When a copy of The November Girl showed up in my mailbox, I was pretty excited. I had fallen in love with the beautiful blue cover and the synopsis was really intriguing to me, so I was really excited to get to sit down and read this, especially since I hadn’t heard a single thing about it beforehand.
I guess when I started reading this, I was expecting a sort of paranormal romance involving two teenagers – or one teenager and a sort of…siren, maybe? I really wasn’t sure what to make of it based on the synopsis, but I know it sounded mysterious and exciting, so I was all too happy to dive into this stunning book.
First of all, who doesn’t love that cover? It’s beautiful, with the blue and the water and the girl in the middle of the book, with white hair and a silvery-white dress. It really makes you want to know more about this one, doesn’t it? The November Girl has one of the most beautiful covers that I have seen so far in 2017, and I really wanted to point that out.
Now, let’s talk about how great this book is.
I’ve been reading a lot more fantasy than usual lately, but there’s one thing I don’t feel like I read enough of – and that’s magical realism. Magical realism is kind of like fantasy, but set in the real world, and while fantasy can take you away into a completely new world, magical realism always makes me feel like I’m looking at the existing world with a new kind of vision. It makes me look for magic in every day things and situations. That’s why I love it so much. As The November Girl is categorized as magical realism, it’s probably one of the best books that I’ve read in this genre, even though I haven’t read that many.
“The worst storms come in November,” Norm says quietly. “There’s a name for them storms, the ones that sink ships. The Witch o’ November.”
There’s something about how he says “witch” that bothers me. Some people love to say stuff for the drama of it. But this guy glances nervously at the lake, as if it were listening.
For years, the small island, Isle Royale, which sits on Lake Superior, has been through some terrifying storms during the month of November. These storms have been known to sink ships and take lives, and because of this, the island must be empty of campers and any one else who might be there, until the spring. It is pretty much uninhabitable, and no one dares to venture out there beyond the month of October, when the last ferry to the island picks up those who are still there.
Hector is a seventeen year old boy with a history of being let down by those who are supposed to be there for him – including his mother, who sent him to the states from Korea all alone, his father who is in the military and never wanted a child, and the uncle he lives with, who is abusive toward Hector both physically and emotionally. So Hector decides to hop on the last ferry and head out to Isle Royale, trying his hardest to survive until his eighteenth birthday, where he would be able to leave behind those who constantly hurt him and move on with his life. The only problem is, will he be able to survive out there alone, on an island known for its devastating November storms?
But Hector isn’t alone on the island, because every year, a strange girl stays behind and watches as everyone else leaves.
“I am made of storms and corpses, of granite and paper-white birch. Trinkets and morsels of food haven’t comforted me since I was a child.
I’m not the one who needs to be kept safe. It is everyone else.”
Anda is a girl unlike all others – she is known only to her father and her mother – who is the lake. Her father, a human, leaves Isle Royale at the end of October each yet, leaving Anda alone on the island to thrive and keep herself and the island going. Anda can cause the November storms that are known to sink the ships and take lives every year – and she talks to her mother, the lake. Anda is used to being alone and doing what she needs to do without interruption. She loves November.
This year, however, Anda and Hector aren’t going to be alone at all – in fact, the two of them are going to meet, and spend time alone on the island together, trying to survive. While Anda has been alone on this island many times and knows how to survive on her own without much in terms of food, Hector still has to eat, seek shelter, and find himself safe water to drink, all while staying warm against the harsh November weather.
When Hector learns of Anda, and that she is the harsh November weather, it’s already a bit too late – he has developed not only a friendship with her, but something more than either of them ever anticipated discovering. Anda has to choose between who she is, and who she wants to be, along with trying to make sure that her mother, Lake Superior, stays away from Hector, while trying to hold onto the feelings that they have developed for each other.
“‘Do you understand the worst thing about making choices? There are consequences.'”
The November Girl is full of subtle romance, magic, and a brand new way to look at the water. I honestly didn’t expect to love this as much as I did while I was reading it – I was pretty much unable to put this down from the time I started it.
I want to point out that this book is in no way an insta-love kind of novel (and those who know me know that I really can’t stand those types of relationships). In fact, it’s more of a slow burn kind of romance that keeps your guessing and hoping that things work out for Hector and Anda. Their relationship is not quick in the slightest – in fact, I loved that instead of just diving right into romance, the author makes sure to flesh out each character, their feelings, and who they actually are before we really start to deal with romance.
I loved how this book only had a handful of characters – it was a nice change from some books that have so many to remember – instead, most of the book was just about Anda and Hector alone on the island. Occasionally Anda’s father came into the mix, and there were some flashbacks about Hector and his uncle, but for the most part, it was just an easy flowing book in terms of characters.
The November Girl is told from the viewpoints of both Anda and Hector, with alternating chapters for each character. I felt like that by including both characters into the novel in this way, we really got to know each one. It was a really nice touch.
There was also a lot of character development – both Hector and Anda change a lot from the beginning of the book through the end. Anda seems to change a lot more, in terms of changing herself, while Hector works as hard as he can to change circumstances that are around him.
I also loved how the author talked about the water, and how she created a setting that was simply beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. With the low temperatures, the storms, and the lake itself. I haven’t really read anything that deals with the things that The November Girl deals with, so it was quite new for me, and I really did love it.
There are a few spots in this book that talk about self harm. It doesn’t really go into depth or anything, and it certainly doesn’t glamorize it, but I wanted to point this out because it could be a trigger for some.