Thursday, August 11, 2011

Indie Author Jack Blaine - Helper12

When an author asks me to review his or her book, generally I get a description of the story. By the time I sit down to read the book, I usually have no idea what the premise is, unless the title gives it away. Sometimes this adds a little more excitement to my story reading and sometimes this confuses me. In the case of Helper12, I was confused. I thought I was fairly certain what this book was about, and in part, I was, but there was a bigger picture that changed the genre of the book in my eyes.

Helper12 is set in a world where only the rich have control of their own lives. All others are tracked as infants into the jobs that they will do for the rest of their lives. The Helpers, as they are called, have no names, only numbers. They have no families, only the Breeder who gives birth to them, the Baby Helpers who care for them, and the Trainers who teach them. Helpers aren’t allowed to ever start families of their own and aren’t allowed to live outside of the complexes where their every move is digitally monitored.

In the beginning of the book, a baby helper, Helper12, is introduced. She cares for the babies from the time they are born until they are tracked at 6 months old. It is a sad description of how babies are cared for. No one loves them except for the baby helpers, and after they leave for tracking, the baby helpers never see them again. There are some babies who don’t make it that far. Some are deemed as unuseful to society and are euthanized.

Helper12 is getting ready for the end of her shift at the hospital when the director comes into the ward with a woman and her son. Helper12 is amazed and horrified all at once. She has never seen a family unit before. The woman hasn’t been sanitized and wants to hold a baby. One baby in particular, baby Jobee, as Helper12 calls him. The director allows this, and Helper12 is left helpless.

Through their conversation, Helper12 discovers that this woman’s intention is to buy the baby boy whom she is holding. To her horror, Helper12 finds herself being sold to this woman and her husband as a nanny. She has no choice but to go.

Helper12 is distraught and doesn’t trust Mr. and Mrs. Sloan or their older son Thomas. She sees no way out. After arriving, she tries to get to know the other Helper in the house but is met with distrust and aggression at every turn.

Finally, the Sloans go away on a three week anniversary vacation, and Helper12 feels like she can breathe. Complications arise when Thomas returns home and demands that she and the baby spend time with him so that he can get to know his little brother.

Helper12 doesn’t know what to do about this situation, and when she leaves the house with Thomas the first time, she is certain that he is going to sell her and the baby. Thomas, on the other hand, simply wants to spend time with her and the baby and soon finds himself on the edge of a forbidden love.

I was not expecting romance when I sat down with Helper12. Although surprised, I was not disappointed. I rather enjoy a good romance story and enjoyed the novel more than some that I’ve recently read.

I felt like I got to know the characters in the short time that I was “with” them. I found myself cheering for them and their love even when I wasn’t sitting down reading the book. Long after the story concluded, I thought about the characters and what they would be doing after the story’s end.

The book’s ending was somewhat unexpected. I could see where it was going, but as it got there, I was surprised by a few of the details. I love being surprised by endings. There is nothing worse than an overly predictable ending to a story.

Sometimes, endings are rushed, thrown together to close a story, and incomplete in their urgency. Helper12 was none of these things. It was a continuation of the story that led to an ending that concluded the story. It wasn’t a separate piece the author attached because it was time to end the story. A good ending is seemly hard to come by. Jack Blaine worked hard to give us that ending.

There are few discrepancies in the novel that were a minor irritation during reading, but if you could get past them, then the book worked well enough. In one instance, Baby Helpers are said to care for babies until they are tracked at six months old. Later in the story, Helper12 explains that she is only trained to take care of an infant to age 4 months. I didn’t get the feeling that she was being deceptive to simply get out of the house to gather more information, and the author didn’t suggest as much. It appears to simply be an oversight by the author.

The author also left a minor plotline completely open and feeling a little empty. Helper12 broke the rules. She loved to draw. She would save paper from dressing gowns at work and bring them home to draw on. She even had to go through illegal channels to obtain pencils to draw with. When Helper12 goes to live with the Sloans, she brings her last 3 drawings with her. Thomas later discovers her passion and Helper12 is terrified that he will turn her in. I wanted to see some real danger come from this plot line, but it didn’t develop into anything sinister. Of course, I didn’t want Thomas to betray Helper12, but the author went to great lengths to describe the severity of continuing with this activity, yet, the reader never got to feel the terror that Helper12 felt.

Overall, a good read, especially for those of you who like romance novels with a twist. This one won’t disappoint.