by Ann Aguirre
To be published on August 5, 2014
by Feiwel and Friends
Source: e-galley from publisher
Synopsis from Goodreads: Revenge is a dish best served cold. 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 heady 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...My take: I've seen bloggers claim that the hardest reviews to write are the positive ones. Other reviewers disagree, arguing that the hardest ones to write are for the books you feel "meh" about. Lately, I've found a new category of hard-to-review books: those that I have both strong positive and negative feelings toward. That's the way I felt about Mortal Danger.
The synopsis of this book is tantalizingly vague, and some of my pros and cons happen to be mild spoilers. I hid the larger spoilers, but proceed at your own risk.
Pros: The overall premise of the book is definitely intriguing. As indicated in the synopsis, Edie is hungry for revenge, and makes a Faustian bargain with a mysterious stranger. That's good stuff. As part of said bargain, Edie is allowed wishes. The whole "three wishes" is one of my favorite elements of fairy tales. I mean, I could spend hours thinking of what I'd choose -- and how best to leverage those wishes. This book also incorporates folk monsters -- those spooks and ghouls that you tell stories about at sleepovers. That was also creepily appealing to me. And, without giving too much away, there's also a larger picture that I thought had potential, even if it felt a bit like a premise I'd seen before in books like Gameboard of the Gods or the Iliad.
Cons: My biggest issue with Mortal Danger was that -- and it pains me to say this -- I developed an intense dislike for Edie, the main character. I believe that in reading, as in life, you can't nitpick every single thing a person does, and I try to give my fictional characters the same benefit of the doubt. At first I sympathized with Edie. As the synopsis says, she's been horribly bullied at her exclusive school. In the opening chapters, she's alone and desperate and suicidal. At that moment of deepest despair, she catches sight of a guy and starts thinking about how hot he is. Uh ... what?? She's moments away from ending her own life, then gets completely distracted by some strange guy's "kissable mouth?" I began to lose my connection to her, and things only got worse. When Edie made her Faustian bargain, I waited eagerly to see what she'd choose as her first wish. I mean, the book makes it clear that Edie is supposed to be really, really smart. And she totally, completely let me down. (You can read her wish in the hidden spoiler below.) After that, for reasons too complicated to explain without further spoiler protection, I had to watch Edie spend an entire summer at science camp. (The pace of this book really slowed down after the first few chapters.) By the time she finally headed back to school to get revenge, things had gone way downhill between us and I wasn't even sure I was on her side anymore. Let's just say I thought she enjoyed the results of her wish a little too much, and spent too much time mooning after Kian. That was another sticking point for me: this romance was insta-love with a side of it's-sexy-when-you-stalk-me. (That first wish she made also started off their relationship on a super-creepy note.)
Kian has been watching Edie for a while. For her first wish, she chooses to be made beautiful, and he performs this magical plastic surgery to make her beautiful, which is all kinds of creepy, like Dr. Frankenstein meets Professor Henry Higgins.
In the end, I'm torn on this book. For me, YA is usually all about the characters, and if I can't get behind the main ones, it's hard for me to continue with a series. On the other hand, I feel that there's definitely the promise here of more interesting things to come. So, while I'm not throwing in the towel on these books yet, but I'll put this series on my "maybe" shelf and see what the verdict is on the second installment.