SPOILER FREE REVIEW
Synopsis (Taken from Goodreads.com):
For the perfect love, what would you be willing to lose?
It’s been a shattering year for seventeen-year-old Zoe, who’s still reeling from her father’s shockingly sudden death in a caving accident and her neighbors’ mysterious disappearance from their own home. Then on a terrifying sub-zero, blizzardy night in Montana, she and her brother are brutally attacked in a cabin in the woods—only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.
X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He is from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe’s evil attacker and others like him. X is forbidden from revealing himself to anyone other than his prey, but he casts aside the Lowlands’ rules for Zoe. As they learn more about their colliding worlds, they begin to question the past, their fate, and their future.
Goodreads Rating: 3.65/5 Stars
My Rating: /5 Stars
When my favorite BookTubers started talking about this book (back in January), I was both intrigued and excited about it. It had a neat premise, a strong synopsis, and a okay cover. More importantly, it was blurbed by some of the best names in young adult fiction and by prominent directors of blockbuster movies as well! Overall, it was enough to get me pre-order this book and get excited when it arrived in the mail. Since I’m on spring break, I was able to finally read it… And was met with bitter disappointment.
One of the aspects that turned me off was the writing style. It was, described in one word: basic. The book read a lot like “Zoe did this. Then she did that. Then this happened.” While there still was some imagery that I was able to pull from the pages, I wanted more description in terms of character actions, thoughts, etc.. Furthermore, as I was reading it, I continuously found myself making mental edits for the author on what to fix or change. If I’m doing that while reading, you know there’s a problem.
Another aspect I found myself struggling with was the realism of the situation. Seeing as this was a young adult novel settled in magical realism, I wanted the realism aspects to be stronger. Many of the events and conflicts were too easily resolved for the characters in general. Or, the dialogue wasn’t realistic in the least. The biggest problem I had was with the way Giles was portraying the way teenagers speak. For example, Dallas. Giles gave him a surfer boy way of speaking – when they were in the middle of Montana. See the problem here? Either way, it was very bothersome and distracting to read. (There were other aspects that bothered me as well, but for fear of me going off on a ranting tangent, I’m going to refrain from saying anything.)
Continuing along with the realism aspect, Giles didn’t give himself time to world build properly. Across the first 100-200 pages, I felt as if the audience didn’t matter as he whipped us around and info dumped on us. It was rushed exposition and you had to quickly adjust to the new information, otherwise you would be left behind. Not to mention, the pacing was very, very rapid. Giles, himself, dug himself a hole when he didn’t give himself the proper amount of time needed to neatly and smoothly establish the world.
Another area in which Giles pushed it was with the tropes. Insta-love, generic young adult characters, unoriginal themes – you name it, and it was there. For me, I took the biggest issue with the insta-love. Seeing that trope is a huge no-no in my book. It’s a sign that the romance was just placed in there for the sake of adding conflict or interest in readers, rather than for the betterment of the characters. (Although, Giles did try to use the “romance” to change/teach X’s character, but it fell flat because it was such a rapid moving romance subplot.) In the end, this was definitely a detrimental element to the novel.
Furthermore, when I read a novel, I read it for two reasons: characterization and plot-line/narrative. If one, or both, of those aspects are lacking, I find it hard to continue reading on with the novel. In this case, the characters were always one-dimensional to me and the plot was too rapidly moving forward. Both of these areas definitely needed more attention in the revision stage, and it was clear that they were looked over many, many times.
I’m not sure if I have a right to say that I enjoyed this book. At times, I did enjoy it. But, for the most part, I found myself saying “Why am I still reading this?” and considered abandoning it every other page. In the end, I pushed through it, but I know that I will not be finishing this series.