Title: Places No One Knows
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: May 17th 2016
Brenna Yovanoff’s newest endeavor, Places No One Knows, is a nontraditional contemporary read that fuses reality with fantasy. Yovanoff is known for her darker novels, often with a paranormal twist, so I was interested to see what she would do with her latest novel. Yovanoff employs the use of insomnia and the strange, unknown place we go in our sleep to bring about a unique novel that is wonderfully atmospheric. Waverly Camdenmar is pristine on the outside. Her grades are perfect and she and her best friend are quickly climbing the social ladder. But her nights are spent struggling to fall asleep and when she begins to slip into a dreamlike state that leads her to Marshall, a slacker that doesn’t seem to care about anything, she unexpectedly finds refuge and the first person who sees her for who she really is.
Yovanoff is very candid when describing her characters. Many of them are not likeable, but there is an honesty in the perspectives of Waverly and Marshall that make them characters to root for, despite their unlikable qualities. Though Waverly has internalized all the positive responses and the right amount of enthusiasm needed to convince everyone she’s the kind of girl that has everything, on the inside she’s a mess. She isn’t living, she’s merely playing a part and at the end of the day when the lights go out and no one is looking at her, it begins to wear her down. Conformity is a way for Waverly to survive in a world where she’s always felt out of place, where her interests were regarded with disparagement. Her secret relationship with Marshall feels like freedom, where she can just be herself, away from the over-bearing expectations of other people. The problem comes when her insecurities hold her back from embracing who she really is in the real world.
Although Waverly’s personality comes across much more distinctly in the beginning of the novel, by the end I think I gained a better understanding of Marshall’s character. On the outside he’s a typical apathetic teen, more interested in getting high than doing homework. He’s Waverly’s polar opposite and not just in the most obvious ways. When Waverly first meets him, he’s nothing more than a drugged-out nobody, but Waverly learns that he isn’t everything he appears to be on the outside. He’s been drowning in a sea of hopelessness and as the story unfolds, I found myself needing a happy ending for him. I don’t want to give too much away about Marshall because I think his development as a characters is a really rewarding thing to read.
There are a couple of side characters that do come across a little too overly simplified. Waverly’s best friend Maribeth is your typical underhanded mean girl, who would sell your soul to the devil with a smile on her face. We know that at some point she was a different person, someone Waverly could rely on, and I would have liked to have seen a glimpse of this in her characterization. While the novel focuses on Waverly and Marshall’s growing relationship, I was really interested in the evolution of Waverly’s friendship with the rebellious Autumn. Waverly slowly begins to fall out of love with her best friend Maribeth and finds commonality with Autumn. This I liked; however, it did feel like Autumn didn’t quite have her own character arc. Overall, this was a really enjoyable read and my favorite Brenna Yovanoff novel so far.