I absolutely adore reading - my love for books has had a huge impact on my life! I'm going to grad school to be a children's/YA librarian.
When seventeen-year-old Sophia St. James moves from Los Angeles to a podunk town somewhere in Connecticut, she hardly expects to discover its startling secret—it is home to a family of Guardian Angels. Nor does she expect to fall in love with Michael, an irresistible yet volatile Guardian who distrusts her because she can see him in spirit form.
As Michael struggles with his forbidden desire for Sophia, Dante arrives. He is handsome and charismatic and one of hell’s most notorious Demons. He has come for the reincarnated soul of his lost lover residing in Sophia.
Unable to resist Dante’s addictive charm, Sophia is drawn into a haunting and dangerous game where souls are gambled away and the Kiss of Death wins all.
But will killing Sophia be the end of her or just the beginning . . . (source)
I really wanted to like this book. I wanted to so much. It's my first new adult novel that I've read and I was really excited about that, and I love the idea of books about angels and demons - in fact, if I were ever to write a book, it would probably center around that very theme. Unfortunately, I found this particular take on it to be incredibly underwhelming. Though the book did improve ever so slightly as it went, it never satisfied me and to be honest I think that the rating I gave it (2.5 stars) is actually generous. Without further ado, here's my review - and be warned, it's gonna be a long one.
This was one area that had a lot of potential for Lori Adams to really be creative. On the one hand, angels and demons are some of the few supernatural entities that actually have significant "data," if you choose to call it that (and I do), recorded, thanks to Christianity, which provides her with a good starting point. At the same time, there's still a LOT of stuff that's not known about them, and thus a lot of wiggle room for creative license. I feel like Lori Adams neither drew enough from legend/Christianity, nor was she particularly creative. She keeps the basics - heaven and hell, battle of good and evil, borrows the archangels' names, and a few angelic rankings - but doesn't really get into the truly sophisticated parts of these aspects of religious lore. There's not talk of thrones or dominions; instead we're limited to ranks such as Guardians, Seers, Messengers, and Council members, with a few others that are equally simple. Though angels do have a spirit form, it's essentially human but transparent and with a few feathers - nothing like the terrifying forms that angels take in the Bible. And of course that's not necessary - it is Adams' work, after all - but frankly, her angels are little more than high school quarterbacks with feathers. And if I were really being threatened by a demon, I wouldn't feel too comforted if they were the ones who were sent to protect me, no matter how attractive they might be. Adams' development of hell is no more sophisticated than her development of heaven, which meant it was just as disappointing. Additionally, there is no mention of God or Satan. And I understand Adams' desire to leave the technicalities of religion out of her essentially secular work, but honestly, if there's no mention of God or Satan, what's the point of angels and demons?
Furthermore, Adams shares a problem that many (but certainly not all!) fantasy writers suffer from - she info dumps. All. The. Time. I honestly don't know if she didn't tell me enough or if she told me so much that I couldn't possibly absorb everything that she told me. All I know is that any time she went to explain something about the angels and demons, there would be paragraphs of information that was just thrown at me so fast that I couldn't possibly remember it. And then as I continued reading, I felt like certain things weren't covered in as much depth as they should have been. It was like Adams included exactly what I needed to know to get through the book without getting completely lost, but she fed it to me all at once in huge clumps that were overwhelming. *sigh* I hate info dumping...
To go along with info dumping, I felt that the writing style lacked sophistication. From what I've heard from others who read new adult, this is apparently a genre flaw. I hesitate to blame it on the genre, exactly, but apparently, many authors who specialize in this genre, for whatever reason, lack complex style and cleverness in their writing. I definitely felt that this was the case in this book.
Ironically, I could tell that this was exactly what Adams was trying so hard to avoid. It was like she was trying so hard that she completely failed to achieve her goal. Her writing was filled with cliches and absolutely horrendous slang words. The characters would frequently say things like "bizzarebucks" (apparently slang for Starbucks) and "craptastic," and other slang terms that I have NEVER heard any self-respecting teen say. And while I'm certainly no expert, I feel that I'm around teens enough to say pretty confidently that most teens do NOT talk like that (heck, I live with 3 of them and I'm around their friends a lot... none of them do!). Adams would also use slang terms that I have heard, but she'd chose super weird spelling for them, like "eh-hole" instead of "a-hole" for asshole and "rufie" instead of "roofie." All in all, it came across like a middle-aged woman trying (and failing) to sound like a teen. Which is exactly what happened.
Here's the thing about the main character, Sophia. She's a sweet kid. She's stubborn, she cares about her dad, she can be fun sometimes... but she's dumb as a rock. Seriously. It would take her sooooo long to catch onto things. It's possible that I just think this because we knew from the beginning that Michael et al. were angels and Dante et al. were demons, but still, even after she FINALLY realized the truth about Michael, it took her forever to realize what was going on and she gets herself into the most ridiculous situations. At one point,(show spoiler)
Also, when Dante's trying to tell her who he is without actually saying out right "I'm a demon!" because that's not allowed (though why he would care about that when he's already stuck in hell for all eternity, I have no idea), he actually says to her "I'm Michael's opposite" and Sophia's like "ummm... idk?" Really?!!
I can't take this whole dumb heroine thing. I just can't.
All the Twilight feels... ugh.
I mentioned it before, but this book reeks of Twilight, especially in the beginning. I made a nice long list in my progress update, but let me just summarize the similarities:
Girl moves in with dad to a new small town where everyone knows each other. Girl instantly makes friends, even though she apparently is usually a social outcast. There's this one family that's kind of odd and ridiculously attractive, but no one really thinks anything of it. Hottest male member of this family initially despises New Girl, but in reality, he's actually in love with her. Hot Guy and New Girl are made partners for a school project against their will, thus forcing them to hang out with each other. And soon enough, she realizes that she's in love with him, partially because of his super cool eyes. And then it turns out that super hot guy isn't just super hot, but also supernatural! But his mortal supernatural enemy who is also super hot but in a different way is also in love with New Girl, which complicates things. Also, it really sucks that sex (or in this case, kissing - yes, kissing) is supposed to be impossible because Hot Good Guy is super strong and his affection could cause him to lose control and kill New Girl. Whoops. But surprise! that doesn't actually happen(show spoiler)
! And then there's a fun supernatural battle, ending with New Girl in Hot Guy's arms and everything seemingly okay. Or, at any rate, okay for now. The end.
Anyway, the above paragraph definitely oversimplifies things and is also definitely super sarcastic. BUT, it's also an accurate statement of similarities between Twilight and Forbidden. In fact, it doesn't even list all of the similarities.
Of course, there are also some pretty significant differences, thank goodness. This story does have a plot of its own. But the similarities between this and Twilight are too great to be ignored.
I don't want to say too much about the ending of this book, because, well, it's the end and I don't want to be too spoiler-y, even though I think this review definitely had a lot of spoilers (sorry about that!). So all I'm going to say is this: it's a cheap ploy to get us to read book two. If you decide to read it, you'll know what I'm talking about. And I'm not taking the bait.
So, ultimately, this book really was not my cup of tea. I'm really disappointed about that, because I had fairly high expectations for this book and I was really looking forward to reading it. I suppose that if you're a Twilight fan you might like it - or you might get mad because you might feel like there was some copying going on. I don't think I'd go so far as to say that Lori Adams stole the plot of her book from Twilight, because the second half of the book is, for the most part, dramatically different. But the beginning definitely gave me deja vu. If you're not a Twilight fan, skip this. It's not worth reading, in my opinion. It's not the worst book I've read (not even close, actually), but I wouldn't read it again, I will not be continuing the series, and I would recommend it only with very strong reservations.
Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley, but in no way did this influence my review.