‘Young Adult’ is the fastest growing genre in the book world right now and boasts some of today’s most talked about novels, many having been turned into blockbuster films and TV series. The Hague Online received a copy of ‘The Path Keeper’ – the first book in a new and thrilling fantasy romance series by N J Simmonds, an expat currently based in Delft. This is what our writer Renee Veldman-Tentori had to say about the novel that is taking the YA world by storm.

I’ve been curious about ‘The Path Keeper’ for some time, especially after it has received so many positive Amazon reviews in the three months since its release (67 five stars and nothing under four stars). Although I rarely read fiction, and it’s pitched as a YA (and I’m 41 years old),  I tentatively turned the first page and was hooked. I barely put it down for two days, and even stayed up late into the night reading – it’s been a while since I’ve found a book I enjoyed that much I just had to finish it.

‘The Path Keeper’ is a love story – but not like any you have ever read before. What would you do if your life path was already mapped out before you, but you meet a man that isn’t meant to be part of your destiny? Can love ever be stronger than fate? This ever-current theme that threads its way through every aspect of the story had me gripped from beginning to end, and kept me pondering some of life’s biggest questions for a long time after finishing it.

It was interesting for an expat like myself as it tackles the subjects of displacement (the teen protagonist, Ella, has recently moved from Spain to London) and the isolation one feels when they first move to a new country. There’s also plenty of the passion and excitement you expect from a romance novel, a touch of mystical magic and some unexpected twists thrown in. Not to mention Zac, a handsome and mysterious character that no one will forget in a hurry!

‘The Path Keeper’ is an easy enough read for any teen from fifteen years old and up, yet challenging and intelligent enough to keep those not-so-young adults interested. Beyond its suspense-driven plot and multi-layered storyline, it also echoed many of my personal and spiritual interests and beliefs. One aspect that especially pleased me about ‘The Path Keeper’ was Ella as the female protagonist. As a mother of two girls, I’ve always felt that too many books have weak female characters, but N J Simmonds has given us a novel where female empowerment (while not necessarily the main theme) is naturally ever present.

Having devoured the book in just two days, I had the opportunity to speak to the writer herself and quiz her on how she came up with such a fascinating story.

I was worried about The Path Keeper being a ‘young adult fantasy romance novel’ but it’s not as I expected it to be. What makes a book YA?

No, there are certainly no vampires or zombies in it! For a book to be YA it simply needs a young adult protagonist and scenarios, or a coming of age story, that is relevant to the lives of teens. In Ella’s case she’s battling with her past and experiencing true love for the first time. But that doesn’t mean that all YA books are tame, far from it! Ella curses like a sailor and there are a few steamy sex scenes too. She’s 19, not a child, so don’t expect Enid Blyton-esque adventures.

The Path Keeper talks about fate and destiny, and how our past can affect our future. What inspired you to tackle such a complicated concept?

Life. Haven’t we all pondered ‘what if’ and the forks we have taken in the road of life? The book is by no means spiritual or religious, it’s far too much fun for that, but it does make you think a bit. I also wanted to explore love in a less black and white way. The idea of everyone having just one chance at love, and it being either right or wrong, has never sat well with me. This book is about love in all its guises – unrequited love, friendships, soul mates, family, lost opportunities, second chances and the idea that you can be with someone that is right for you, that is perfect, but there is still something missing. Love is a messy business…if only it could be as easy as Disney makes out it is!

What can book lovers expect from ‘The Path Keeper’?

For a start, it’s not a linear plotline. The reader is taken back in time to a seemingly unrelated story about two friends in WW2 London. They also watch a love affair between Lily and Leo in Spain. It isn’t until you near the end that you see how these stories start to merge and how Zac, the male lead, has infiltrated people’s lives throughout history (no, he is not a time traveller or vampire, I promise). Fans of The Da Vinci Code, The Time Traveller’s Wife and Twilight will enjoy its mix of thrills, romance and fantasy edge. And for those that want more, the second book in the series ‘Son of Secrets’ in out February 2018.

For more about The Path Keeper and NJ Simmonds, visit  www.njsimmonds.com, where you can buy the book in paperback or Kindle version.

Copies are also available at the American Book Center in The Hague.

If you would like to meet N J Simmonds, and pick up a signed copy of her book, the author will be giving a FREE seminar about the importance of Young Adult literature in today’s society at The American Book Centre in The Hague 1st June, 6.30pm. No ticket is required.