First Lines: Vardel Academy was teeming with life. Two days ago, it had been as empty as a promise.
I received this book from the authors in return for a review.
Just for ease, I’m going to copy the synopsis from Goodreads: …Rarely when we’re down does the world offer us a hand up instead of a sharp kick to the ribs. But when Rome Navarro, a penniless kid with home issues, receives a scholarship to a prestigious school in his hometown, life is starting to look suspiciously hopeful. Little does he know, Vardel Academy houses an old, deeply guarded secret, and Redwood Bay is harboring mysteries of its own that are just as unsettling. Things become stranger still when he learns of a curse that his family is supposedly plagued by. A curse that involves the shy redhead he has his sights set on. Throw in a guy with an unhealthy fascination for him, and a love rival with cruel intentions, and you’re left with a recipe for both a devilish good time, and inevitably, disaster.
Ok, friends, you’re about to see something about as rare as Bigfoot sightings: I’m about to give a negative review. This is only the 2nd time since I started this blog three years ago that I’ve given a book only 1 rose.
Here are my two big problems with this book, in my opinion: plot holes/writing issues and moral inappropriateness. I will explain each of them at length.
I’ll begin with the plot holes, as that was what initially made me want to put the book down. (And I did put it down. I only made it 52% through. As far as I can recall, I haven’t put a book down since Great Expectations my freshman year of high school…and I’m about to graduate college.) Anyway, the plot holes were pretty numerous. The example I like to use is how Rome, our main character, doesn’t believe in magic. Then, 50 pages or so later, we find out that he is actually a werewolf, has been for at least a year, and can spot a werewolf on sight. Um…if you’re a werewolf, doesn’t believing in magic seem, I don’t know, not much of a stretch? (I have been informed by the authors that my interpretation of this is not quite right, but as a review is essentially my reading experience, this is what I got out of it.) I felt many times that there were places where information was missing like this.
Which leads me to my next writing issue. I felt that there were places where the characters made amazing leaps of reasoning that were far-fetched. At one point, two of the characters were trying to figure out how an orphan could pay to attend this prestigious private school. Instead of the obvious answer of “a scholarship”, such as the one Rome has to go there, their first instinct is “blackmail.” …I’m not even sure how that even fits. Blackmailing a kid into going to private school??
And the perspective was liable to change mid-paragraph. That was ridiculously confusing at times. I couldn’t even tell you who exactly the main character is supposed to be because we see the story through at least 4 different sets of eyes. In one chapter.
I could keep going on, but we are now going to look at the second category I mentioned: the moral inappropriateness. I want to start by saying that this book is clearly aimed at a YA audience. Everything from the cover, the plot, the characters is clearly YA. Most of the characters are between the ages of 15 and 17.
I quickly became uncomfortable with the use of language and the things these teens were doing. Yes, I did go to public high school and these curses were nothing I’d never heard before. But there were a lot of them for seemingly no reason. There were also scenes involving a 15 year old driving and a 15 year old being served wine in a fancy restaurant. No.
Also, the female character, Ariahna, was frequently treated as an object in the love triangle. And she clearly used the boys too. She’s start the scene on a date with one boy and end it kissing the other. But what bothered me the most was how the boys treated her. There was a scene where Aria and one of the boys seemed to have a special moment. Then, when she wasn’t present but the two boys were together, it turned into vulgarity and possessive speech. Not cool.
Oh, but it gets worse. How? Scenes that I would classify as glorified rape scenes. I’ve read another review that referred to it as “romanticized rape”, which fits just as well here. Two different characters, one male and one female, clearly told another character to stop or wait, and the other characters continued with their advances. One didn’t go as far as rape, but the other did. And then that character “ended up liking it,” if you will. Look, that last part doesn’t matter. No means NO. And I don’t appreciate things aimed at teens that say otherwise.
So, as you can see, this book bothered me on many different levels, from structure to content. I really don’t recommend this book.
1 Rose (this is so rare, I don’t have a graphic)