CRESCENDO (Hush, Hush #2)
Simon & Schuster
Warning: Contains spoilers from Hush, Hush.
Two months ago Nora's life got extremely complicated. Still grieving the mysterious death of her father the year before, she focused all her energy on her schoolwork until mysterious new boy Patch made himself a presence in her life she was unable to ignore. As it turned out she had link to Patch, discovering she was a descendant of Nephilium and therefore an intrinsic piece to Patch's plan of becoming human and no longer a fallen angel. To become such he either had to save her life or destroy her.
Ultimately, saving her life gave Patch back his wings, becoming Nora's very own guardian angel. Now, she's looking forward to spending as much time as possible with her new angel, but as she tries to draw closer, Patch begins to pull away, focusing instead on the bane of Nora's existence, Marcie Millar. Though Nora questions him on his relationship with Marcie, Patch remains tight-lipped and their relationship ends as quickly and intensely as it began.
Nora's boyfriend troubles aren't the only thing occupying her thoughts, however. She swears to seeing brief glimpses of her father and hears him whisper to her mind, an ability of which only Patch has been previously capable. Reeling from a shattered heart and the added weight of a renewed grief for her father, Nora struggles to understand the reality of her changed world since learning of the angels' existence, only now realizing a war is brewing between the Nephilium and those fallen like Patch, and it's a battle that will alter the face of humanity forever.
Crescendo is a decidedly unexpected read, one that, interestingly enough, is as such in both positive and negative ways. This story forces us to tip our hats in acknowledgment of a truly impressive turn of events full of complicated developments and startling realizations while simultaneously causing such profound irritation no amount of measured breathing will reduce the level of our frustration. On the positive, Ms. Fitzpatrick does a stunning job of imbuing this second installment with layer after layer of mysterious subtext, tantalizing us with fragments of a dark past that provide just enough information to send our minds reeling as we feebly attempt to connect the dots she's so beautifully positioned. This is not a lulling read, not one that progresses at a leisurely pace where we can read a chapter and calmly set it aside to be picked up at a later date; instead the pace is positively frenetic, catapulting us forward as we devour whatever crumbs of knowledge are tossed our way until we reach an end that startles a groan from our throats as we shake our heads in denial that we've truly reached the last page.
Though the story moves quickly and has moments of sheer brilliance, Nora's character has shifted in this installment into someone almost unrecognizable. In a short two-month time period she's gone from an intelligent, fairly independent young woman to a girl who has to physically force her heart to beat outside of Patch's presence, her quality of life and entire sense of self-worth fully dictated by his thoughts and actions. Her strength seems irrevocably linked to him, her world only beautiful when he touches or looks at her and practically unbearable when he denies her those sensations. Her behavior becomes increasingly erratic, words spewing from her mouth in anger without making a pass through a rational filter first, leaving both Patch and us blinking and befuddled by the ferocity of her illogical fury. Are some of her complaints valid? Absolutely, and we've all said things we've later regretted, but Nora overreacts to such a degree it causes our blood pressure to spike to an unnatural level as we attempt to make sense of her verbal attacks and relationship sabotage.
Luckily, mid-way through the book rationality begins to creep back into place, the incoherent anger misting away into intangible vapors, and though they never dissipate completely, they begin to be replaced by a visceral, raw pain that shifts our confusion regarding her antics into a sense of solidarity for a young woman scorned. Nora and Patch spend most of the book apart, using their separation to sharpen their tongues in preparation for their next confrontation, and we can do nothing but watch with a sort of horrified detachment to see who will walk away with their heart sliced to ribbons and who will walk away feeling more guilt than pain. Both parties seek to inflict suffering on the other, choosing drama over logic, hurt over rationality, and anger over honesty. There are of course extenuating circumstances preventing an open approach to fixing their relationship, but the angst and tension are so overpowering they at times detract from an exquisitely delivered one-two punch at the conclusion of the story.
Melodrama unfurls from every page, and the unfounded hostility between Nora and Patch is difficult to digest at times, leaving us with a prevalent sense of unease that refuses to evanesce even as a captivating story moves to the forefront. I feel as though I'm at the lonely end of the spectrum with my reaction to this one, but game-playing and the I've-been-wronged-so-it's-okay-to-do-wrong-in-return tactic in relationships, though especially realistic in teens, has never been something to which I can relate. I'm more of the suffer-in-silence type, concocting conversations in my head in which I verbally eviscerate the object of my wrath, but ultimately I wake up the next morning grateful those thoughts were never acted upon or spoken aloud. This second book has a fantastic story and an incredible mystery, but those elements are periodically overshadowed by some unfortunate behavior that will hopefully be remedied in book three.