Just so that people know as a disclaimer before I start in this reflection: yep - the author is one of my GR friends/supercool posse but that had no bearing on my enjoyment or honest reflection on the book.
To discuss what "Fearscape" is about - it's a love story gone horribly wrong. By horrible, I mean of the creepy stalker harasser variety, not of the kind that you see where a young lady pines over a bad boy and desires him despite his abrasive tendencies. I wouldn't say along the lines of "Twilight" or "Hush Hush". Rather, this is the kind of story where the girl actually realizes "Dude...this guy is sick", and has to fight to get out of his circles. Valerian Kimble, a.k.a. Val, is a 14 year old track runner who happens to be drawn into a relationship with her 18-year old art TA, Gavin. The way the story unfolds is a little rocky to start, proceeding what seems like your typical lust of a dark brooding presence. The signs are there from just about everyone in Val's circles noting that Gavin isn't what he seems, and capable of doing harm. Only Val does not know completely, at first, how deep his obsession runs.
I think in retrospect, I wished there were a little more development of the surrounding characters, though for what the narrative showed, they served the story for its purpose. I think Val's relationship with her mother and circle of friends, even relationship with Lisa, did well to shape the plot.
I think most going into this novel would probably have no mystery of saying "Oh, Gavin's the obvious bad guy, you silly girl - stay away from him." The experience is akin to yelling at the TV screen during a horror movie and saying "Don't go into that room, the killer's right there!" I'll admit that while I liked turns of the dialogue and while I felt that Val sounded like a normal 14 year old girl in relations to her friends and family, her naivete did grate on me a little more than I would've liked. But it does set up how someone with Val's youth and mindset could be drawn in and think that a dangerous relationship might seem alluring, but becomes something darker and quite scary.
I liked the imagery of the chess game as a parallel to what Val and Gavin's relationship was, especially with how it ties to how Gavin could manipulate the situation and outcome to his advantage. The section with his journals was illuminating and scary in turns, but I also think it was a little info heavy and made the otherwise fluid presentation of the prose slow down a bit. It picks up with the revelations Val gains from that, though, and she struggles to get out of the nightmare that she's found herself within. Gavin is a sick mind and when Val's repulsed by him, she's repulsed for good reason. Some of the things he does to her made me just...argh. :( It took me out of my comfort zone which was what the narrative purported to do. I'll admit it had me tensing and wincing up to the end, where the story does provide some closure, at least to the next stage of where Val's life turns, but it is rushed and doesn't vet some of the complexities of the legal cracks and other things that led to the outcome. I appreciated the effort though, and it was an engaging story, particularly for me to follow it and see where it goes and how Val grows from the point this story ends on.
Overall score: 3/5