I’m just going to say from the start that this book was not for me. I had serious issues with the logic, plot, and love story, and that’s a shame because the premise was so intriguing.
Wesley is a college freshman, leaving his home for, essentially, the first time. His father died when he was young and he was raised by his agoraphobic mother who homeschooled him and sheltered him completely. But, Wesley persevered and got a scholarship to Northridge, to go learn…something. He never really figured out his plan.
Wesley’s mother has a mental breakdown when he leaves, in a scene that seemed to want to be fraught with shock and sorrow, but felt a tad cold and inexplicably melodramatic. Wes is picked up at the train station by his “roommate” Bryce. Strangely, Bryce and Wes are the only two residents of elegant Benedict House. Yes, a socially-repressed college freshman and an exuberant upperclassman are assigned university housing in a beautiful Victorian house on campus, together, with no other students. Reality check: it is inexplicable. It never happens, anywhere, ever. Campus housing is a premium resource, so this scenario is really to the convenience of the story, I guess, to keep Wes from interacting with anyone besides Bryce. Likewise, Bryce is a nude sleepwalker and while rescuing him, Wes finds a box with a book buried in the forest. This book is, conveniently, the grimoire of Benedict Ivy, formerly of Benedict House. Convenient, huh? So an uber-powerful closeted male witch buried his book of secret spells in the backyard of his house in a forest on a college campus. Then there are a whole series of “coincidences” that stem from Wes reading the first page of the grimoire and being imbued with witchcraft of the deadly sort. Again, convenient? I think so.
I kinda wanted to throw in the towel on this book. I felt like Wes was so wooden a character and Bryce was too clingy, and the other people they met—mind you this entire book takes place in the week prior to classes beginning—were caricatures. The drunk rapist frat boy. The goth witch. There were so many elements of plot that just fell short for me. I was anticipating suspense and felt like any time some began to build, it was just cut from under me with a quick (often not grounded in any sense) explanation. The romance between Bryce and Wes was stilted, but maybe it was the clunky dialogue that threw me off. I was also tired of the “bad witch” being a bitch all the time. We had not even “met” her in the book and she was “that bitch” from the start. Really? Ugh.
All the parts that could have been emotional touchstones for me were glazed over, and paraphrased, including the mental issues with Wes and his mother. He’s having terrifying nightmares of her attacking people and committing suicide, and his solution is a phone call to his aunt with a directive to her caregivers. Done, and done. *dusts off hands* Huh? There was so much “telling” me the story, instead of me seeing it, being there. And so many assumptions. Bryce and Wes kiss in a Tesla coil exhibit. Stray lightning happens. “Must be my fault,” thinks Wes. Why? Again, I struggled to connect to the characters and the unrealistic elements and behaviors pulled me out of the story time and time again.
The book had clearly been written to continue on as a series, but it was noted that the author, Jace Payne, died suddenly just prior to publication of Northridge. That’s a shame, really. He was young and clearly dedicated to honing his craft as a writer. I wished I had liked Northridge more, but there were too many elements of the unexplainable odd that interfered.