Sunday, August 5, 2012

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Breaking Point by Jess Bowen

Breaking Point (The Order of the Elements #1)
Jess Bowen

Release Date: November 1st, 2010
Publisher: Omnific
Page Count: 415
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Phoebe Johnson and Ethan Smith had everything they needed: loving parents, great friends, and admission letters to Ivy League schools they'd be heading to in the fall. If only they knew that they were never going to reach the end of that summerat least, not in the world they knew. A secret waits to be revealed on the eve of their nineteenth birthday, a secret that is going to change their lives forever when it leads them to a place they never believed existed, love they could never imagine living without, and power they never suspected they possessed. 

Jess Bowen expertly plunges readers into an imaginative, supernatural world that refuses to bow down to the darkness that's all but taken over. Amidst this adventurous quest for a lost prophecy, Bowen weaves in powerful tales of love that will leave the characters and readers breathless.
What Stephanie Thinks: Phoebe and Ethan are two regular kids, leading regular paths in the normal realm, when they're suddenly torn from their everyday lives and sucked into an unfamiliar, supernatural world, one that's far more dangerous than they'd ever bargained for. Here, they are known as the preordained and most powerful beings of all: the Masters of the Elements. Brought to one of these so-called Safehouses, which are meant for keeping evil out, but feel more like they're locking everyone in, the two teenagers are forced to come to terms with their abrupt possessions of power, as well as their identities, in order to fulfill their prophecies. Breaking Point is fast and thrilling, and it's exactly my kind of urban fantasy read because while it is completely idealistic and highly inventive, it takes place in a regular world in which people like you and I live in. Thus, there's a believable, human aspect to it as well, which is what makes it such an absorbing read.

I love the lush, beautiful world Bowen creates. She has a smooth, vivid voice that not only displays setting and characterization well, but also has a knack for telling the untold, the speculations of mind and the reluctances of heart. She weaves the story from different perspectives using third-person omniscient, but doesn't forget to leave out just the right parts to leave readers hanging and breathless.

The concept of Element Training is so creative. Basically, a predestined group of teenagers lives in this Safehouse to train against the evils of Petrozan, the one who destroyed their world as they know it, according to the prophecies. Each student has their own element—water, wind, earth, or fire—and is able to control it in some way. Some of them even have magical talents, such as telekinesis or shapeshifting, but the Masters are the one who bear the most power of all. Or, at least they're supposed to. Phoebe is immediately an obvious candidate to defeat Petrozan, with her multiple talents and instant control over her element, water, but Ethan, Master of Earth, struggles to discover his own, as well as compare with her, and another even more intimidating Master, Dorian. His inferiority complex plagues him throughout the book, and the inner conflict, I loved watching the development of. Eventually, it saves him when he redeems himself in a battle that may determine who will survive to fight... and who won't.

Breaking Point reminds me of Avatar: The Last Airbender in substance and The Hunger Games in social foundation—in other words, fabulous! I don't like Bowen's profuse idealistic tone, however. Everything in the fantasy world she creates is perfect, which, I know isn't supposed to be realistic, but after a while, it does get irritating. I compare Breaking Point's magic realm to Hogwarts (seriously, that is PRAISE), but while Hogwarts has its depths and its darknesses, in Breaking Point, everything fits just right, everything tastes perfect, everyone (well, most everyone) gets along a little too well. It's uncanny, and it, even in a fantasy novel, isn't realistic. This is urban fantasy; I would have liked to see the author be a bit darker, a bit edgier. For this reason, I wouldn't recommend this one to the older audience. Even though there are some slightly mature themes (a love triangle, violence, frightening combat), nothing is ever explicit (save a few gory injury descriptions), so this would be for the younger young adults: I'd say ages 11-15. If you're a YA aficionado like me, you'll still enjoy this one—that is, if you can get past a few eye-roll-worthy moments.

That being said, the world Phoebe and Ethan are brought into is one I want to be a part of and live in. I can't emphasize this enough! It may be unreasonably happy-go-lucky, but it's simply stunning. I absolutely love the characters in Breaking Point too. Each of them have their own pasts and their own brutal flaws—even Phoebe, who, to everyone else, seems perfect—and the journey they take to overcome, or at least control, these weaknesses makes for a gripping, consuming ride. Bowen is a master of words, especially when describing emotions; she excels in bringing her characters to life and making them lovable, even with their demons and their mistakes, and even when they lose composure and reach breaking point.

Another aspect that's engaging is the romance. Bowen creates a tingling concept of soul mates, that is, in itself, completely captivating—something I swooned over. I won't give anything away—yes, you'll have to read it yourself to find out what the big deal is!—but I rooted for the blooming couples, even those that were forbidden, and loved the complications behind each of them, during and after the entire read. Again, nothing is ever sexually explicit, which for me, was both frustrating and titillating. The romance consists mostly of smooth talk and the ill notion that a relationship is 100% meant to be, but just may not work out. It's heartbreaking, emotional, and once again, completely human, and it further demonstrates that Breaking Point will not only quell starry-eyed teenagers, but be parent-friendly as well.

The ending... GAHH!! I hate it! But I love it! A cliffhanger for sure—highly highly annoying, but at the same time, satisfying even without the closure. I'm keen on reading the next book in The Order of the Elements—I'm a freak, I can't just not find out what happens next—but am so disappointed to discover there isn't a sequel yet!!! Not even a tentative release date ;( However, I WILL keep my eyes on both the author and publisher's sites, and will be, hopefully, reviewing the next installment(s) in the five-book series.

All 400+ pages of Breaking Point turned themselves. It's a heavy novel with yes, often superficial specificities, but overall, its story is relatable and enchanting. I love being drawn into made-up worlds like Bowen's, and combined with my affection for each of the characters, I would say I enjoyed this one a lot. Definitely recommended, especially if you're into clean, but still perilous young adult fiction with a touch of romance and an inclination for magic.

Stephanie Loves: "'Darkness is the absence of light. Happiness is the absence of pain. Anger is the absence of joy. Jealousy is the absence of confidence. Love is the absence of doubt. Hate is the absence of peace. Fear is the absence of faith. Life is the absence of death. We are all made of little absences here and there. Truth comes from which absences fill us. Strength comes from how we fill the absences.'"

Radical Rating: 9 hearts: Loved it! This book has a spot on my favorites shelf. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥