Publication Date: August 14, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Reading Level: Young Adult, 14+
Pages: 336 (Kindle eARC)
Source: From Author For Review
Three teens venture into the abandoned Monroe estate one night; hours later, only two emerge from the burning wreckage. Chloe drags one Reznick brother to safety, unconscious and bleeding; the other is left to burn, dead in the fire. But which brother survives? And is his death a tragic accident? Desperate self-defense? Or murder?
Chloe is the only one with the answers. As the fire rages, and police and parents demand the truth, she struggles to piece together the story of how they got there-a story of jealousy, twisted passion, and the darkness that lurks behind even the most beautiful of faces…
I was so excited to receive this book for review, but I have to admit that I am slightly disappointed in this tale. While overall enjoyable and thrilling, it wasn't as good as I wanted it to be. With that in mind, I still really enjoyed this tale, but not as badly as I wanted to.
We begin this book at the end. There are two brothers and our main character, Chloe, inside an empty house. Somehow, a fire is started. One brother ends up burning inside the house while the other is dragged out unconscious with a nearly fatal stab wound to his stomach. Chloe is the only conscious survivor and it's incredibly clear that she is lying about one part of the story or another. Which brother has the potential to live and which one dies? Furthermore, why did this event even happen and what, exactly, is Chloe's role in the end? Of course you have to read the book to find out!
Chloe was an interesting character because in one sense she is totally relatable and she is totally unrelatable in another sense. She just graduated high school in a small town that she's lived in her entire life. Her father left her family to raise a kid with a new woman and her mother has withdrawn from life and succumbed to depression because of it. She works late nights at the diner to save up some money until she leaves for college in Connecticut. After all, Chloe was always the one that would get out of Dodge. I can totally relate to this because, like Chloe, I'm from a small town that I worked tirelessly to get out of. However, because of her mother's depression she has to take a gap year and work more to support her failing household and pretty much take care of her own mother. She begins to resent her and slowly changes from the nice girl we meet in the beginning of the story to something else entirely.
This change is triggered by events following her meeting Ethan one day in the diner. We slowly see a darker side of Chloe emerge and it's almost as if it was always stirring beneath the surface but she needed something to ignite the flames inside her and allow the sociopath within her to surface. Well, that's what Ethan inadvertently triggered, and, obviously, this part of Chloe is not as relatable. Heck, I hated this part of Chloe. I can honestly say that the Chloe at the end of this book was not the Chloe I liked in the beginning. I know we are meant to not like her, but the fact that I didn't outright love any specific character in this story hurt my reading experience a little. I enjoyed many characters, I just didn't love any.
I was fascinated by Ethan and Oliver, though. These two are the sun and the moon, water and fire. One heals while the other kills. They're complete opposites and it's evident from the very beginning. One is selfless and loves with his entire being while the other is a maniacal genius that is evil inside and out from the day he was born--a truly well written sociopath that sent shivers down my spine from the very beginning. I found him to be fascinating, but at the same time after hearing the things he did I was mad at his parents for not doing something about it. It's not as if they weren't aware of many of his actions.
That's the other thing about this book, the families are both far from perfect. Chloe's mother is a little on the weak side. I know it would suck to have a husband leave you for a younger woman he got pregnant, but she literally became a mess that couldn't see daylight and was entirely non-functioning. She gave up being a mother because her husband was her life and I didn't like that. I liked the complexity of Ethan and Oliver's family because there's obviously a lot of creepy things going on behind the scenes--their mother is a lot smarter than she lets on--but I still don't always agree with their decisions.
In the end, this mystery is just easier to piece together than DANGEROUS GIRLS. I know these two aren't companion novels, but it's the same general style of storytelling and because I loved DANGEROUS GIRLS so much, I was expecting the same thrill from this novel. While super dark and twisted and, at times, even more disturbing than book one, I didn't have to wait until the very end to figure out what happened in that empty house before the fire started. And that's the one thing that really upsets me in regards to this novel.
With all of that in mind, I am definitely a black sheep in regards to this one. Most people absolutely adored it and, don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed it too. But I think my expectations were so high that this book took a harder fall in my mind than it deserved. Abigail Haas (really Abby McDonald) has cemented her spot in the thriller young adult genre. I will always read what she writes under this pen name because I don't think anyone can compare to her twistedness. I love the dark places she takes us, even if a bit unsettling, and I am serious when I say you have to pick up both DANGEROUS GIRLS and DANGEROUS BOYS.
I can't wait to see what Haas writes next. Who wants to be in the mind of a male sociopath? I know I do!
FTC Disclaimer: I received no compensation of any kind in exchange for my honest review.