When we were younger, we read A Great and Terrible Beauty by this author, and we were underwhelmed. It was alright, but we didn't want to continue reading Bray's work. Everything in that book seemed to fizzle. But we gave this new series a chance, and man are we glad we did. Libba hasn't run out of ideas; she's gotten better ones. She's improved as a writer as well. This book reminded us of Stephen King for young adults. Some of the descriptions, the violence, the scary parts, and the characterization were reminiscent of King's best work. Coming from us, that's a huge compliment. We think he's a prolific writer. Bray's advantage is that her story is a little more interesting than evil clowns or dogs.
This book is long, but it left us wanting more. We read it in three days. We loved all the characters. We respected Bray's refusal to stray from hard topics, such as abortion, euthanasia, and fanaticism. One of the best things about this book was its main character, Evie O'Neill. Evie was not your typical YA heroine. We were getting sick of clumsy, insecure girls with hearts of gold and introverted tendencies. Evie is clever, funny, deceptive, stylish, brave, and troublesome.
She's good looking, and she knows it, thank God. She wants attention. She's BLONDE. She acts selfishly and impulsively. She's the sort of girl other girls are supposed to hate, but she's a breath of fresh air after all the Bella Swan lookalikes in teen fiction. The only annoying thing about her is she overuses certain hip-for-the-time phrases. We could sympathize with Evie's inability to follow the rules and be a "nice girl" who never ruffles feathers. She's not a YA cliche. She's Regina George if Regina had a cool power and wasn't mean to people.
The book is set in the 1920s, and the details of the time period are well-researched and convincing. The story involves supernatural elements and, of course, there are a few love stories, but they are believable and you can get into them. We definitely prefer Jericho to Sam. We like all the characters though. This book has plenty of reveals about each character because they all have secrets. The book didn't give us all the answers though, so we are already drooling for the sequel. There wasn't a wasted sentence in the whole thing. If Bray keeps this quality up, she'll have the next Big Thing in teen fiction, guaranteed.
Book grade: A
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