Mackie Doyle is a Replacement — a changeling. When he was a baby, the fairies left him in the crib when they took the real Malcolm Doyle away. His family knows this, but he needs to keep it a secret from the rest of Gentry, his hometown. Mackie tries to be a normal teenager — he goes to school, the teenage night club, and to parties. But he can’t go to church where his father is the pastor because it’s painful to stand on the consecrated land. Also, blood, steel, or anything else made of iron makes him sick and weak.
The Doyles aren’t the only family that’s been affected by fairy activity. The residents of Gentry know this, but they never talk about it — everyone just pretends that everything is normal. Until Tate’s little sister suddenly gets sick and dies and Tate starts demanding answers from Mackie.
Mackie’s story is compelling; I wanted to know why Mackie was different and how he would find out the truth about himself. Brenna Yovanoff writes him well — he feels like a real teenager — and she doesn’t give us all his background at once, so there are lots of discoveries to make, though as the story goes on, it’s hard to enjoy a hero who’s usually sick, weak, or afraid. I was also intrigued by the relationship between the fairies and God, though I never came to a satisfactory understanding about what it was.
Unfortunately, the more we learn about Mackie, his family (especially his mom), his town, and the fairies, the more unbelievable the story becomes. If Mackie gets sick being around blood, what about the blood in his own body? Are we really supposed to believe that the people of Gentry know about the fairies but don’t talk about it? Why don’t Mackie and Tate tell any adults about their suspicions? Why do the adults let their kids roam around in the middle of the night?
If you want specifics about why I thought the plot didn’t work, please highlight the following SPOILERS:
- Gentry has an unspoken deal with the fairies: The fairies occasionally steal a child and replace it with a dying fairy child. They sacrifice the human child. Then they make sure that Gentry “prospers.” Why would the people of Gentry put up with this arrangement? I saw no evidence that Gentry was better than any other town — in fact, it’s worse because of the creepy vibe that comes from the fairies. Why not go flush out the fairies, or at least move to another town? I found myself assuming that Brenna Yovanoff has no children because no parent would put up with this ridiculous bargain.
- The fairies get some sort of power-up from playing rock music for teenagers? This seemed like just a lame excuse to let Mackie be a rock star.
- Mackie and Tate start making out after Mackie announces that her sister is alive? Instead of asking Mackie for all the details and how they can find her sister, or instead of telling her parents the good news, she invites him to her room? [END SPOILERS]
So, my main problem with The Replacement was the plot. Because I couldn’t believe in it, the gothic feel that Yovanoff was going for just didn’t work — it felt more emo than gothic and mostly served to remind me why I’m glad I’m done with high school.
I was attracted to The Replacement because of the cover art and I listened to Brilliance Audio’s version. The only reason I even finished the book was because it was performed by Kevin T. Collins who also did Jeffrey Ford’s The Shadow Year, a book that I really enjoyed, partly because of Collins’ excellent narration. I think Collins’ serious-sounding voice, and my nostalgia for his performance of The Shadow Year, is what delayed my realization that The Replacement was not worth my time.