“Pull” by Anne Riley

I requested this book from NetGalley literally months ago (like, February or something?), and forgot all about it until I was working through all my ARCs while on a WiFi-less holiday in Yorkshire and decided to give it a go. Unlike a lot of the others I’d abandoned unfinished, it wasn’t because I’d started this one and got bored, but that I’d never got around to tackling it at all. As soon as I did, I was sorry I hadn’t got around to it sooner.

Pull may fall into a few YA tropes, because it features a mysteriously gifted group of people who save the protagonist shortly before revealing that she’s one of them, and by the way the main guy is really hot. However, it manages to subvert a few by avoiding instalust altogether (thank you) and making all and any romance gradual, as well as having the character’s prime motivation be her family. Moreover, the mysterious gift isn’t something I’ve come across before, because it’s the ability to manipulate time in order to save people by changing events.

It’s set in London, specifically Blackheath, which is an area I know reasonably well. The main character is American, but passingly familiar with the city having spent every summer there, so while it still comes across as a slightly touristy version of London, it’s not as annoying as it could be. I appreciate it when characters acknowledge that the everyday life of Londoners doesn’t generally involve the Tower of London, for example. For the most part, the British characters are fairly convincing as Brits, although there were a few language things that bugged me.

(Example: “paid my tuition through graduation” This phrasing just didn’t sound British. “until” or even “through to” would be more natural; there were a couple of others that were similar. And at one point someone travelling from Blackheath to London Bridge had to change at Charing Cross, even though there’s a train that goes directly and Charing Cross is actually further away… These are minor things, I know, but it’s a pet peeve.)

I’ve read a few books recently where, despite being interested in the events I couldn’t engage with the characters because they didn’t have clear enough motivations or personalities. That wasn’t the case here – I actually felt more invested in Rosie and the others around her than I have in any characters for a while. Rosie (Rosemary is her full name) was very clearly motivated by her family, including a younger brother struggling with trauma-triggered addiction, and a recent bereavement.

While she does occasionally behave as you’d expect from a character who has recently discovered a whole other mysterious world and is curious about, she’s not the risk-taking, illogical heroine you find in so many books. She’s not timid, but she’s pretty sensible, which means when things went wrong the reader didn’t automatically think it was her fault. (You know those characters you just shout at? Yeah.)

I also enjoyed the writing because, while lacking the poetic descriptions that sometimes catch my attention, it felt natural and didn’t feel like a barrier between me and the story. There’s a fair bit of banter, but it’s not over the top or unrealistically hilarious, and feels like a genuine conversation. Here and there, Riley even manages to soften some of the more melodramatically fantastical statements by couching them in reality, which is always a feat with YA fantasy.

I guess mostly I just liked that it felt fresh, without being particularly unconventional. It proved that the YA urban fantasy genre isn’t oversaturated, because it’s still possible to write books that feel engaging and original without having to subvert every trope ever. This book turned just enough clichés on their head to be new, but stayed within conventional boundaries to produce an enjoyable, engaging read. And sometimes that’s what I want, you know? A standard YA fantasy that I can enjoy without being constantly irritated by love triangles, instalust, and foolish protagonists.

I’m embarrassed to have left it so many months to review this, but I’m also a little sad that I didn’t get around to supporting it when it was newer, because it deserves it. While I don’t think Pull breaks any major moulds, it’s a damn decent book nonetheless.

Also, an observation: I think it has the longest acknowledgements I’ve ever read.

Rating: ****


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