The world of Archivist Wasp is unrelentingly bleak. Abuse, alienation, hunger, cold, poor medical, dying children: check. No apparent infrastructure: check. Malevolent religion to control behaviors: check. It all adds up to not much to live for, so the ghosts are understandably more interesting than the living.
Categorizing this book as children’s completely floors me, and the YA designation is a little misleading. For children, the swearing is a bit too much, but that’s not my objection so much as the dark tone and subject matter–I know kids can go through some bad shit, but it’s a bit much for a child who hasn’t.
As for the young adultiness of it…I get why the publisher would want to position it as YA (a hot market). But I think that’s a little limiting, as this novel doesn’t have the tropes that stamp it as YA only. Yes, the protagonists are teens. Yes, the book deals with a theme of interest to adolescents: how do you deal with a difficult past? But aside from those things, there’s none of the overwrought high school drama that tends to turn off some adult readers.
But I noted “Chosen” as a descriptor. Isn’t the “Chosen One’ a YA trope? Yes, but Archivist Wasp does not follow the rules of the Chosen One that you’ve seen over and over.
My only gripe about the book is a tendency to keep hitting the same note. There were times where I thought, “I get it, it’s bad. You don’t have to keep telling me it’s bad.” Of course, I felt that way about Tor‘s Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey—the repetition there was about the character feeling she should have had a different life over and over. Aside from overstating the obvious at times, though, the writing served the story well.
For me, the plot was a little light on complications and I felt like it was dragging at times, so there’s the three instead of more stars.
In sum: Want to feel like your world isn’t so awful? This novel might do the trick.