In the crowded field of YA paranormal novels, the premise of Meridian stands out. Not content to give us yet another tale of angsty vampire love, Amber Kizer instead introduces us to the Fenestras, semi-angelic beings who are tasked with helping the dying cross over to the afterlife. Our heroine, Meridian, has always been different. Small animals burrow into her bed and die, and mysterious ailments have always plagued her. On her sixteenth birthday, she learns why. She is a Fenestra.
Meridian’s life changes overnight. Seemingly abandoned by her parents, she goes to live with her Aunt Merry (whose full name is also Meridian), an elderly Fenestra who will teach her the things she needs to know. (I loved Aunt Merry. Especially her quilts. And her wolf. And…well, I guess I just loved everything about Aunt Merry.)
She also meets Tens, a young man who is initially hostile toward her, but who plays a major role in her destined future. I’ll admit, I’m a little sick of romance plots that begin with bickering, but I do like the way the subplot developed after Meridian and Tens stopped bickering. I’ve seen a lot of YA novels lately in which the love interest is domineering toward the heroine. This isn’t one of those. Tens can best be described as chivalrous, and while the romance develops at an implausible speed, it’s sweet and charming.
Together, Meridian and her allies must stop a creepy but charismatic preacher who has enthralled the whole town, and who may be one of the Aternocti, which are the evil equivalent of Fenestras.
The whole thing feels a little rushed, in part because a lot of earthshaking events happen in the space of a few days, and in part because of the prose style, which is brisk and occasionally a little choppy. The story is interesting, though, and I enjoyed Meridian overall. I do have my quibbles about the ending, which is a little too deus ex machina. If Meridian needs that much supernatural help to save the day, it makes me wonder if she really knows everything she needs to know, and if she’s really ready to strike out on her own as a Fenestra. I’d have liked to see her play a larger role in the events of the climax.
I think my biggest gripe about Meridian, though, has to do with its mythology. If you want to read it, highlight this spoiler: The spirituality of the Fenestras is presented as a welcoming, forgiving faith. It’s compatible with the major organized religions, but supposedly less judgmental. Yet, the welcoming, loving Creator(s) would let a child go to Hell because an Aternocti, rather than a Fenestra, ushered her into the afterlife? And I didn’t get the idea there was anything Meridian and friends could do to rescue this poor kid. I guess this makes the Aternocti scarier and raises the stakes in the conflict, but it just sat really badly with me. [END spoiler.]