Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Genre: YA contemporary, Urban Fantasy, PNR
Publication Date: September 18, 2012 (Spencer Hill Press – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: Dying sucks– and high school senior Ember McWilliams knows firsthand. After a fatal car accident, her gifted little sister brought her back. Now anything Ember touches dies. And that, well, really blows.
Ember operates on a no-touch policy with all living things–including boys. When Hayden Cromwell shows up, quoting Oscar Wilde and claiming her curse is a gift, she thinks he’s a crazed cutie. But when he tells her he can help control it, she’s more than interested. There’s just one catch: Ember has to trust Hayden’s adopted father, a man she’s sure has sinister reasons for collecting children whose abilities even weird her out.
However, she’s willing to do anything to hold her sister’s hand again. And hell, she’d also like to be able to kiss Hayden. Who wouldn’t? But when Ember learns the accident that turned her into a freak may not have been an accident at all, she’s not sure who to trust. Someone wanted her dead, and the closer she gets to the truth, the closer she is to losing not only her heart, but her life. For real this time.
☆: 3/5 stars – Not too shabby for a standalone, but I did want more story after the book was done!
Review: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think that this book would have worked better as a duology. There were parts that felt really rushed, and maybe I’ve been spoiled by Armentrout’s “Covenant” series, but I just kind of wanted/expected more than what I got in “Cursed”. However, that isn’t to say that I didn’t like it – I did, I really did. I just wanted MORE. However, as a first effort for a standalone, “Cursed” is a whole lot of spooky fun.
I’m trying to put my finger on why this didn’t entirely work for me. I think it’s because not all of the characters felt fully fleshed out, even after all of the Big Reveals. The Big Bad felt entirely too relatable – for me, I love a Big Bad that can be relatable, but tip things to the either side of the humanist scale, and it’s a bit of a deal-breaker for me. Looking back on the book itself, everyone but Ember was just not fully 3D for me, not fully real. Hayden, at times, did feel much like a very 2D character (until we get more Big Reveals in the last third of the book), as did everyone else. It feels like everyone became the most real within that last third, when things were snowballing to a conclusion. Before then, though, the pace of Ember’s personal character arc and development was a bit on the sluggish side (though it did speed up in certain pivotal areas in the book – and Armentrout hit those areas right on the mark, I’m happy to say), and I was a bit sad that no one else really had noticable individual character arcs that were obvious to the reader.
I do understand this is Ember’s story, but it turns into more than that by the end of the book. So I think you can understand my disappointment with the lack of individual character arcs/development for everyone else within this book. The lesser characters, while sympathetic and compelling, could have been moreso. I’m just used to a higher standard of characters from Armentrout and on that point, I didn’t feel like this book entirely delivered.
There’s also the Stockholm-syndrome aspect to this story – falling for Hayden (whose father helps kidnap Ember and her sister) was a little on the squicky side for me. Even though he redeems himself by the end, there were bits where it felt like the book had a bit of what I like to call Twilight syndrome – obsessive girls with overbearing/protective boys and his family. That, and Hayden and Ember’s relationship also felt a bit insta-lovey to me and I’m just not a fan of that.
However, the rest of the book was great. I loved the setting, the worldbuilding was very sturdy, and the Big Bad was excellent, as well as the threat of people more nefarious than Hayden’s father with a penchant for collecting Gifted teenagers gave me nightmares. So on those points, Armentrout delivered well, and I liked how things progressed. The sensory language and imagery was the best part of the book, and I feel like Armentrout grew the most as an author on this point with writing this book. I just wanted more story, and it didn’t feel entirely done and settled. But sometimes, I guess, that feeling of being unfinished is needed in order to make the reader think, and Armentrout quietly asks you the question of what one would do in Ember’s situation quite well.
So, I’d say this is a solid first standalone from Armentrout, and I’m definitely looking forward to more of her work (especially the end to the “Covenant” series – oh boy, I need to ready myself for the feels). I just don’t think this book worked as well for me as it did others (the “it’s not you, it’s me” case of things). However, that’s just how I feel about it. Why don’t you give it a read yourself? “Cursed” comes out September 18th from Spencer Hill Press, so be sure to check it out then!