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REVIEW:  Vengeance by Megan Miranda

REVIEW: Vengeance by Megan Miranda

Vengeance-miranda

Dear Ms. Miranda,

I loved your first novel, Fracture. Part medical mystery and part psychological thriller, I admit it was the shifting relationship between Delaney and Decker that caught and held my attention. I adore the friends to lovers trope, and it was done so well in that book. Even though I thought Fracture was an excellent standalone, I was happy to see there was a sequel. To say I jumped onto the request button on NetGalley is an understatement.

Vengeance picks up a few months after the events of Fracture. Things have settled down but the aftermath is obvious. Rumors of a curse circulate around town. Delaney fell through the ice and was saved, but not before being declared clinically dead for 11 minutes. And after she came back, an old lady passes away, a beloved friend dies in Delaney’s arms, and yet another boy perishes when he falls through the ice covering the lake. Delaney cheated death and death is unsatisfied.

It’s easy to dismiss these occurrences as coincidences. People die every day. Natural causes, epilepsy, recklessness… There are reasons. But when a series of unfortunate accidents begin to happen, all centering around Delaney, those coincidences become hard to explain away. Is death really retaliating for being cheated of Delaney’s life or is it something more sinister?

This is an odd book. I don’t have any other way to put it. I enjoyed it. It’s moody and atmospheric and I eat that stuff up with a spoon. That said, it doesn’t really live up to the tight package that was Fracture. Maybe that’s not a fair comparison but there it is.

Vengeance is told from the POV of Decker and while I’m not sure I liked him as a narrator, it was a necessary change for the story. Decker lives on instinct and feelings. Delaney, on the other hand, is all logic and facts. The kind of story Vengeance tells can only be told through Decker’s eyes. It’s his narration that plants the seeds of doubt that a curse could actually exist. After all, Delaney can tell when someone is going to die. Why wouldn’t it be possible for death to be angry about being cheated? I realize it’s very Final Destination but it’s the doubt that breathes life into the plot.

If Fracture was about the many ways traumatic events put pressure on relationships, revealing their weaknesses, Vengeance is about how grief over losing someone can transform a person, revealing the ugliness hidden beneath the surface and driving them to do terrible things. I actually thought the depiction of Decker’s grief was spot-on. When you’re in the middle of it, you don’t think clearly. You don’t see clearly. You think you’re acting fine when you’re really being an asshole to the people who love and support you most.

The mystery of the curse was a little muddled. While the red herring was killer and did a good job masking the truth, it also added to the lack of cohesion in the narrative. In fact, when the truth is revealed, it’s rather underwhelming. You see, there’s Decker’s grief and the way it strains his relationship with Delaney. Then there are the bad things happening to their group of friends. Then there’s Delaney’s attempts to look into her strange ability. So many threads that just needed to come together better. It’s just not as tight a story as it could be, which is a shame.

I don’t regret reading Vengeance. I’m glad to revisit Decker and Delaney’s relationship and how their lives have changed after. But I also can’t help but think this is a sequel that doesn’t really need to exist. B-

My regards,
Jia

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REVIEW:  Going Rogue by Robin Benway

REVIEW: Going Rogue by Robin Benway

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Dear Ms. Benway,

Your previous novel, Also Known As, was one of my favorite novels last year. I was charmed by prodigy safecracker Maggie and her family of spies. In that novel, Maggie and her parents are sent to New York to stop a journalist from exposing the secrets of the organization they work for. To do so, she had to get close to the journalist’s son, inadvertantly falling in love with him — and the idea of a normal life — along the way. I thought Also Known As stood well as a standalone and didn’t need any sequels but unlike many other cases, I was delighted when I discovered there was another book about Maggie and her friends.

It’s been a year since the events of Also Known As. Senior year is rapidly approaching, which means college applications and graduation. Or it would, if you were a normal high school student. And while Maggie has been pretending to be just that, there’s no escaping who, and what, she truly is.

When her parents are framed for stealing some priceless coins, Maggie is determined to prove their innocence. After all, she strongly suspects her parents are merely collateral from the Collective’s anger with her. But the more she tries to keep her family safe, the more she realizes the Collective is trouble. Other agents have left, driven away by circumstances similar to the one now plaguing her parents. There are rumors of agents who’ve gone bad. Worse yet, Maggie learns a painful lesson: sometimes you can’t keep your professional life and your personal one separate.

This is a difficult novel to discuss. While reading it, I really enjoyed. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. It sucked me in and kept me engaged. But now that I’ve spent some time away from the book, I can see that it has one very noticeable flaw.

The novel almost tries to do too much. There’s the plot involving Maggie’s parents and the Collective. There’s the plot involving Maggie and Roux’s strained relationship once it becomes apparent Maggie’s gone active again and has to keep secrets from her best friend. There’s the plot involving Maggie and Jesse, who she also has to keep secrets from and if this sat poorly with Roux, it sits even worse with her boyfriend. There’s the fact that Maggie’s attempts to clear her parents’ name has to remain secret from them, thereby straining their relationship.

Don’t get me wrong. I like these plotlines. They’re all interesting areas that I’d like to see explored. But to do so well, there need more space. Going Rogue is just a little too short to do them all justice. But by trying to include all of them in the novel, they all get short-changed. I’m still not sure I completely understand what Dominic was trying to do.

On the other hand, I liked that Going Rogue addressed the “I just want to be normal” trope that is so prevalent in many novels. Maggie comes from a family of spies. She is a genius safecracker. She loves it. But she wanted to be a normal girl who stayed in one place and got a boyfriend too. She got but a year into that life and she’s bored. When given the opportunity to return to the spy life, she jumps at the chance. Maggie’s boredom and repeated denials of being bored rang very true to me. A normal life sounds good and all but if you’re a teenager with an amazing talent and a chance at a more exciting life, wouldn’t it be more believable to jump at that opportunity?

I still love Roux and her friendship with Maggie. In many ways, my wanting to see more of that relationship is what led to my disappointment at how underdeveloped the conflict between Maggie and Roux was. Things haven’t changed. She’s still a social pariah and Maggie is her only friend. The idea of Maggie leaving is too much for her to bear so their friendship breaks and Roux starts avoiding Maggie. This is an angle that just needed more page-time.

The same can be said for the time devoted to Maggie and Jesse. Early in the novel, much is made of Jesse and the return of his mother into his life. Maggie subsequently makes a mistake that could jeopardize everything and while her error in judgment leads to trouble in their relationship, the mother is barely mentioned again. Huh?

Despite these flaws, I still really liked Going Rogue. It’s over the top and fun, and sometimes I need that. I especially recommend this to fans of Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girl series, who might be looking for something similar now that series is completed. B-

My regards,
Jia

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