Grounded, by Sandra Cox

I’m not sure how I came across this book, but I do know what caused me to download it onto my Kindle. The pun will be intended as I openly admit that the premise of a girl who’s normal and carefree from dusk to dawn but a MARBLE STATUE from dawn to dusk totally rocks. I love this kind of YA contemporary magical realism premise. I had envisioned a scene of her running home before sunrise but not making it in time and turning to stone wherever she last stood. Wouldn’t that be a weird sight for other folks not expecting to see a statue there? Would her family panic when her statue isn’t at home where it should be? Besides this, I had other ideas in my head about the curse that made her that way, how she deals with it, whether or not the curse is broken, and how the transformation takes place.

But this was not the story I expected. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The longtime family curse, cast by a genie, gets passed on from mother to daughter, and sadly, the mother passes away at childbirth. The current bearer of the curse is first-person narrator Gillian Stone. From sunrise to sunset, she’s trapped inside a Grecian marble statue on her estate. Apparently, through wise investing over the years and years, the cursed women of this family have amassed a small fortune. Thus, Gillian’s statue doesn’t look out of place and she can pay a nice salary to an older couple to tend to her affairs and maintain the estate.

As the sun sets, Gillian appears outside the statue wearing the same Grecian tunic. This was the first development different than what I expected. The statue doesn’t become the girl. Likewise at sunrise, she doesn’t turn back to stone wherever she is; instead, she physically disappears and finds herself—well, her spectral spirit or soul or what have you—back inside the statue on her grounds. Joining her in the curse is her faithful cat-companion Merrick, with whom she can communicate.

The next thing I didn’t expect was the characterization of Gillian. The image on the book cover makes her seem like a younger teen. However, she’s eighteen years old and kind of a badass! She prefers a leather jacket over the Grecian tunic, and she has a variety of vehicles including a Jaguar and a motorcycle.

So what’s a girl who’s just emerged from a statue for the evening to do? Hop on her motorcycle and enjoy the nightlife, of course! That’s when she stumbles upon a younger girl being roughed up by some thugs. Gillian is already a sympathetic character this early on in the story because of her unique existence, and her unexpected attitude makes her likeable. By helping out a helpless girl and totally kicking butt, Gillian becomes a character worth rooting for.

Interfering with the thugs gets her into some trouble, as their “boss” targets Gillian, especially upon learning she’s that Gillian Stone—the one who’s stinking rich. This is the external conflict. Meanwhile, a young man named Darth is hired at the estate, and he both infuriates and intrigues Gillian. If she falls for him—which she may be doing because he’s attractive in a bad-boy kind of way—it poses problems with the curse. Now there’s some internal conflict.

Just as Gillian lives a kind of dual life—statue by day, free-spirit by night—so does the book. Gillian, Darth, and Merrick are interesting, well-developed, central characters. There’s some real tension in the book as stakes are raised and Gillian’s situation becomes increasingly dire on multiple levels. However, the villains are a little cartoonish at times, the full details of the curse aren’t explained, and the way it’s ultimately dealt with seemed a little too deus ex machina for my liking.

Still, the book held my interest, and I read it quickly. Though there are some elements that didn’t quite work for me, there were several that did. The story went a different direction than I expected, which is a good thing, and the action rises well. Far from stone cold, I give Grounded a solid THREE AND A HALF STARS.

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Grounded is available at Amazon.

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