Review: ‘Whispering Hills’ by Taryn Browning

Authors who offer up their books for a “read to review” are very brave. Handing over their work to a group of amateur writers is basically asking for a beating. It’s hard to review someone else’s work, especially when you might be hoping to join the published few one day. Many readers know great writing, but how do you explain your feelings for a book without sympathizing with the difficulty by or the intention of the author? This is the first time I am taking on an r2r project.

Alexis Forbes has been able to hear the thoughts of those around her for as long as she can remember. To be precise, she only can hear when someone has made a decision, so in that regard she is fortunate that she does not have to listen to everyone’s constant chatter. No one but her sister, Brooke, knows of her “ability;” not her mother, the town social committee president, her father, an absentee CIA agent or somesuch, and not even her best friend, Tiffany.

Alexis meets the handsome new guy at school, Chance Whitefield. He is drawn to Alexis and she finds him intriguing as well, though it seems his family is not exactly new to town. One day, Alexis hears an evil voice; one that speaks of killing. Soon after, Whispering Hills is thrown into turmoil when the mayor’s daughter, Tracey, goes missing. Could this act be related to the evil voice Alexis had heard? Soon Alexis is drawn into a mystery about how her past connects her to Chance, his cousin, Gabriel, and Summer, the school outcast. Will they find Tracey? Will Alexis learn the truth about her past and how she got her ability?

Overall, I think the author had a very interesting and intriguing idea for a story. However, I also think this book could have benefitted from another run through the edit machine. The story does not seem fully formed; it feels rushed, like it should have been several chapters longer. I felt there was a lack of balance in the story as well. We read about the dad, but never met him. Convenience for the writer? The mom sounded more like a cipher of a mom who didn’t care at all about her kids. Though her portrayal made me think something bigger was going to happen with her, it didn’t.

The relationships didn’t have time to develop. There wasn’t enough “meat” in the supposed bond between Alexis and Brooke to convince me of any deep ties. Was I supposed to assume them because Brooke was the only person trusted with Alexis’ secret? With Alexis and Chance, all of the sudden they are holding hands and she’s referring to him as her boyfriend? I had to re-read some pages to make sure I hadn’t missed something. Also, the lame fight at the end…no. The only relationship that feels real to me is the one between Alexis and Summer, maybe because they don’t really know each other and things are supposed to be awkward between them. It seems like the reader is supposed to infer a lot from a little.

The random thoughts that Alexis hears read very awkwardly and, on occasion, I felt pulled out of the story because of a clunky description or term. These are all things I assume a good editor would have seen and repaired. I always appreciate a well-written book, and I think that Ms. Browning, for the most part, comes up with more hits than misses with her descriptions, variety of word usage and character development; I just wish it had been a little fuller and more even. Hopefully the second book in the series will improve in these areas.

3/5 Stars

Whispering Hills by Taryn Browning was published March 15, 2012 by Amazon Digital Services. A free copy of this book was received  by Ink and Page in return for an honest review.

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