Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Review: The Wicked We Have Done by Sarah Harian

Published by: Penguin/InterMix
Release date: 18th March 2014
Series: Chaos Theory #1

I got it from: NetGalley
Goodreads summary:

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.

My review:
If you took a mash-up of The Hunger Games and Maze Runner and made it for grown-ups, The Wicked We Have Done is what you'd be left with. I enjoyed it immensely, more so than THG or MR, perhaps because I am a grown-up, although I read, and love, A LOT of YA.

There's something rather brave about making all your main characters evil criminals. Murderers, rapists and the like. When I started reading I had to question whether it was going to be possible for me to actually like or identify with any of these characters. Because, you know, I don't normally hang around with murderers. The thing is though, there's more than one side to every story, and until you hear them all you can never really know what went down.

TWWHD is a bit clever in the way it lures you in, then raises questions and makes you rethink things. Harian's writing is cunning, with well-paced reveals and events that make us see certain characters in different lights. I found the opening chapters particularly believable and though-provoking. The way the press reacts to Evalyn, the way even other prisoners react to her, and the way she reacts in turn is very telling. I want to believe that she is innocent, but I don't get to find out for some time, and when I do, I'm thinking about things in a different way.

I wondered whether romance could really work in a book like this, or if it would be overly contrived. But when you throw a bunch of young people into a crazy situation, they're bound to gravitate into groups that can work together. That's a start. Then take two people, some chemistry and a feeling that neither one is truly evil, and you have blossoming relationship. Given that anyone could die at any time, there's a certain urgency added into the mix. It's not gooey YA insta-love, but it is an acknowledgement that there's not exactly time in this situation for first dates, and come on, these are consenting adults. I think Harian has handled that side of things very well.

There are horror elements to this book, though I wouldn't call it a full-scale horror. There's blood and guts, a bit of a fear factor and some psychological thriller-ness to it too. I'm not really into horror or thriller books, but TWWHD draws it all together with the romance, the dystopian edge and new adult vibe, making the whole into something that just works on so many levels.

I have to say, I can't think of a single thing about this book that I don't like. The writing is very good, the characters are well-developed, the plot is interesting, twisty and addictive, and the pacing is perfect. It makes you think, yet it's easy to read. Even the ending, and you know how picky I am, is just right. I seriously want to read the next book, right now!

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