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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Review: The Wicked We Have Done

Evalyn Ibarra never expected to be an accused killer and experimental prison test subject. A year ago, she was a normal college student. Now she’s been sentenced to a month in the compass room—an advanced prison obstacle course designed by the government to execute justice.

If she survives, the world will know she’s innocent.

Locked up with nine notorious and potentially psychotic criminals, Evalyn must fight the prison and dismantle her past to stay alive. But the system prized for accuracy appears to be killing at random.

She doesn’t plan on making friends.

She doesn’t plan on falling in love, either.

Sarah Harian's debut The Wicked We Have Done has that "I couldn't put it down" mojo that I crave when searching for books. From the first line I knew that I was going to be sucked into it, and I was right. Evalyn's character comes screaming out of the page - tough and smart with just enough compassion for others that you know she's someone to root for. Evalyn also has a certain vulnerability that I found compelling. By feeding us little pieces of her past, Harian reveals Evalyn's true character, the one she doesn't let the other criminals see. I thought that Evalyn's guilt was all wrapped up in one element of her story, but it turned out there was a lot more to it than what I thought I knew. In the end, I found myself questioning, what if I were Evalyn, how would I have reacted? My lingering thoughts about Evalyn's true moral compass raises questions that sit in that gray area between right and wrong; it's given me a lot to contemplate.

Others have pointed to the similarity between this book and The Hunger Games, and while the similarity is definitely there, I felt like this book set a very different tone than THG, a tone that is more specifically new adult. The characters are raw and crass, their dialogue snappy and intelligent. And there is definitely a sexiness to this story that THG barely touches on.  I think that readers will enjoy the steamy romance. I know I did. 

Harian also doesn't hold back on the gruesome. Some have said that it has a horror story vibe to it, and while I can see that, I honestly never felt frightened of what was to come next. (I think after being raised on Stephen King novels, I've made myself immune to book fright?) In any case, the little drops of blood seen on the front cover are quite accurate; it's not a story for the squeamish.

There are some quibbles that I have with regards to the editing of the book which I think go beyond what one would normally expect for an ARC.  I hope that the editors smooth out these areas before publication, and I also hope that readers will realize these issues don’t sit solely on the author’s shoulders. This is what you get when publishers try to squeeze out books in a hurry in order to compete with the self-pub market. That said, I give the story (minus the editing) 5 stars - it was quick paced, with great characters, dialogue that made me all jelly, and prose that I thought was just fantastic at times.



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