Damn Daniel, I’m back at it again with a YA paranormal romance review! I honestly have so much to say about this book. Although the book frustrated me to no end, as I’m sure you’ll see, I actually kind of liked it. It reminds me of the type of book I would have gone mad for when I was 13/14. A guilty pleasure! A love-hate crisis causing all sorts of conflict within me.
I’m going to start off by saying that this review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS. This is because there is no way I can possibly rant about the novel without discussing the main plot points so if you haven’t read the novel but intend to, don’t read beyond this point!
Still with me? Well then, let us begin.
Scardoni’s novel is a contemporary paranormal romance focusing on the life of Jemma Blackburn after she witnesses her father being murdered by a vampire. The novel gets off to a strong start, with a prologue warning of enemies hidden as friends. I quite liked it and was excited to read the rest of the book.
At the beginning, Jemma was quite a relatable character. She was moving cross country to live with her Uncle after convincing the staff at the mental hospital she was being held at that she had regained her sanity. She moves to Hollow Hills and tries to give herself a fresh start in a new town away from the paranormal murderer she is still convinced she saw kill her father. All of this is good stuff.
Slowly she realises the people around her know more about the paranormal than she does and her Uncle eventually explains the basics (the very bloody basics) to her. Now this is where my problems with the novel start.
Jemma. Jemma, Jemma, Jemma. I think you have to be one of the most frustrating protagonists known to man (and woman) kind! It was so frustrating to read all of the devastating truths revealed only for Jemma to have practically no reaction. Every time she found out some incredibly life changing information, she just kept her head down and got on with life. Even when Uncle Karl first reveals that she is a Slayer and confirms the things she saw when her father was being murdered, she continues to act like a silly little girl. It was beyond frustrating to see her ignore the fact that the only two family members she has left in the world let her be institutionalised for six months knowing full well that she was completely sane. Her sister, who she apparently trusts more than anyone, has been lying to her for years! Come one! That deserves a reaction.
For the first 150-200 pages of the book we have her repeatedly getting hurt, chased or threatened and only given meagre bits of knowledge to explain the situation. Instead of sitting around waiting to be saved, she should be demanding answers. It could have been just as easy for Scardoni to write a strong protagonist who refused to take the half-arsed explanations for things and started taking proactive steps to help herself. When she makes half an effort with Gabriel and training, she also sits back whilst knowing that he is refusing to tell her the whole story. I don’t know who they think they are protecting by not telling her valuable information regarding her own life, but it sure ain’t her. There is no excuse to have a character that clueless and pathetic. Make her angry or make her proactive in some way! It is so frustrating to see a weak female character when YA fiction is filled with so many great role models these days. A sitting duck who is more worried about a bitchy girl at school than she is about familial betrayals and the people actively trying to kill her is not someone teenagers should be looking up to! I understand that Scardoni needs a full length novel to publish, and by slowly delaying information being revealed she has more to write about, but it is not acceptable. Scardoni could have easily written about Jemma being taken out of the mental hospital after a couple weeks by her Uncle who explained the full situation to her. She then could have followed Jemma as she tried to fit into life in Hollow Hills whilst training to protect herself. Furthermore, the conflict with Trace, Nikki and Dominic could just as easily have been there without Jemma coming across as weak and pathetic.
There are multiple occasions throughout the novel where it is clear that no one has told her anything of significance. Her Uncle has a ten minute conversation with her in the back of the car to cover thousands of years of history? To fully explain her role and the roles of the Council and the other ‘ancient’ beings protecting evil from taking over the earth? I don’t think so. If I were Jemma, I would get the hell out of there because nobody around her has her interests in mind at all. As far as I’m concerned, they are trying their hardest to get her killed. It is so stupid. These grown arse men keeping valuable knowledge away from her for no goddamn reason!
Sometimes I honestly couldn’t blame them for seemingly not caring about Jemma. If you put aside her teenage-ness (I am well aware I just made up a word to compensate for my own illiterateness), she was also an incredibly obtuse character. I can understand the self pity and wanting to live a normal life. However, she annoyed me with how snobby she could be. Sometimes Scardoni made her plain rude! When she complained about having to get a job, I got it. (It was revealed it was all a plan by Uncle Karl to get her close to Trace anyway.) However, when Gabriel took her to a normal neighbourhood she made a big fuss about it. It annoyed me that leaving her gated community was such a big deal. For someone Scardoni is trying to make likable, she sure was snobbish. It made me like her even less than I already did.
Another major plot hole for me is Jemma’s lack of transport. She is going to a private school, living in a mansion in a gated community with her Uncle having chauffeurs. Yet Jemma seems to be begging for lifts from people all the time because her Uncle seems to have forgotten the fact that she needs to get back from places too? Why doesn’t dear old Uncle Karl get her a bloody car?! If she is in so much mortal danger why are you letting her wander the streets at night with no cares in the world? After a while, it became obvious that all of Jemma’s angsty car conversations were just an excuse to further the plot or to have precious time with Trace. Not that they worked together or anything. Or went to the same school. No, there were no other possible moments their relationship could have been developed… Frankly, if I were Jemma, I would start to think that all these people around me pretending to care were really trying to get me killed.
By the time I had started to pull my hair out at how frustrated this book was making me, another pointless rule came into play. The Council can’t train a hunted young Slayer because the only person she can join up with to become an evil fighting machine refuses to work for them. Because of Tradition, they are allowing a ‘valuable’ Slayer to potentially get murdered. They bend the rules slightly with Gabriel’s training but by this point I wasn’t having any of it.
Ah, I seriously dislike Trace. He refuses to pair up with her, meaning she’ll die, and then he’s getting butt hurt when she doesn’t want to talk about all the traumatic things happening to her. Everyone just sits back watching her struggle when instead they could be telling her what’s directly affecting her life. To be honest, Trace doesn’t owe her anything (beyond basic human kindness which he also kind of refuses), but Jemma ogled him so much that I started to believe her deluded dreams of romance. I’m not really a fan of love-at-first-eye-contact and so I never became invested in their ‘romance’. However, I can definitely see tweens going all out with new OTPs, etc.
Something that brought the recommended reading age down for me personally was the emphasis on teenage drama. From the outset, Jemma is swept into a feud with local ‘mean girl’ Nikki. It apparently transpires because Jemma holds eye contact with Nikki’s ex (Trace) for too long. I personally find the girly cattiness portrayed BEYOND lazy writing. I have never met any girls that behave so poorly to strangers and I don’t appreciate the stereotypes. I can appreciate why it’s included and I’m sure a younger reader would enjoy the teen angst, but I personally was not there for it. Even when the real reason for the apparent hate is revealed, it seems sloppy. There are so many other ways Scardoni could have made Nikki act in protection of Trace and I was still a little disappointed.
The revelation about Morgan’s prophecy also didn’t explain why Jemma would find Trace so attractive knowing full well he had a relationship with such a mean person. It takes two to tango, Missy, so it is obvious that Trace can’t be all that great if he loved someone so horrid. Furthermore, it is pretty clearly explained that no one’s death can be prevented as it is the one thing fated that cannot be changed. The only way for Trace to survive is for him to get turned so the fight to me also seemed pretty futile. Unless Scardoni will reveal Morgan’s prophecy to be incorrect? Probably, though this doesn’t seem likely to me as the precedent was set with the death of Linley being foretold. Who knows? Also, the fact that Trace let Nikki’s bullying go unchecked didn’t exactly inspire any confidence in Jemma and Trace’s Romeo and Juliet routine that Scardoni clearly wanted the reader to invest in.
Jemma’s character was not done any favours with the cattiness towards Nikki as she had no qualms about getting dragged into it. Instead of taking the high ground, she let herself be pulled into the drama and I ended up disliking both characters for it, instead of just Nikki. I’m sure fourteen of fifteen year old me wouldn’t have minded. However, as an adult (that’s what people tell me anyway) who likes YA fiction, I found it disappointing.
Now that my main rant is over, let us move on to the ending of the novel. By my Kindle’s calculations, the drama started at around the 80% mark. This is where I started to ignore my criticisms of the book and just get on with finishing it. I actually enjoyed the ending considering how much the rest of the book frustrated me. When Trace ended up abandoning Jemma and taking the Immortal Amulet, I was actually kind of shocked. I knew he wasn’t all he was cracked up to be because of the book’s introduction, but I didn’t think the reveal would be that big! Props to Scardoni for that one, eh? Trace really is a clever character. He played the game just right and I hope the momentum from the betrayal isn’t lost in the second book. It turns out that Dominic, although a dick, isn’t actually the biggest dick around after all, and I prefer him to Trace. He never pretended to be anything else and I think Scardoni could do a lot with his character in upcoming novels if she plays her cards right.
By the end of the novel, Jemma is vowing her revenge. She pledges to “gut this town from the inside out” and vows for hell to be paid. I really hope she is finally turning into the strong character I want her to be. I cannot think of any reasons to explain Trace’s betrayal because he literally left her to die. He had no clue that her blood was special and so if she forgives him I think I will just have to stop reading. I think I am going to give the book the benefit of the doubt and I will be purchasing the next one. I will continue to reminisce on teenage obsessions. This is clearly meant for a younger audience and Scardoni delivers on the immaturity of the characters tenfold. Hopefully the first book was just a lonnnnngggg character arc that finally leads to Jemma’s development. It took too long, but at least it is (hopefully) happening.
Stay cool Fledglings,
P.S. When her Uncle starts to talk about an ‘Order of the Rose’, all I could picture was the scene from the first Princess Diaries movie where the Queen knights the two tram drivers with a random street name. Lol.