Not Just for Kids: In Alyson Noel’s ‘Fated,’ teen embraces her shaman legacy
St. Martin’s Griffin, 320 pp.: $17.99, for readers age 12 and up
Teenage girls can be unpredictable. One minute they’re making out with a wannabe boyfriend. The next, they’re having a psychotic break. At least that’s the case with Daire Santos — the lead character in “Fated,” Alyson Noel’s kickoff to a new, four-book paranormal romance series, Soul Seekers.
In this follow-up to Noel’s bestselling “Immortals” six-book series, Daire is forced to live up to her potential and to “see” with her heart — a difficult task for most people, let alone a hormonal 16-year-old who’s just learned she’s part of an ancient line of shamans and needs to embrace her powers quickly or witness the end of the world as she knows it.
“Fated” opens with a glossary of the various animal spirits Daire is about to meet in her transition from the globe-trotting daughter of a single working mom into an empowered Seeker. Daire is in Morocco with her makeup artist mother on set for a major Hollywood film when she first sees the “glowing ones” — an incident her mom suspects is caused by hallucinogenic drugs and the doctors attribute to a chemical imbalance. Only Daire knows that what she sees is real, but after another incident on her flight back to the U.S., which was so severe Daire was put on a no-fly list, her mom is forced to choose between institutionalizing her or shipping her off to New Mexico to live with the grandmother she’s never met.
The choice is pretty clear. This is not “Girl, Interrupted.” It’s a spirit quest that forces Daire to rise to the challenges she’s presented, which, this being a young adult title, invariably involve hot guys, mean girls, a love triangle and saving the planet from certain doom.
Daire’s grandmother lives in the small town of Enchantment, which, as Daire notes with characteristic teen sarcasm, is “one of the worst cases of false advertising I’ve ever seen.” The streets are parked with rusted cars. Free-roaming chickens account for most of the traffic. For a California girl who’s been raised with a Hollywood-adjacent lifestyle, it’s enough to inspire Daire to flee, until she happens upon the boy of her dreams — literally.
Ever since Daire turned 16, she’s been dreaming of the boy with the square jaw, smooth brown skin, blue eyes and glossy, black hair. There are two boys who fill the bill — identical twins named Cade and Dace. One is good. One is very, very bad. Which one she’ll end up with is likely to take all four books to tease out, but in “Fated,” Daire seems to be making the right choice, aided by her grandmother’s training.
“Fated” combines three common tropes into one story. Headstrong and jaded, Daire is a fish out of water on a hero’s quest to discover her origins. Half Irish, half Latina, she’s mostly embraced her mother’s white culture. But in Enchantment, she connects with her Latino roots and learns that her “visions” aren’t an affliction but a gift. She just needs to learn how to use them, which she does with the help of a vision quest and other tricks of the trade of the Native American tradition.
Daire isn’t sure she wants to be a Seeker, but she’s encouraged by her grandmother and the negative consequences of denying her true nature. “You don’t always get the journey you want,” her grandmother says. “Though you always get the journey you need.”
To help with that journey, Daire is forced to swear off teens’over-the-counter drugsof preference, namely sugar, soda and fast food. Instead, she drinks various elixirs boiled with rocks. She learns to shapeshift into a cat, bird and cockroach. And she visits alternate realities through hidden portals — all the while running into the twins who make her either hot or bothered, depending on which one it is.
While the characters in “Fated” border on the stereotypical, Noel does a terrific job of slowly unspooling their secrets and motivations with writing that is both charismatic and spunky. She describes the de rigueur mean girls as being “linked together in an impenetrable wall of designer knockoff jeans, padded bras and pop-star perfume.” When a swarm of ravens descends on the town, “Their numbers [are] so great, the sky appears to be vomiting massive chunks of black hail.”
In “Fated,” Daire learns the world isn’t at all as she’d believed. In “Echo,” due out before the end of the year, readers are likely to be curious enough to want to find out what she plans to do about it.
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