Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: Solstice High + Author Interview: with Ardash Vartparonian

Solstice HighSolstice High by Ardash Vartparonian
Dani’s Rating: 4.5 stars
Overall Rating: 4.5 stars

Format: Paperback
Publisher: Strategic Book Group
Publication Date: October 22, 2012
Pages: 353

Goodreads Synopsis:
It's the first day of school at prestigious Solstice High. Seniors Matt, Rochelle, Daphne and Jonas each have a big surprise waiting for them. When the four friends undergo a freak accident, they begin to develop superhuman abilities and come to realize that all is not as it seems within the bleak walls of their high school. While dealing with the day-to-day challenges of being teenagers, they must also confront their sinister principal, Mr. Devlin, who seems to have more than just education on his agenda.

Dani’s Review:

Thanks so much to the author for providing us a copy of this novel in exchange for our fair and honest review. 

    Solstice High is Ardash Vartparonian’s debut novel. It is the story of four friends who are forced to take a burden heavier than their shoulders can carry. When Matt, Rochelle, Daphne, and Jonas stumble upon Principle Devlin’s sinister plan and begin to develop powers that they thought were only in movies, they promise to do whatever they can to stop him.

    This novel is a mix of teenage drama and fantasy. I was surprised that Mr. Vartparonian combined them so seamlessly. Each chapter changes between the four main character’s perspectives. It is fairly easy to tell who’s eyes you are viewing the world of Solstice High through once you get to know the characters. I loved this aspect of Solstice High because I didn’t have to ponder what each character was feeling. I was never bored because all four characters have such different and interesting personalities. The character development is fabulous!

    Matt has been picked on and made fun of for all of his high school years. He is coming to terms with being gay and has a crush on the captain of the swim team, Julian. At first he seems to be a weak character who can’t fend for himself, but when the freak accident uncovers his power, he transforms (like he literally TRANSFORMS) into a powerful being. He fears that he won’t be able to control his new power because he feels like it’s a beast with a mind of its own. After several accidents involving his power, he wonders what he is becoming. He sinks deeper into the pit of depression when he had just begun to climb out of it. The author really pulls the reader into Matt’s mind. I traveled with Matt up and down his emotional rollercoaster. Out of all the characters, I sympathized the most with Matt because he has the most volatile power.

    Rochelle is the “Queen Bee” at Solstice High. She is the effortlessly flawless girl who every girl wants to be and every boy wants to date. Rochelle appears to be a constantly squealing diva who only cares about gossip and fashion, but her true personality is much deeper. She can be petty and compassionate, a vindictive queen and a sympathetic friend. She is one of the strongest female characters I have ever read about. Rochelle blindly charging into a potentially dangerous situation set in motion the accident that changed her and her friend’s lives forever.

    Daphne is, if possible, an even more headstrong heroine than Rochelle. Her family life is a wreck because her mom wants a “perfect family”. Daphne’s mom dream shattered when Daphne’s brother went into drug rehab. Her mom is constantly criticizing everything everyone in her family does, constantly pissing off Daphne. As a result, Daphne seems to be constantly angry. She hides her emotions in a box deep inside of her and doesn’t open the tightly closed lid until the end of this novel. It’s fitting that a girl with such a fiery personality develops the power she does.... ;)

    Jonas is a jock who is in love with Rochelle. He has “hippie parents” who often leave him at home for days while they go to pursue their dreams. Jonas is a responsible person so he wouldn’t crash the house with his parents gone (and his parents know that), but he is secretly annoyed with his parents for not being there when he needs them. I loved to read from his point of view because he thought about Rochelle practically every second of the day. It was so funny and sweet!

    Ardash used a lot of allusions of pop culture in his novel. For example, Rochelle is obsessed with the TV series Gossip Girl. Personally I usually don’t like it when an author uses many allusions, but I thought it added more humor and insight into the characters’ personality in this novel. There is TONS of humour in this book along with the more serious feelings of depression, anger, vengeance, and grief.

    Solstice High is an amazing novel where I groaned about homework (which I already do), battled evil principals, and squealed in delight about being a “superhero” with the characters. It’s so easy to live through each character in this novel. I know a knocked off 0.5 of a star, but it’s only because I got the feeling of being in a comic book when I read this novel. Everything else was fabulous, but the beginning plot seemed a little corny to me. However, it’s extremely difficult to come up with unique plots now because SO many stories have been written!

    All together, Solstice High is a very good book. What made me love this book is the character development. Each character’s personality is so unique and complex. As a teenager, I especially enjoyed it because I could relate to the trials and tribulations of being a high schooler. Even if you’re not a teenager, I think that you will enjoy this novel because you will time travel back to when you were a teenager! And maybe you adults will sympathize with us teenagers more when we complain about our lives. :)

And now for an Interview with the Wizard himself...Ardash Vartparonian! Thanks so much Ardash for agreeing to do this we us!

1. What was your inspiration for the name "Solstice High"? 

1) I chose the name Solstice for the school because the Summer and Winter Solstices are the longest and shortest days of the year; they represent a lack of balance in a way, and I thought this went well with the theme of being a teenager. Teenagers are regularly on emotional roller-coasters, though I don't mean to say this is a bad thing. It's simply a period, I suppose, a transition stage of going back and forth until you start figuring out who you are, much like the days get shorter or longer leading up to the Solstice, and eventually, hopefully you might say, reaching a point where you feel comfortable and secure in your own skin, an "Equinox" if you so wish to call it. 

2. Which character has the most similar personality as you?

2) The character that is most similar to me would be Matt, in terms of personality and physically as well. Matt definitely represents my own years as a teenager, and the self-created dramas and pity parties he throws for himself I can recognize as things I would put myself through for certain. This is probably why Matt might be my least favorite character actually, because at points in the novel I wished to tell Matt to 'grow up' or to 'stop whining', and in a way that is my present self talking to my teenage self. Many of the things that happen to the characters or things they have said to have happened to them, odd bits here and there, are things I took from my own life (I really did ask where all the sheep were when I went to a cotton factory when I was younger), so I could argue that there are bits and pieces of myself in each of the characters, though Matt would have to be the closest resemblance to me (the teenage me; I hope I am not as annoying now haha).

3. Did you have a strict or mean teacher like Mr. Devlin when you were in high school?

3) Devlin was an entirely original creation; I never had any bad experiences with any of the teachers or the headmaster at my school. I say Devlin is an original creation but in a way that's a bit of a lie, because physically he resembles the man who was actually my headmaster, but he's the father of one of my best friends, so the handsome side of Devlin is based on a real person, but the evil persona beneath it is pure fiction. What I wanted when I made Devlin was to make a symbol more than a man, a figure that represents an institution, in this case a school. The dilemma would then lie in, as it often does in the book, if these institutions like schools, and the teachers and headmasters that run it, are supposed to be safe havens and people you can trust and who can help you, who do you turn to when you realize this isn't the case? Devlin is kind of a caricature I guess; the good-looking villain who runs the school, but it's what the man represents and not the man itself that I was more concerned with.  

4. I saw in your biography that you have lived in Argentina and the UK. What is your favorite place that you have traveled to?

4) I've lived in Edinburgh for almost five years now because of university, and I love this city, but I would be lying if I said I wouldn't be glad to leave when I graduate. I come from a massive city, Buenos Aires has around ten million people in it, and I love the noise and chaos of big cities. I've traveled quite a bit throughout Europe (you can get some really cheap plane tickets to almost anywhere around here!), but my favorite city I think will always be home, and that is the sprawling, noisy, cultural melting pot that is Buenos Aires. It might not be as cosmopolitan as Paris or London, but it has it's own unique charm that I haven't found anywhere else yet. A second close might be Rio de Janeiro in Brazil; I went on a trip through the Amazon rainforest but the beginning and end of the trip, messing around in Rio, were for me some of the biggest highlights. (Having a massive tarantula crawl up my arm in the middle of the forest was fun too, I have to admit haha.)

5. What was the hardest part about writing Solstice High? Any particular scene?

5) The hardest part about writing Solstice High I think was Jonas; the character is so unlike me in every which way that it became almost a burden for me to try to write through his point of view, to see and understand and react to the world in his mind-frame. What made it easier to write was when I thought to myself "What would I NOT do?" and that's kind of how Jonas popped up. His overwhelming sense of responsibility (and his love of sports) is something that does just not come naturally to me I think. Other than Jonas, the most brutally hard things to write in all honestly were any of the love scenes; trying to not make it sounds like a horrid cliche or so cheesy it stank, but I think writing a good love scene (without feeling that you sound like a complete idiot) is quite a hard thing to do for many authors. Yeah... love scenes are the worst! :)

6. Do you plan to write a sequel to Solstice High?
6) Yes, Solstice High is the first in a trilogy (I've written the first drafts to both sequels already).

Phew! Those were great responses! So happy to hear that there will be more books after Solstice High! I seriously recommend all Paranormal and YA lovers to put this on their to-read lists.

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