Reviewed by John Jacobson, aka "R.J. Jacobs" for TeensReadToo.com
Katla is a city girl. Fashion, Starbucks, it's all a part of her life. Well, it was. After the discovery of her parents' planned divorced, Katla and her mother return to their roots - a small town called Norse Falls up in the mountains of Minnesota. Pretty much everyone in town is a descendant of the Vikings, or Norsefolk, including Katla and her mother. But Katla's only half - her father's roots are French. Katla comes to town with some less than exciting prospects - a jerkwad named Wade tries to get in her pants after a not-so-brief drinking session, the apple-delivery boy (and secret flannel fetishist) named Jack has some weird connection to her, and the store across from her grandfather's - owned by a woman named Hulda - is showing some strange signs. But that's only the beginning...
Katla is actually a Stork. No, not the bird that parents use as a flimsy metaphor for sex, but a member of a local, ancient order of Nordic women who see the 'essences' of children. When a child comes to them in a dream, so does the child's possible vessel - usually three different women. Things are heating up in the chilly town of Norse Falls, and Katla's just beginning to uncover one of many Nordic secrets.
Wendy Delsol takes every little bit of my mythology and fairy tale buff's dreams and melds them into a book that is enjoyable to its core. The plot, even without all of the references, is cool; a look at pregnancy in all of its forms (and vessels) and its effects on people, and a job that actually relies on thoughtful decision making. I love how the very basis of this novel is about Katla learning to make intelligent choices that affect the people in her daily life. The other part, involving Jack and his possible connection to Katla, is also swoon-worthy. The ending, though, was not like I expected it to be. It was kind of out of the blue and I would have liked more build-up to it, even though in retrospect I should have seen SOME of it coming.
The characters in this novel are just as well done, in a lot of different ways. I love that Katla is a fashion-conscious girl who isn't entirely dumb, and how she's smart, but not extremely so. Aside from her talent for clothes (and that little Stork problem) she's normal, which was nice. Her assimilation to small town life was also refreshing - being a small town resident myself, that entire portion of the novel was comforting and fun to read. Jack was an even more refreshing male lead - I mean a guy who can wear all that flannel and John Deere apparel would normally get on my nerves, but it was cute on him. Hulda was a nice change of pace, as well - the wise woman figure done with some nice finesse. Everyone else was cute and small-towny, but not overly so. Like stepping into a Debbie Macomber book cover. Just pleasant and nice to be around.
Writing is just as great in STORK. Sentence one had me yearning to instantly to read on. I usually find YA writing to be good, but nothing that I'd seriously quote and point out and dissect on a regular basis, but Delsol uses some great metaphors and similes - and I respect that in a writer. They really made the experience stand out. The pacing was my only issue - the first few bits could have dealt with some more setting up, just because Katla is plunged into Stork society really early, and she seemed more adapted than I would have thought. And the ending, again. But the rest of the novel was so fluid and fast - every event felt, well, eventful, and that's something that I love in a YA book. I also enjoyed the use of heritage - the characters embrace their Nordic (and in Katla's case, some French, as well) heritage and use the language on occasion. It added some nice depth, and in a small town like this, it gave off another layer of realism to the tale.
STORK is going to be something that either really hits or really gets missed, which I hope doesn't happen. Out of all of the series going around right now, I can safely say this is one I am going to wait for. And wait for, literally, as the actual book won't even be out until October, let alone the next one. STORK is one of those paranormal books that has an absolutely creative and out-of-the box base, and that comes out extremely well. The characters, writing, and small town aura of it just fit so perfectly, and other than slight pacing issues, I had a wonderful reading experience. Delsol is definitely an author to watch.