This book started off so well, drawing me in while I read the beginning at the bookstore. I'm into YAs about music and dance these days, and add in a...moreThis book started off so well, drawing me in while I read the beginning at the bookstore. I'm into YAs about music and dance these days, and add in a fantasy element and a promised thriller element, and I was sold.
Dance of Shadows starts off with a dark and fascinating prologue, then we meet Vanessa, who is going to New York Ballet Academy to find out what has happened to her sister. Right here we have a protag who promises an investigation amidst dancing.
The problem is that Vanessa does not investigate once she gets to NYBA. She wonders and wonders and wanders and wonders. She gets cast as the lead, even though she claims not to want to dance at all. She falls in love with the lead. Unlike others who have reviewed this, I did think that Zep started off well in the romance department, but then he got distant, and, here's the thing: Vanessa continued pining for him. Even when it was clear he was lying to her, even when he was never around, even when she was questioning whether being "his girl" was the same as "his girlfriend," she still wanted to be his girlfriend. I never exactly felt the attraction to the other love interest, Justin, either, although he was preferable as a character to Zep.
But Vanessa's main flaw was that she didn't do anything for a majority of the book and that she was a complete idiot in so many parts. She'd wonder about something, but seem to forget it a second later. Someone would tell her something cryptic that any logical person could figure out (or at least start investigating), and she'd just brush it away. She'd wonder if she could trust someone, then tell them everything. At one point she sees that someone has a missing girl's computer--complete with stickers on it--and she's all, "Oh, hey, did you know that she had one just like that?" Her friend gives her a list of missing girls mid-book, but she doesn't act on those names until near the end when she magically hears the same names and tells her friend, who points out that they're the names she gave her. Only then does it occur to her to start investigating the missing girls. Why did she come to the school again?
The premise was great, the beginning was enticing, and the end was decent, but a majority of the book had me sighing over Vanessa's density and lack of action.
Recommended for fans of: dense main characters, ballet stories mixed with fantasy...
When I read about this book, I squee-ed in nerdish glee. I couldn't wait to see a YA contemporary where the main character was celebrated for...more3.5 stars
When I read about this book, I squee-ed in nerdish glee. I couldn't wait to see a YA contemporary where the main character was celebrated for going to cons, for playing role-playing games, for making sci-fi/fantasty (hereby referred to as SFF) inside jokes.
There are many moments where the author just hits the fangirl note perfectly. Right at the beginning, we find Maddie freaking out because it's going to take 2 months to get the last issue of her favorite comic book. Can she stay away from the chatrooms, keep spoiler-free for 2 whole months? Yeah, I'm how many episodes behind on Doctor Who and putting my hands over my ears (or eyes when online), going "la la la, no spoilers please," and considering just downloading the eps to catch up? I get it, Maddie, I get it. The overwhelming feeling of being at your first big fan event, full of people having their wild and crazy nerdy fun, was well written. Then add in little gems of geekdom like the dog being named Leeloo (The Fifth Element) or a joke about a Jedi master getting exasperated at his Padawan for using the Force to get the remote control. And yet, oddly, along with the specific titles and references, occasionally movies/shows/songs are given to us in vague terms where we have to guess (if we even know) what Maddie is talking about. Which is a weird dynamic, especially when you have both examples on the same page, going, "What up, Akira?" "Not much, unknown sci-fi show about a love triangle and a psycho bounty hunter."
The book does require some suspension of disbelief. You have to believe that a girl who was ridiculed in front of the entire school for being a comic book fan could erase all memory of the incident and hide her love of comics, magically become popular, and get the football star to date her even though they're clearly not interested in each other. But, please, I'm a SFF fan, I can suspend belief like it's a kid caught with pot on school grounds.
Maddie herself was oftentimes frustrating. She also seemed really bad at this whole lying thing. First of all, suddenly she feels guilty about it, even though her whole life is a lie. Also, she goes through the most contrived process to hide her love of comics sometimes. It is way more conspicuous to hang out in the alley between the popular kids' favorite restaurant and the comic book store, pssting at a strange man to go pick up a comic for you, rather than taking a few seconds to walk into the store, where you would be then hidden. I understand her need for secrecy and the fear she had at being exposed, really, but sometimes it just felt like it was too much, particularly when she was already at places where everyone else was into the same things she was. The way she maintained her popularity seemed overblown in her head. Like her friends would dump her if she didn't like the same singer as them. Like the only reason she was popular was because she was dating the head quarterback so breaking up with him would be the kiss of death (but since neither of them were really that into each other, they were both using each other, which suggests that she already was popular before they started dating).
The second half picked up a lot, while the first half dragged a little. Some of this was the repetition of the "how will Maddie hide her love of Logan and superheroes from her friends, while she and Logan bond over comics?" game. The first LARP (live-action role-playing) game isn't all that exciting, although just the atmosphere of it can be fun to be introduced to if you're not used to RPGs or folks in fantasy costumes. The ridiculously fake love triangle gets wrestled with in the first half, but is dispensed of, for the most part, not too far into the book. There's a lot of talk about going to a concert with her BFF vs. going to a convention with Logan (even before Maddie realizes it's the same day, you guess it). I was actually surprised that the concert vs. con was resolved pre-climax.
But that's okay with me because I LOVED the climax! Actually the last quarter of the book was perfect for me. The final LARP game was amazing. It was exactly the sort of thing I wanted when I was geeking out imagining what this book was like. I know, I know, the whole concept is Maddie's transformation leading up to that point, but it was great to have the payoff. More payoff was how a lot of minor things that had been mentioned earlier in the book got used in the final pages.
Recommended for fans of: comics; LARPing/RPGs (or just the curious about them); contemporary stories about SFF stuff; adorkable love interests; fake love triangles; secret identities; minor SFF inside jokes.
Note: I was given an advanced copy of this book by Entangled Publishing for an honest review.(less)
So there's this thing where the 2nd book of a dystopian trilogy is the wishy-washy romance book. I don't know why, but it always seems to be that way....moreSo there's this thing where the 2nd book of a dystopian trilogy is the wishy-washy romance book. I don't know why, but it always seems to be that way. Romances that were strong in book 1 suddenly become weak for seemingly dumb reasons or the barely existent love triangle suddenly becomes very strong.
I loved The Selection, which I read overnight. The Elite took me a few days, still faster than I've been reading lately, but it was not the gripping read that The Selection was for me.
I found myself frustrated with America's indecisiveness. In The Selection, the love triangle was presented perfectly. America starts out with Aspen, who breaks up with her because he doesn't want to bring her down to his lower caste right before she gets selected. Then we get a focus on Maxon for quite a long time. Aspen comes back at the exact right time, late in the book, and the love triangle never reaches that level of back and forth that can so often be annoying. That was saved for book 2.
What most annoyed me was how many times America assumed that whatever Maxon was doing meant he was sending her home when it was so clear that he'd do anything for her. My favorite of these is when she sees him clearly asking her dad for her hand in marriage and she thinks he's telling her dad she's about to be eliminated. There were times when I can totally understand why America was upset at Maxon, but other times she was completely being unreasonable. When she outright rejects him, of course he has no choice but to search for an alternative. And, wait, what is America complaining about? She has an alternative guy too.
So, then there's Aspen. It's one thing for the two of them to have a secret romance when the consequences of being found out (death, btw) are just words on a piece of paper. But they see what happens when one girl is found in a relationship with a guard: the punishment is lowered to being caned and becoming Eights (beggars). All of a sudden Mr. I Can't Marry You and Lower Your Caste is perfectly willing to risk both of them being cast into the lowest caste level there is, as well as both him and America being physically punished for it? This is not the guy who would do anything for her. I'm pretty much dreading the inevitable moment when Maxon figures out what's going on behind his back.
There are some things I think this book did well. It upped the conflict a lot. There were more rebel attacks, including some where America doesn't get to the royal safe room. The aforementioned caning scene was seriously intense. There's a physical fight between two girls. The contestants are given tests to prove their worthiness of becoming the princess. And we the readers have actual reason to think Maxon might pick another girl. Furthermore, we find out some things about Maxon and his family. And Maxon has a truly righteous telling off of America late in the book, which really saved the whole wishy-washy romance for me, haha.
World-building still is lacking, but except for some excerpts in the diary of the first king of Illea, which basically had me scratching my head to understand their relevance, it didn't really bother me. Oh, and the names, I guess, which it turned out were somehow related to the history. But seriously horrible names, folks.
So, overall, not as gripping as The Selection, even though with the heightened stakes, it had so much potential for it.
Recommended for fans of: The Selection, the wishy-washy romance second book of dystopian trilogies, love triangles, heightened conflict in sequels.(less)
Vessel is an overall solid YA fantasy book with a gorgeous cover and an interesting premise. I was immediately drawn in by the first chapters, where L...moreVessel is an overall solid YA fantasy book with a gorgeous cover and an interesting premise. I was immediately drawn in by the first chapters, where Liyana prepares to sacrifice herself for her clan in a ceremony that will kill her so that a goddess can take over her body and save her clan from drought. Her relationship with her clan and the sorrows and joys they had over the ceremony were richly drawn in my opinion.
When the goddess does not come, she is cast aside by her tribe due to their belief that the goddess did not find her worthy and that a new vessel will please her enough to save them. Shortly after she is left behind and faces the dangers of the desert alone, she is found by a god-in-a-vessel, Korbyn, the trickster god.
I'm not sure I ever bought Korbyn as the trickster god. Or maybe current perceptions of how trickster gods should act and talk in fiction have influenced my assumptions about such a character. At times it felt like Korbyn was only the trickster god because it made it harder to convince others that he was telling the truth and because his stories could be more interesting that way. I can only think of one time when he "tricked" anyone, and, really, it was no more deceptive than anyone infiltrating an enemy camp would have thought of. More often than not, he seemed to play the "wise, old mentor/guide" role we often see in fantasy
The world-building in the book was pretty impressive, in my opinion. I felt like a lot of time was spent on building the world and the clans' relationships, their relationship (or lack thereof) with the empire beyond the desert, and especially the myths. I also like how sometimes the myths were completely true, then other times the myths were simply stories. The only time I felt really confused by the world-building/myths/actions of the gods was in the climax. I had a hard time figuring out what was going on, what rules they were following, how they were affecting anything, etc.
Another point of note is how the different clans reacted differently to their gods not coming. One drowned their sorrows in liquor, one killed their vessel in revenge, one seemed more reverent with the vessel singing about it, one met any intruders with suspicion and lied about what had happened. Of course, Liyana's tribe's answer was to move on and try again.
On the other hand, meeting each of these tribes seemed to slow down the pacing of the novel. It was pretty standard fantasy fare. We visit each tribe and find out how they're different from the others: how their setting is different, how their culture is different, how they react to strangers and other vessels and other gods (and so we end up with some stereotypical fantasy characters: the warrior, the princess, the rebel; plus a hero, Liyana, and a wizard, Korbyn). In between, Korbyn uses magic to help them survive the desert, then gets weary, and he and Liyana joke around and fall for each other.
The second half focuses more on the "enemy" of the Empire. We've already met the Emperor, a teen who is on a quest to save his people. We understand his motives pretty well, and while it is easy to see how he and Liyana could develop feelings for each other, the relationship that develops between them is so fast and so shallow, that, even expecting it (and kind of hoping for it), I had a hard time believing it when it happened.
There's a lot of good conflict behind whether it's right to sacrifice one person for the good of the rest, and whether the gods are righteous in taking a vessel or selfish. Liyana, who was ready to die for her clan in the beginning, fights very hard to live throughout the rest of the book. You can see that she does believe that it is right for her goddess to sacrifice her, but that it's harder to maintain that belief once the moment she's always prepared herself for passes by and she has to do it again. Or when there appears to be a loophole (but not a plothole, I promise) in how vessels work.
But even with a few pacing problems, I enjoyed the book overall, and think it would make a great addition to YA fantasy lovers' bookshelves.
Recommended for fans of: traditional fantasy tropes in a unique setting, great mythology and world-building, desert settings, covers that are not whitewashed!, "villains" with understandable motives.(less)
This was a very interesting read for me because I felt differently about it during the course of reading it, and before too. Until recently, I expecte...moreThis was a very interesting read for me because I felt differently about it during the course of reading it, and before too. Until recently, I expected this book to be just another paranormal romance, ho hum, this time about fairies. Then I read a character interview "with" Puck and fell in love with him, so I decided to check out the book. While I searched in bookstores for it (I eventually bought it on Kindle), I heard more about it, mainly that it was more fantasy than paranormal romance, yay! The main character, Meghan, was also mentioned in a SFF convention panel as a kick-ass heroine. I was ready to be impressed.
Unfortunately, the beginning of this book really did *not* impress me. Meghan's hope to win the attention of the hot, popular guy only to be embarrassed in front of and by him didn't appeal to me in the least (and now that I think of it, I have no idea what the motivation was for the fairy involvement in that situation). But we had action before too long with Meghan's little brother being stolen into the fairy realm with a changeling left behind, and Puck revealing himself to be, well, Puck.
At first Puck did not live up to the expectations given to me by that character interview, and, let's be honest, he was MIA for about half the book. Once he had someone to interact with other than Meghan, though, I felt like it was more like what I expected from a trickster character, and I have high hopes that he will appear in future books and that he will live up to those expectations.
And about Ash. The romance was a subplot in this book, but it felt forced and rushed. Some girls are totally cool with the explanation that the love interest is hot and therefore the main character loves him. In fact, that's all they need to fall for him too. I would have liked a little more interaction with Ash beyond "will he kill me or save me and, by the way, he's hot and we danced once," before I could accept him as the love interest. I liked his character most of the time, but it changed a lot when we first meet him, then settles in the second half of the book.
And my favorite character was Grim, a Cheshire-cat-like character. He acted like a cat, and usually was smarter than the rest of them. So much so that when he's like, "That way's a trap, let's go this way," and Meghan's like, "No, we can only go the way we know is a trap," I couldn't figure out why she wouldn't consider following him.
So, you probably noticed that I preferred the second half of the book. I had a hard time focusing on the first half. This is partly because I was too busy to read for long stretches, partly because I've been having trouble focusing on any books lately, but partly because of the problems I've mentioned above.
As to whether Meghan is a kick-ass heroine, she did have her moments. Usually they were about choices she made and standing up to someone vocally. She chose not to forget her brother and the fairy realm when she could have, she initiated a lot of bargains to get what she wanted, she tricked a couple of characters, and she did try to battle near the end. But she also had many damsel-in-distress moments with someone else saving her (usually Grim, Puck, or Ash). There were also some repetitive moments of her getting captured and then someone helping her escape at the very last second before the bad guys came back in, which is great for suspense...once.
Naturally there were many references to A Midsummer Night's Dream, and towards the end, I got a definite Labyrinth feel to the story too. Had Machina been described as David Bowie, I would not have been surprised ;)
The writing was above average with some great description of the fairy world and characters.
Recommended for fans of: Labyrinth, books with A Midsummer Night's Dream characters, fairies, changeling stories, female characters who have agency but don't kick ass physically and might need saving, hot love interests with no need to build to the romance, and intelligent cat characters.(less)
Supposedly, the first John Green book is the one you like best. This is my second John Green solo book, and I liked it much better than Paper Towns, a...moreSupposedly, the first John Green book is the one you like best. This is my second John Green solo book, and I liked it much better than Paper Towns, as I always suspected I would. (However, as I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson first and loved it, perhaps that counts as my first, but I digress).
I was pulled to AoK by the whole premise of finding an equation to calculate a relationship. When I was a teen, I adored math, and I was intrigued by a book that seemed to revolve around a math equation. It sort of does, but actually the prodigy main character is not interested in math, but rather in languages. Still I found many things about Colin to be fascinating. Although he is incredibly self-involved, I love seeing the way he thinks and learns. His lists of how his mind jumps from one subject to another is just the way I think. In fact, one friend calls this "Sage logic." To outsiders there was no connection, but to the person thinking this way, the connection is obvious. It's actually surprising, then, that Colin isn't a math prodigy, getting in trouble for jumping to the answer in a math equation without doing the problem on paper for the teacher to see. Yes, there are a lot of us with that experience.
I was a little hesitant about the initial "road trip" plotline, since that was something I didn't love about Paper Towns, but the road trip is actually short and the destination is quite interesting.
There is a little mystery in the book about Hollis, but it was pretty obvious what her secret is based on every single element that causes the characters to go "hmm." Instead, it is other twists in the book that are more fun and help the story tie together, like some twists about Colin's Katherines.
Then there's a girl who isn't named Katherine. Lindsey suffers from what a lot of teen girls suffer from, I think. She's trying to define herself based on what others think she should be. Whether she's redefining herself for Colin, it's with him that she is the most appealing character. And their dialogue-only scenes in her secret cave are adorable.
Overall I enjoyed this book, although I was a little iffy in the beginning with an overload of the word "fug," starting out with vomiting and a road trip. But once we got to a destination, I was pulled in on Colin's journey of self-discovery instead.
Recommended for fans of: contemporary YA, male POVs, math, anagrams, stories about teen prodigies, non-heroic main characters, feral pig hunts, and interesting trivia (even when other characters are saying it's not interesting).(less)
I would have given this five stars if I hadn't felt so separated from the first half. I don't know if it was my concentration or the style. Once I fel...moreI would have given this five stars if I hadn't felt so separated from the first half. I don't know if it was my concentration or the style. Once I felt more connected to the characters, the story flowed beautifully, and I nearly cried at the end. Lots of beautiful prose.
Recommended for fans of: novellas, LGBT stories, phoenixes, stories of hope.(less)
In my ever-continuing quest to find a YA novel that actually creeps me out, The Turning was just one more disappointment. However, the low rating is m...moreIn my ever-continuing quest to find a YA novel that actually creeps me out, The Turning was just one more disappointment. However, the low rating is more a reflection of other disappointments I found with this book.
Right from the beginning I had problems. I knew that the MC was a teenage boy, but I had to double-check that the first "chapter" was actually supposed to be his POV because I read it so much as a girl or as a young boy. I usually don't have this problem with voices. Unless it's one of your more stereotypical girl or boy voices, I pretty much have a gender-neutral reading voice. But I could not shake the feeling of Jack as a girl in the first letter.
The story is told through a series of letters, which lends a problem to the personalities, particularly through Jack who changes for the worse during the course of the book. Instead of seeing his mental processes naturally through his thoughts, he has to tell them to someone else in a letter. Mostly this is his girlfriend. So we get letters starting over and over again with his neediness for her to write him, with his suspicions that she's cheating on him, with his assertions that the only way he can get her to write to him is by saying whatever awful thing he wrote last time.
As uncomfortable as watching the letters progress in this manner is, the real problem lies in the fact that Jack's personality change doesn't fit in with the rest of the book. If there was a connection to the ghosts that explained it, I could have accepted that. Ghost stories like this are often little mysteries, where the crazy stuff that's happening to the character has some connection to the ghosts before they died. But Jack's personality change had no connection to the ghosts. In a novel like this, I really need to see all the pieces of the puzzle fit together, and instead they were left out scattered on the table.
I haven't read the original, so I can't say whether the author was held hostage to parts of the story she couldn't see to change.
Recommended for fans of: epistolary novels, remakes, maybe/maybe not crazy characters, ghost stories with no answers, prophetic seagulls.(less)
It's hard to give a rating to a book with so many authors with many different styles. Is it fair to take an average when there are stories I really li...moreIt's hard to give a rating to a book with so many authors with many different styles. Is it fair to take an average when there are stories I really liked that are being underrated and stories I didn't even finish that would be overrated? But I can give an overall review.
Columbus: Past, Present, and Future is a book that gives you exactly what's on the tin. Stories about Columbus are set in the 200 years before to the 200 years after Columbus's bicentennial here in 2012. The stories range in style, from the historical to the fantastical, from the literary to the humorous. But the one thing that brings these stories together is a strong sense of setting.
At times, I must admit, I found that some of the stories were too focused on showcasing Columbus rather than telling a story. I prefer that the story come first, so a story that, say, rambles on from place to place with an event happening at each one, wouldn't grab me as much as a story where the plot and character is strong and the location secondary. A couple of stories also had trouble settling on a time, starting in one time, telling about another time that was nostalgic for a totally different time. Many stories were set just after a location of interest was closed. For an anthology that set its stories in different time periods, it's interesting how many of these types of stories showed up, instead of those celebrating those same locations or time periods while they were happening.
Sci-fi and fantasy fans may prefer the second half of the anthology, which allowed authors more room to imagine what might be (although, there was the occasional fantasy in the first half too). Fans of darker stories will find many good stories to love. I was fascinated to see how many visions of the future seemed bleak. But there were stories of hope within too.
Some standout stories for me were: - Hep's Bonanza - a future mystery with hacking and sentient computers. Basically made for me, and some great characters and intrigue. - The Ghost in the Southern Theater - exactly what it sounds like. Strong sense of character and a great story arc. - The Christmas Virgin - I thought this was well-written and woven together well - The Year Everything Changed - I liked the use of "change" in a different context in a story that takes place when Obama was first elected. And the main character was well-drawn
(Starting a few stories in, I made some comments on specific stories in my status updates too. Page numbers usually correspond to the *end* of the story)
Recommended for fans of: both historical and speculative fiction; learning what has been and what may be over a 400-year-span in Columbus, OH.
Note: Columbus: Past, Present and Future was provided to me for free for an honest review :)(less)
I've read a couple other Alex Flinn books and loved them. Engaging plots, well-written characters. I didn't feel that way about this...more2.5 stars, really.
I've read a couple other Alex Flinn books and loved them. Engaging plots, well-written characters. I didn't feel that way about this book.
Most of the time I felt that the MC Johnny was bordering on TSTL territory. Even after making the same mistake over and over, ignoring specific instructions given to him, he kept making those mistakes. And I wanted to shake him and ask if he'd never read a single fairytale in his life because it was like he didn't understand how they work. Even the ones about shoes (something he supposedly knew everything about). Not to mention being dense about the feelings Meg is very clearly spelling out for him.
All fairytale retellings fall into the realm of predictability. But the mix of fairy tales together, plus the sense that Johnny really should be aware of them, made it feel like it should be less predictable, and yet everything about it was very predictable.
One teeny tiny note of interest is that one plot point was a character claiming that there is no lottery in Arizona. However, it just happens that this week someone in Arizona won the multi-state lottery, Powerball. I just found that funny.
Anyway, it wasn't a bad book, but it wasn't a good book, IMO, and certainly doesn't compare to other novels by this author that I've read.
Recommended for fans of: mixed retellings, less famous fairy tales, male main characters, dense main characters, and shoes.(less)
It's hard to rate Hush, Hush. Do I rate it for my enjoyment? Do I rate it for the cultural issues I have with it? Do I rate it for teen-Sage, who woul...moreIt's hard to rate Hush, Hush. Do I rate it for my enjoyment? Do I rate it for the cultural issues I have with it? Do I rate it for teen-Sage, who would have adored this book and would have been ignorant of its problems?
No matter what rating I decide on, if I decide at all, I feel I should address these points in a review.
Let's go in by saying that I had heard tons about this book before I read it. I knew all about the stalkery love interest problems and the rape culture issues. So I will start with those. A lot of the scenes or lines that when taken out of context of the book appear worse in this regard than they do in context. However, there are three points that bothered me. The first is the Coach/teacher disregarding Nora's request to change seats because she felt threatened by Patch. In fact, instead of dealing with the threat, he suggests that she spend more time with Patch tutoring. This is a completely unnecessary scene, btw, considering that she never does tutor Patch and finds plenty of excuses to be around him. It's unfortunate that this is probably the biggest problem scene regarding rape culture, teaching teen girls that if they feel threatened by a boy and go for help, they will be ignored, and yet it could have been skipped completely. Another scene that really raised my eyebrows on this subject is where Nora's best friend, Vee, blows Nora off when she's told that a guy shoved Nora against a wall and threatened physical harm to her. Vee claims that it's okay because the guy was drunk and under stress. Yes, that's a perfectly acceptable reason for a guy to rough up a girl. At least with the coach we're eventually told his mind's been messed with. Vee's behavior is never excused with this reason, though in the end we can guess that's what's happened. But Nora underreacts to Vee's dismissal, and since we're in Nora's head, it suggests that that's the type of answer we're to expect if we complain that a guy threatened us.
Finally, there's Nora herself. She worries about Patch. She wonders if he's going to kill her. She even once wonders if he's going to rape her. And yet, she doesn't really push him away. After he forces his way into her house and holds a knife that she worries he'll use on her, they kiss and everything's okay. She alternates between "he's going to hurt me" and "he's safe," but mostly because she finds him attractive.
Though I think that's taken to an extreme in points, I also have to say that it is the entire point of the story, and I do like dark love interests. Once we started getting to know him a little (not that IRL I would ever get past those first days in biology), I was rooting for him and Nora too. The chemistry did work...after those beginning scenes where he was simply a jerk. Yes, he felt dangerous, but so do many of the interesting love interests I grew up with (including those on Buffy).
I also love a good redemption story, and you need a character who's a something of a villain to make it work. The redemption part of it worked perfectly. The climax was set up perfectly for it, and I appreciated that aspect.
The pacing was great. I never felt like the action was slowed down, and there was always an element of danger in the air. Of course, that was partly because the love interest was so dark, but it worked to keep me compelled.
I think that teen me would have adored this book. She would not have seen the problems with it except as further frustrations that Nora had to face. But I also don't think she would have internalized that her teachers wouldn't help if she felt threatened or that her friends would dismiss actual threats, which is what the complaints about such scenes are. Is that true for every girl? I can't speak to that.
So in the end, I have no idea what to rate this book. My enjoyment of it would give it a 4. My problems with it would give it a 2. But either way, it was not a 3-star book, no matter how that averages out.(less)