever since, using her voice to lure countless strangers to their deaths. Though a single word from Kahlen can kill, she can’t resist spending her days on land, watching ordinary people and longing for the day when she will be able to speak and laugh and live freely among them again.

Kahlen is resigned to finishing her sentence in solitude . . . until she meets Akinli. Handsome, caring, and kind, Akinli is everything Kahlen ever dreamed of. And though she can’t talk to him, they soon forge a connection neither of them can deny . . . and Kahlen doesn’t want to.

Falling in love with a human breaks all the Ocean’s rules, and if the Ocean discovers Kahlen’s feelings, she’ll be forced to leave Akinli for good. But for the first time in a lifetime of following the rules, Kahlen is determined to follow her heart.

My thoughts -

I'm lucky enough to have friends who love books as much as I do. My friend Megan found out how much I enjoyed Kiera Cass's "The Selection" series, and recommended I read the author's first novel, The Siren. She even let me read her copy - that's true friendship. She was right - it was a beautiful novel. One of the reasons I enjoy Cass's work so much is that she writes intelligent heroines, and she develops relationships that actually make sense. Her leading ladies don't just fall for the first guy, or the most convenient guy, or the easiest choice - they struggle, and ask real questions, and have doubts that seem accurate to an actual person. I appreciate that so much about all of her novels, and The Siren was no exception. It had a depth of emotion that felt true and honest, and it actually had me in tears more than once.

Because this first novel was self-published, before Cass experienced the major success of her Selection series, she was recently given the opportunity to re-release The Siren by her publishing house. She chose to rewrite the book before release, got herself a fancy new cover, and now this novel is currently the #1 New Release for Teen & YA Sci-Fi/Dystopian romance. Clearly, this re-release is doing well for the author.

But how is it doing for the fans of her work?

I will admit I have not read the entire re-write yet. I'm just under 50% through, if my Kindle is telling the truth. And my impression so far? It's fun, and entertaining, and sure to be a hit - and honestly, nowhere near as good as the original.

In choosing to rewrite The Siren, Cass seems to have removed the core of what made the original novel so impressive - the depth of relationship her main character, Kahlen, built with her fellow Sirens, with the young man she falls in love with, and especially and unexpectedly, with the very Ocean that has taken so much of her life. Kahlen's relationship with the Ocean is such a central part of her story, and this new version seems to gloss over that almost entirely. It feels like a book written for a younger audience, an audience that the author doesn't trust enough with her story, so she has to water it down to make them satisfied.

And I think that's what makes me the most sad - since the re-release, the novel in it's original form is almost impossible to find, and when you do find a copy it's priced ridiculously high. It makes me sad that readers will think this is the story - that they will miss out on the rich, emotional, and inspiring read that The Siren used to be. It makes me sad that the author seems not to have trusted her first instincts - that she felt like her readers wouldn't appreciate or understand the complexity and thoughtfulness she had gifted to them in that first novel.

Will I read more books by Kiera Cass? Absolutely - as many as I can get my hands on. Is The Siren a bad novel - honestly, no. It continues to be an interesting idea with a feisty heroine, and I am sure it will be hugely successful. Will I always mourn the passing of the novel it could have been? I will.

My friend Megan writes about The Siren and it's re-release here....

How do you feel about authors re-writing earlier novels? Have you had a good experience with a rewrite? Is there a book you loved that seemed too much changed? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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