Vanessa and Zander Roth are good at lying.
They have to be when they are hiding a deadly secret. Day after day, they struggle to rein in their uncontrollable hunger for pain and suffering in order to live normal lives. Things only get worse when Ivy Guerra appears with her pink-striped hair and secrets. The vicious hunger Ivy inspires is frightening, not to mention suspicious.
Vanessa’s instincts are rarely wrong, so when they tell her that Ivy’s appearance is a sign of bad things to come, she listens. She becomes determined to expose Ivy’s secrets. Vanessa tries to warn her brother, but Zander is too enamored with Ivy to pay attention to her conspiracy theories.
One of them is right about Ivy … but if they lose control of their hunger, it won’t matter who is right and who is wrong. One little slip, and they’ll all be dead.
*I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*
This is a hard book to define (in a good way). I shelved it for now as urban fantasy but dark fantasy is a better description I think. While it is YA I'd describe it as mature YA that all ages will enjoy and it is a dark story with paranormal elements.
Vanessa and Zander suffer from the family curse-a deep rooted uncontrollable hunger that makes them want to kill people. Trying to find outlets for the building hunger to be safely released is the one thing that gives them the fragile control they need to stop them killing their friends at school, and trying to have some kind of normal life. Some people have a bigger effect on the siblings than others and keeping control is never easy. Zander is haunted by the loss of control he had when he was younger, which led to him killing his girlfriend, and then trying to kill Ketchup, while older brother Oscar is in a mental ward for murdering their parents. But the hunger gets out of control when Ivy comes to their school. Vanessa has the constant urge to kill her and tells Zander to keep away from her, but Zander is torn as part of him wants to kill Ivy and the other part wants to love and protect her-urges that could spell terrible danger for his entire family.
I love the story of the hunger. It is like a beast inside each member of the family that has to be kept under control and the siblings battle daily to stop themselves from hurting people. They want to be normal teenagers but their situation means that they are older than their years and they are trying to hide the secrets from everyone they have contact with. It is a great concept for a story and as I read it I kept wondering if there was something that could be done to help the characters as I got so sucked into their story. I guess we will find out over the course of the four books in the series! This is not the all action plot that I am used to but the talent of this author is that she writes such intriguing and interesting characters that you are swept along by them and their story, so a slower plot doesn't matter as much.
I really liked Vanessa. She is feisty and doing the best that she can to make a normal life despite the hunger that blights her life. She does not want to hurt people and has in fact saved the life of all the people who are now her friends and she is very protective of them. All Vanessa wants is to have Ketchup as a boyfriend, have her friends and school, and live a normal and boring life like her friends-none of which she feels she can have in reality. Having Ketchup as only a friend upsets her but Zander won't allow anything more so their relationship is a sort of sweet friendship instead of a romance. I really feel her pain that she is constantly on edge and waiting for disaster to hit them again, knowing that Ivy is going to destroy everything.
Zander is interesting because of his temper and dreadful decision making. He carries the guilt over his hunger killing his girlfriend and the lack of control that Ketchup sets off in him means that his sister has to avoid a romantic relationship with the boy she loves. It infuriates me as a reader that he is stopping his sister from being happy but is prepared to risk everything to hang out with Ivy and test himself, which could end in disaster. You are yelling at him to stop being so stupid and stay away from Ivy but of course he doesn't listen and she becomes his complete obsession. The fact that she continues to hang around him when he treats her so badly had me agreeing with Vanessa that Ivy seems to be trying to get Zander to lose control and hurt her. Oh do I hate Ivy! Again it is more of a dangerous obsession that Zander has as opposed to any real romance going on.
Oscar was an interesting surprise and finding out his story was fascinating. All we really know is that he lost control one night and murdered his parents but we don't know much more at this stage. I think uncovering that story as the series progresses will be great! And poor Ketchup! I felt so sorry for him and Vanessa not being able to be together because of Zander. Ketchup is the nicest guy ever and he is determined to wait for Vanessa as long as it takes, and he will do anything for her. I'm not a romance fan generally but I really did want them to be able to be together and it was sad that it couldn't happen. It made me love both characters so much. The other character to feature heavily in the book is Noah, a new addition to Vanessa's circle. He is interested in her and she feels that somehow she she needs him as a friend, or her hunger does in some way. Don't worry, it isn't a love triangle!
The theme of the book is clever. You know how the hunger works but we have yet to see the full back story of it which I assume comes in later books. I hope we get more flashbacks to the past problems that the family had because I enjoyed the ones that were there about Oscar and Lisa. How Vanessa and Zander learn to cope with it should be really interesting and the way this book ends opens up whole new possibilities and certainly make me want to read it.
What I like about this book is that it doesn't have the YA cliches that have so much put me off this genre recently. Noah and Ketchup both want Vanessa but it is not a love triangle. Yes Vanessa feels a connection to Noah that she can't explain which I think is connected to her hunger but we know her heart is with Ketchup and she only wants Noah as a friend. So the complex interactions between the three of them did not annoy me in any way. I found it quite interesting. The connection between Zander and Ivy is not instaluv or a physical relationship-it is a form of dark obsession that Zander seems addicted to. It made their interactions facinating, especially with Vanessa wanting to kill her! There are cpmplex emotional bonds between the characters but it is not a romance novel.
I don't have any negatives to put forward. The author has taken the time to eliminate the errors that are common in the book. I think I saw one tiny spelling mistake which is better than most Indie books I read. She uses uncomplicated language with the right mixture of description and character interaction. The characters are beautifully developed so that you care about them and get right into the story as it unfolds. Ms Gladden is a very smart storyteller and I look forward to reading more of her books in the future. Don't let the cover put you off!
Read August 2013.