ARC received as giveaway from the publisher
In Ann Aguirre’s Mortal Danger, Edie Kramer has a score to settle with the beautiful people at Blackbriar Academy. Their cruelty drove her to the brink of despair, and four months ago, she couldn’t imagine being strong enough to face her senior year. But thanks to a Faustian compact with the enigmatic Kian, she has the power to make the bullies pay. She’s not supposed to think about Kian once the deal is done, but devastating pain burns behind his unearthly beauty, and he’s impossible to forget.
In one short summer, her entire life changes and she sweeps through Blackbriar, prepped to take the beautiful people down from the inside. A whisper here, a look there, and suddenly . . . bad things are happening. It’s a head rush, seeing her tormentors get what they deserve, but things that seem too good to be true usually are, and soon, the pranks and payback turns from delicious to deadly. Edie is alone in a world teeming with secrets and fiends lurking in the shadows. In this murky morass of devil’s bargains, she isn’t sure who—or what—she can trust. Not even her own mind.
Two DNF in one month? I know, I know. I’m honestly not that happy about it either, but I’ve become firm in my desire to not waste time on books that just aren’t cutting it for me and this is one of those books. But, in my defense, remember in my post for The Mirror Empire I mentioned a blogger who had spent 18 days on a book and hadn’t known how she felt? This was that book. I received an ARC at the Fierce Reads tour and since another blogger was asking if anyone genuinely liked it I decided to give it a shot. It’s the second book I picked up from that event that dealt with teenagers and bullying and the desire to get even.
Brutal Youth may have been a very dark and very difficult read, but those characters were oh-so-very human and you wanted them to get out of their situation and thrive, so when they didn’t really, it’s pretty devastating.
Aguire forgot to make Edie likable.
I don’t know what happened here, but Aguire just missed the boat entirely. She is judgmental: after obtaining her beautiful new body through her little deal, she meets a girl named Viola at the summer school program she goes to. She says to herself that she wishes she could tell the girl that she used to be a “before picture” too. Ouch. Before pictures, by their very definition have negative connotations. For her first thoughts to of this girl as one? Not cool. Add in some thoughts about how she used to be “that girl” and I don’t know how much I necessarily trust Edie’s friendship with her. It’s just not a good vibe. Beyond that, she tries to tell us that her academic parents (both are college profs) are too stupid to get that she couldn’t have acquired this body over the summer through normal means because they aren’t athletically inclined. Um. What? How else are going to people react when they send away one person and get a completely new person back? Nervous laughter is a way of trying to cope with something that is otherwise inexplicable. Okay, Carrie, but you’re over reacting, you say?
Edie is also a bully.
The second she puts her feet back on campus all she can think of is how she can humiliate her tormentors. One guy tells her something, asks her not to tell, and then like the next day she’s telling that thing to another so the rumor will spread throughout the school. From outcast to Mean Girl in two seconds flat. That’s not someone I want to root for, especially because the way her mindset so rapidly shifts, it makes you wonder how she might have been had she been one of the pretty girls from the outset. Also not explained: she’s pretty, but still has no wealth. Shouldn’t she still have been outcast? Schools like that, money really DOES talk. Maybe she wouldn’t have been picked on as much, but she’d still be an outsider. Trust me. I was in her shoes once and even in the 4th grade I was well aware that I was one of the have nots and we were our own little group.
Hand-in-hand with the unlikable bits is the insta-love with Kian. On the one hand, had it been one sided, I could have bought it. After all, Edie was supposed to have been bullied and here Kian, a handsome guy, is paying her all kind of attention. But no. He’s equally smitten and talks of bringing what he sees on the inside, out. Ugh.
Did I mention Edie is special? That the bad-guys in charge of making the deal (some kind of Wolfram and Hart knock-off) have something in mind for Edie and that “the opposition” have it out for her too?
This just isn’t working for me. Maybe had we seen more of what drove her to this point, I might be more sympathetic but as it stands, I just don’t care about her. And I’m not going to spend more time reading about her.
Like I said, you really want to look at bullying and the impact it can have, go check out Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican. There may be no Faustian deals being made, but the characters there are strong enough to fight back without needing one.