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Book Review: Nowever by Kristina Bak

At 16, Stevie Wales suddenly blossoms. Seemingly overnight, “Stevie the Mouse” disappears, and in her place stands a tall, beautiful girl, too beautiful in the eyes of her best friend the ultra-popular Winter. After Stevie snaps and attacks Winter, Stevie is shunned by many of the fickle teens in her Puget Sound island community, so she decides to become what she believes they all see anyway–the weird girl. As her oddity status rises, so does her anger, but when she is forced into a therapy program that includes working on a horse ranch, Stevie discovers her unusual ability to take away pain sensations in both animals and humans. Beginning to feel needed, Stevie seems to be on a positive path when she is seriously injured by one of the horses. Her life becomes a twisted version of an already blurry existence as she struggles to find “normal” again. In an attempt to find her true self, Stevie goes on an incredible journey to find her father, a man the world believes dead. She convinces her mother and therapist that she needs to go to Australia, the place where the wreckage of her father’s boat washed ashore. Her search takes her physically to a strange continent, and though this exploration becomes much, much more, she may find a truth she isn’t ready to accept.

Despite being set in a not-so-distant future, Stevie’s teenage world isn’t so different from now. Mean girls are still mean girls, and the smart, shy Stevie doesn’t feel like she belongs. So many teenagers, both male and female, can relate to Stevie’s (partially  self-imposed) alienation. Her artistic talents and her empathy for others are endearing traits that help bring Stevie to a culminating awareness. Both of these bring Stevie full-circle to find her own version of normal, her definition not the world’s. Seeing Stevie evolve into a confident young woman through her own efforts is inspirational and a lesson that adolescents–and some adults–need.

Though Stevie’s paranormal gift isn’t a major part of the novel, the gift symbolizes the noble need to help others. While Stevie can literally take away the pain of others, most people could figuratively do the same by sharing in the pain of others and trying to understand what someone is experiencing. Stevie can’t deny her ability even though she repeatedly tries to ignore it. When she stops her denial, she not only helps other characters, but she heals herself. This lesson isn’t lost on the all-about-the-self society of today. If only everyone could recognize suffering and try to eliminate it, this world could be a much better place.

One of the most engaging parts of the novel is Stevie’s time in Australia. This exotic, culturally diverse continent becomes a character unto itself, drawing Stevie into the adventure of a lifetime while giving her the closure she desperately needs. Pulled into the mysterious murder of a boy she meets, Stevie encounters others who inspire and help her find the man she once called father, and she learns true contentment by helping the family of the dead boy all while searching for own history. Ironically, in the midst of death, she finds life as she navigates a land as wild as her emotions.

This journey into self-awareness offers multiple stories in one. From a murder mystery in an alluring land to a revelation with a supernatural catalyst, Nowever will keep readers twisting and turning till the end.  

This review was written for Chanticleer Reviews.