Gifted Review and Author Interview

I’m still alive, I promise…

There is no chosen one in this story.

She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and happened to make a decision that altered her future forever. It happens to all of us every day.

Avery Gray is a size twelve university student with a penchant for dry humour, and she’s as normal as they come. Up until now, the biggest choice she’s had to make was glasses or contacts? At the moment, it’s stay and save, or leave and be saved.

Allow me to explain. One rainy afternoon, Avery had to make a choice: go through the alleyway or around it. Two possible options. One would have had her future continue on as planned, the other would ensure that her future never remained the same again. She unknowingly went with the latter.

But change is not always bad. Avery meets Theodore-James Connors, an enigmatic young man who takes her to Hayven, a city separated from the rest of the world, where only gifters – ordinary people with extra-ordinary gifts – can go. She soon finds herself in a close-knit group of friends she’d never have imagined herself in; friends who are diverse in every possible way, from their ethnic backgrounds, to their personalities, from their gifts, to their life stories. Friends who make her laugh, who make her cry, who make her think and who make her…her.

However, change is not always good. The beautiful, golden city of Hayven has its dark side - Cliders. Gifters turned rogue, aka, Cliders are determined to aid fallen Clider, Madrina, return to rule Hayven. They will stop at nothing to make that happen, including harming those Ava has grown to love. Again, Ava is faced with a choice: spend her days finding a way to inhibit Madrina’s return, or walk away. After all, she isn’t the chosen one. Yet, there exists a third option - rig the future itself and make it work for her.

“I’d never wish to be normal because normal is boring, and nobody is good at it.”

First, I would like to thank Jessica George for giving me the chance to read Gifted. Gifted is an book with good ideas that I would not have checked out otherwise and; overall, it was okay…

My main problem with Gifted is that the plot is made of two stories that feel they are both fighting for attention. There is the plot about Avery, her friends, and their relationships; and the plot about Madrina returning to take over Hayven. On paper these ideas are great-- I love both small stories about friends and their feelings as well as stories about people who need to save the world-- but neither idea is given the time needed to work together. The ideas aren’t balanced well with each other, leaving the reader feeling unsatisfied. If there had been more about Madrina and her returning, I would’ve enjoyed the book a lot more since that was that the part of the plot I was more invested in.

Like many series, I found the side characters in Gifted far more interesting than the main ones, and I was specifically interested in the villains. I guess it was because they were mostly kept mysterious so I wanted to know more about them. Everytime someone started talking about Hayven’s past or Madrina, I got really interested and I wanted to know more! I really wish the villains could've had more time to shine in Gifted. My other favorite character was Baleigh. She was very self-assured and different than any other character in the book so she stole many scenes.

Overall, I enjoyed parts of Gifted (specifically the parts involving the return of Madrina). The plot was kind of cluttered and confused but the side characters were great. The plot had good ideas and better excicution would have helped Gifted greatly. I would recommend Gifted for anyone who finds the synopsis interesting and I hope you enjoy it!

Interview with Author Jessica George

For anyone who has not read Gifted, can you describe it in one sentence?
Gifted is all about a nineteen year old university student who meets a woman a little on the strange side before meeting a young man a little more on the stranger side, and these meetings lead to the eventual discovery of Hayven – a city separated from the rest of the world where only those with gifts can go.
I have to ask the most cliché question of them all, but how did you come up with the idea for Gifted?
I wanted to read it! I wanted to read a contemporary YA novel with a relatable female protagonist, a non-dystopian society and that didn’t feature a “chosen one”. I wanted to read about real young adult relationships and friendships. Then I wanted to throw in a dash of extra-ordinary for good measure. When I tried to put this all together, I came out with Gifted.
What was your favorite part of writing Gifted?
Just bringing my ideas to life. I really enjoyed writing Gifted because it is honestly a book I would happily read.
Is the finished version of Gifted how you always imagined the book? Or did the plot and characters change a lot over the course of the writing project?
Oh boy. How much time do you have?
I’ll start with my main character, Ava. With my first edition of Gifted, I was solely concerned with writing a book that would sell, so I tried to write about a character every reader would love. In order to do this I went about borrowing traits and personalities from other popular YA female protagonists. In the end, I wasn’t very happy. Ava was just another character I’ve already read about; there was nothing special about her and she was quite boring to read. After two years, I made the decision to focus on writing for myself, to write a book I’d enjoy reading and this meant a complete redraft of Ava. I didn’t want to read about another girl who wakes up and kicks butt on daily basis or a girl who is beautiful and skinny. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with having tiny characters, but there’s also nothing wrong with having curvier characters either. I just wanted to read about an ordinary girl. Ava is strong-willed, funny and sarcastic, but she’s also insecure and worries about the small stuff, like we all do. I really bond with her because I can see myself and many others in her and it’s nice to have a relatable character who experiences extra-ordinary things. For me, Ava makes the impossible seem a little more…possible.

As for the novel in general, I can honestly say that I’ve changed at least 95% of my first edition to make my second edition. When I first started writing Gifted, it was all about writing a book I wanted to read, which, as I mentioned above, was a YA novel with no chosen one, no instant-love and a focus on real young adult relationships. But when my publication date loomed closer, I started to panic. What if people didn’t like it? What if it didn’t sell? Wouldn’t that mean I’d failed at being an author? The scariest thing was that in order to write I had stopped following a path that would lead me to a financially secure job (but a job I had no passion for). Eventually fear got the best of me and I ended up changing Gifted into something I thought YA readers would like to read, for example, instant-love. YA novels are saturated with instant-love and so I assumed that was because that’s what readers wanted. Edition one of Gifted heavily featured instant-love but I eventually took it out because it is personally something I don’t believe in. I think love can sometimes take a while to develop and I also think lust and intrigue can often be misconstrued as love. My main protagonists are not in love, but because there’s an attraction between them, some of my readers believe they are. I don’t correct them because if it’s true in their head’s then that’s it – it’s true.
Do you have a favorite of your own characters? And, along those lines, do you ship any of your own characters?
I don’t! I say that because I’ve planned out the next three books and I know how much each of my main characters develop and get their own time to shine, so I love all of them! Baleigh is a reader’s favourite though! And on that note, I ship Baleigh and Lucas. I also ship a gifter/mortal relationship that you see in book two, but I won’t tell you who because I don’t want to spoil it!
Does any of your personality ever go into any of your characters?
Certain traits of mine and people I know goes into my characters, yes. But none of my characters are wholly based on anyone I know or have met.
Did you outline Gifted before you began writing it?
Yes, rather briefly I have to admit. The more I write, the more I come to realise how important planning is when writing a series!
Do you listen to music while writing? If so, what bands or genres?
I’m one of those people who can’t concentrate on words if there is music playing because I end up listening to the music instead. But if I could concentrate on both, I think Coldplay would be a good band to listen to whilst writing.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Write only what you want to read. Oh, and may the odds be ever in your favour!

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