By Cynthia Ayala
History comes back to haunt the girls of Billings House and now, one by one, the Billings girls go missing. Someone is hunting the girls of Billings, especially Reed.
Published February 22, 2011, by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Ominous by Kate Brian is the 13th novel in her young adult Private series.
Thirteen books later….and now the story is resorting to gimmicks. Book of Spells was an excellent novel, it had the eerie nature to it and so many elements that explained so much in the series. The supernatural element was great for a one-off, but now to incorporate it into a series that has largely been based in realism, well it’s not translating well because it’s not necessary. The witchcraft element doesn’t add anything to the text and should not have taken seriously by the characters, it’s gimmicky and only serves to make this otherwise good novel cheap. It’s disappointing because there are strong female characters in the novel that seem to have fallen into a rut. They have become static for the most part, unevolved.
However, the dream sequences are incredibly interesting and provide much tension. Is there another way they could have been introduced? Maybe, but at least the supernatural element had one benefit to the novel otherwise they would not have worked.
Gimmicks aside, the story did flow. It had a strong sense to it, created an eerie atmosphere and allowed for the tension to rise. It’s unclear if the dreams are directly caused by a supernatural event or not, but it is written in a way that could allow it to be both. So much has happened to Reed and the fact that she’s not obviously suffering from PTSD is remarkable. The dreams can serve as that buffer between the real and the unreal, by allowing the reader to follow Reed’s innermost fears lending itself to create some minor character growth.
This series has just dragged out for so long and it almost seems as though Brian didn’t know what to do with these characters. In the earlier books, there was tons of secrecy which is why it worked so well. Who know what goes in a Boarding School, but Brian decided to explore it. The first three arcs dealt with powerful and realistic emotions such as jealousy and revenge. Now it’s unclear and is driven more by insane theories, curses, fear. Sure fear is a pretty realistic way to bring to life the story, but it shows a lack of substance given what all these older women are scared of, a crazy curse that might not even exist. The prequel makes it somewhat plausible, but not by much.
The plot hinges on the prequel and the supernatural element which is not doing much for the story. It’s taking away from character development and allowing the characters to remain static in some ways. It’s unfortunate considering what such a strong start this series began with. Was it still a good read? In some ways, yes, but it’s not as good as that first arc that launched the series. (★★★☆☆ | C)