Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Cracked by Eliza Crewe

Cracked by Eliza Crewe is the author's début novel. This review contains only very minor spoilers. The blurb is rather long but relatively spoiler free (yay, Strange Chemistry has improved) so I'm including all of it here.
Well, technically, she eats their soul. But she totally promises to only go for people who deserve it. She’s special. It’s not her fault she enjoys it. She can’t help being a bad guy. Besides, what else can she do? Her mother was killed and it’s not like there are any other “soul-eaters” around to show her how to be different. That is, until the three men in suits show up.

They can do what she can do. They’re like her. Meda might finally have a chance to figure out what she is. The problem? They kind of want to kill her. Before they get the chance Meda is rescued by crusaders, members of an elite group dedicated to wiping out Meda’s kind. This is her chance! Play along with the “good guys” and she’ll finally figure out what, exactly, her ‘kind’ is.

Be careful what you wish for. Playing capture the flag with her mortal enemies, babysitting a teenage boy with a hero complex, and trying to keep one step ahead of a too-clever girl are bad enough. But the Hunger is gaining on her.

The more she learns, the worse it gets. And when Meda uncovers a shocking secret about her mother, her past, and her destiny… she may finally give into it.
I have to say, the opening scene did not endear me to Meda. Not because of what happened in it, but because of her internal monologue. I'm usually pretty tolerant of characters that most would consider annoying — including when they're evil — but Meda set my teeth on edge with her self-congratulatory cockiness. Also her ableist commentary didn't help, particularly in the "insane asylum" the story opened in. Although the story redeems itself later on with respect to ableism (the day is saved by the girl with the damaged leg), Meda is not (although she does become less cocky). I warn that if ableist language is something that bothers you, Cracked may not be the book to read. Personally, I put it down at the end of the opening and when I came back to it a few days later I found it much more tolerable.

As the story goes along and, especially, after the other three central characters were introduced, I found it became much more enjoyable. There was an element of humour in banter and in Meda's commentary that came out more as the story went along. The other characters, Chi, Jo and Uri really make the story. They are the driving force behind Meda's personal journey through the book.

I'm not sure I've read a book with such a marked development of character as Cracked. Meda went from barely tolerable to someone whose fate I actually cared about. Admittedly, her growth wasn't based only on events taking place in the book, but also came from coming to terms with past events, learning what she is and understanding that who she is doesn't have to be dictated by expectations. That aspect was quite fascinating. There were a lot of reasons for her and others to assume that she was evil — end of story — but there were also people who assumed the best of her and they were ultimately her salvation. If not for people believing that she could be good, Meda would never have been able to overcome her natural evil tendencies. There's a moral in there; don't assume the worst of people if you want to give them room to be their best. Like Kurt Vonnegut wrote, "We are what we pretend to be."

Although it didn't start off well, I ended up enjoying Cracked quite a bit. Although the ending didn't leave an obvious hook for the next in the series, there are a few different directions it could go in. Personally, I'm looking forward to meeting Meda again, since it will be the Meda from the end of the book. I recommend Cracked to fans of paranormal YA.

4 / 5 stars

First published: November 2013, Strange Chemistry
Series: The Soul Eaters Series, book 1 of ?
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher, via NetGalley

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