REVIEW: Becoming Alpha by Aileen Erin
Dear Ms. Erin:
Angela James recommended I read this series. I think it is self published although I’m not entirely sure. This book is an introduction to 17-year-old Tessa and the exploration of her powers and how she fits into the larger world.
There are many elements, tropes, devices that are found in other books reading like a mashup between Bitten and Twilight but despite the lack of originality and world building issues, the story was compelling enough that I bought the next two. Or it could just be I liked the type of story being told and was willing to overlook the deficits.
Tessa has a gift or a curse wherein when she touches someone she gains visions. In the beginning she was only able to see echoes of the past that have been imprinted on the object or a person. She often wears long sleeves and gloves to avoid unwanted contact but she’s often depicted running about in flip-flops.
Her father was a very wealthy and well-connected publicist and lawyer in Hollywood but decided to take a job in Texas at a new school. This part made little sense to me and I hoped it would be explained later but it never was. There are some things in the story that you have to accept without much of any explanation such as Tessa’s connection with a strange boy named Dastien.
She sees him in a vision and is strangely able to interact with him in a minor way. When she gets to Texas, she sees Dastien but is warned away, not only from him but from St. Albie’s campus and the students. That, of course, works well.
Tessa is introduced to the new students at her public high school and her Hollywood connections and nice clothes ease her transition until one night she finds Dastien outside of a party and suddenly her life changes. She’s transferred to St. Albie’s. The public-school students that once welcomed her, shunned her and she was now part of the group that others warned their kids away from. Once at St. Albie’s, she has to make new friends again but Dastien’s interest makes her a target of other girls. She does make a close friend in her roommate Meredith along with two other male students at St. Albie’s.
The relationship between Tessa and Dastien doesn’t have very much meat to it. Given that it was book one, I figured that if it developed later, I’d be okay with that, but I wished that there was more time devoted to explaining their connection other than the “insta soul mate” trope. There are no new ideas here and the way in which they resolved the big crisis was very convenient.
Still there was something about the writing that kept me reading and despite the lackluster resolutions, there was good build up to the dramatic events and decent suspense. Tessa is an appealing, sarcastic teenager who is by turns resilient, vulnerable, and impetuous. For the most part, she came off as advertised–a loner who used sarcasm as a shield and a girl overwhelmed with her emerging powers.
Parts of the world building are intriguing such as the commonly used trope of shapeshifters wanting to be public but vampires are depicted as not only evil but unattractive and disagreeable. There is a huge conflict brewing between shapeshifters and witches and Tessa stands right in the middle. I wished more time had been spent to shoring up the worldbuilding, providing more explanation for the hows and why of things. This is for fans of werewolf books who like the slow burn of a romance and the intrepid heroine. C+