Unlike Broken, which was told from Emma's point of view, Tainted is told solely from Alex's point of view. Which isn't a problem per se, but it did lead to the first chunk of the book being dull and repetitive. Alex spends a lot of time feeling male ennui, moping, making out with Emma and then missing her as soon as they part to go to different classes, more moping, more ennui. I almost put the book down. I suppose I should have realised that — with the first book being basically a romance for teens and with a Frankensteinian male lead — there would be more weight placed on the romantic aspects in Tainted than I would've liked.
Alex Franks believes the madness is behind them. With Ascension Labs under his direction and the forces threatening Emma's life overcome, they have a chance at a normal life, and keeping his secrets safely buried. But a shadow rises from Alex’s past, and she wants him back. Criminally brilliant, Hailey Westmore will stop at nothing to claim the boy she was meant to be with.
Without warning, Emma Gentry finds she cannot trust anything. Not her mind, her memory, not even herself. Tragic events and unexpected deaths stalk Alex and Emma, testing them in ways they would never imagine, and may not survive. Alex carries a new secret, and a horrifying guilt that Hailey uses to her advantage.
Emma’s life and sanity hang in the balance, and Alex may have created a monster...
Then the action picked up. Somewhat suddenly, the stakes went from "I miss spending as much time with my girlfriend" to "someone is trying to kill her and also lots of other people along the way oh gods why". Which at least made the story more interesting. I wasn't particularly fond of the antagonist, Alex's crazy ex-girlfriend, however. First, the trope of obsessed ex who wants Alex back for no reason I could see (I mean, he's not a bad person, but I really wouldn't go quite that far out of my way, especially after he had a new girlfriend) annoyed me on general principle. Particularly since Hailey is supposed to be super smart (a little too smart for plausibility, even given the magic that made her so) and in that case shouldn't she be more obsessed with the magic drugs she's been working on? Although I'll say that my strongest objection is just the smart-girl-who-allows-her-life-and-evil-plots-revolve-around-mediocre-boy trope. On general principle. Obviously, you're mileage may vary on that point.
The other think that irked me a little bit about Hailey (but not as much as the crazy ex trope) was the mad-scientist trope that she also encapsulated. Again, this is an objection on general principles to demonising scientists and science. Yes, there was one non-evil scientist, and yes, Alex's dad (also a scientist) did some horrible things in the previous book, but the science itself was portrayed more evilly in this one. Where in Broken evil things were done for science and to save Alex, in Tainted evil is committed with and for science. Which seemed worse. Possibly also because of Alex doubting the one non-evil (and not accidental pawn) scientist in the story.
Basically, I didn't really like Tainted but it didn't offend me terribly (really, the gender and science stuff could've been much worse). The writing itself wasn't terrible, although I think the beginning definitely could have been more interesting. I won't be reading a sequel if there is one (no idea at this stage). However, if you enjoyed Broken and don't mind lots of kissing and action, definitely give Tainted a go.
3 / 5 stars
First published: October 2013, Strange Chemistry
Series: yes. Book 2 so far.
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley