Thanks to NetGalley and Diversion Publishing for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: February 28th, 2017
Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Ivy Erickson has one month, twenty-seven days, four hours, fifty-nine minutes, and two seconds to live.
Ever since she was a child, Ivy has been able to see countdown clocks over everyone’s heads indicating how long before they will die. She can’t do anything about anyone else’s, nor can she do anything about her own, which will hit the zero hour before she even graduates high school.
A life cut short is tragic, but Ivy does her best to make the most of it. She struggles emotionally with her deep feelings for on-again, off-again boyfriend Myers Patripski. She struggles financially, working outside of school to help her mom and her sister. And she struggles to cope with the murder of her best friend, another life she couldn’t save. Vanessa Donovan was killed in the woods, and everyone in town believes Ivy had something to do with it.
Then more girls start disappearing. Ivy tries to put her own life in order as she pieces together the truth of who ended Vanessa’s. To save lives and for her own sanity.
The clock is ticking. And Ivy’s only hope is to expose the truth before it runs out completely.
When I first saw Gardenia offered on NetGalley I hesitated about requesting it because it sounded so similar to Numbers, by Rachel Ward, and When, by Victoria Laurie, but my curiosity won out, and overall, I’m glad it did. While the idea of seeing the death dates of people isn’t entirely original, the author successfully puts her own spin on it. Ivy is a character you can’t help but become emotionally invested in. She’s an interesting mix of vulnerability and cynicism. Her love for her family, and her ex boyfriend Myers, is a big part of the story, as is the love she had for Vanessa and the guilt she feels over her death. With her own clock ticking down, her determination to find out not only what happened to her friend, but also to the other girls who are being killed, makes her even more likable. Even though her efforts are hampered by skeptical law enforcement and suspicious classmates, she doesn’t give up. This is a teen who know she has left than a month to live and instead of hiding away in the trailer she lives in with her mother and sister, she sets out on a course to not only make her own life matter, but to stop a serial killer from claiming any more victims, even though she knows she’s putting herself squarely in his path. There’s a feeling of sadness and anxiety that permeates the story since right from the beginning Ivy states she’s never been able to prevent a death from occurring. She sees her own impending death, with a sort of fatalistic resignation which leads her to make some understandable but unwise choices, but this just makes her even more relatable. The relationship between her and Myers is really sweet, even though at the beginning, they’re broken up. I also loved the family dynamics between Ivy, her older sister, and her mom. I’ve found that many times when I’m reading a YA novel, that family is thrust into the background but that’s not the case here. There are a few things that kept this from being a perfect read. The book is described as a thriller/mystery but these themes wound up taking a backseat at times to the more contemporary aspects is the storyline. And, the revelation of the killer’s identity was rather sudden and had me scratching my head a little. I also would have liked to see some sort of explanation about Ivy’s ability. But what makes this work is Ivy and her interactions with her family, boyfriend, and others. In the end, Gardenia is a pretty solid read, that adds something new to the “I can see death dates” trope. It’s a character driven story that I think will appeal to a wide YA audience.