Thursday, 22 August 2013

Life Eternal

YA novel by Yvonne Woon
 (Dead Beautiful #2)

I don't usually review the second book in a series because pretty much everything in it is a spoiler for those who have not read the  first book, but with this one, I found the second book for $2 and couldn't resist, so be aware that after here, pretty much everything is spoilers.


In this book, the secrets of the first have already been revealed, but they are re-explained, I assume for those who have not read the first or because you have to wait about a year between books. Don't worry, the explanations are not too laboured and long drawn out, they are nice and short, and to the point.

I really enjoyed the mythology of the story. In this alternate version of our world, when a child dies before it reaches adulthood, it reanimates, only without its soul. The child then has either 21 or 17 (I cant remember) years to find the person with its soul (I assume the person who is born later on with that soul after the child's death) and steal that soul with a kiss, thereby gaining back their life but killing the other. If they do not, after that time they will die horribly. Monitors are humans with a special gift: they can sense these Undead and if they become dangerous they will bury them alive, thus killing them. For the Undead can also take the soul of anyone living to gain temporary life.

In the first book Renee Winters discovered both that her parents were dead, that she was a monitor, and that she was in love with an Undead. She gave her soul to her love, Dante, but he later gave it back. She has kept the reason behind her miraculous recovery a secret from everyone, even her grandfather.

Interestingly in this book she finds herself moving again to a new place, having to make new friends, even more of an outsider than before. I found this a nice twist, doing away with the usual return to the already established setting, and throwing her once again into the deep end of finding her way in a strange place and trying to make new friends, and try and find a way to see her beloved, who is now on the run, wrongfully accused of murder.

I am a bit of a sucker for the forbidden love thing. Having been in a similar situation (without the dead stuff, obviously) that sort of thing always really gets me. I like books where the emotions are so raw you feel like your heart is being ripped out and your flesh flayed from your body. I love that books can make you feel that intense an emotion, such strong joy and pain. The great and sometimes tragic love stories have always fascinated us throughout the ages.

Some people write off YA romance, but I would never do that. Sure a lot of YA novels have the same tropes- the three way love triangle, raw adolescent emotions, magical or undead true love, but there is a huge difference in writing quality. I have picked some books up where I cringe a few pages in and have to put them down. And then there are books like this with evocative but not overly flowery language, good pacing, and a heroine who goes out there does things for herself instead of relying entirely on the male characters to rule her fate.

One of the things I sometimes prefer about YA novels is there is less sex and more raw emotion. YA is all about longing and misery, a lot more emotional and Gothic. In many adult books people are more upbeat and always jumping into bed with each other, which is really not my sort of thing. Also I HATE perky characters. I can't identify with ass kicking pun a minute heroines. I like moody odd kids who don't fit in, dealing with forbidden romances. After all, they have a lot more in common with me.

Things I loved

Her new friend Anya, she's a bit alternative, believes in magic, charms, and has quirky, dyed red hair, (although I am not sure about the 'clubbing' outfits, she wears), and is a loner with a history of suicide attempts. I always enjoy seeing a more gritty, dark character in YA books, that gives the reader someone else to relate to other than the heroine.

Noah was an interesting other love interest because he opened up the question of  what life might have been like if she grew up in the monitoring world, and she could see the idea of how simple and safe life would be like if she could only love someone like him.

Monitors sensing the dead. The stories in the videos. Her dreams. The task of finding the recently dead animals (grim but fascinating). The monitor training, such as building pyres, always having a weapon.

Disappointing aspects

The ending felt very hurried, the last few pages seemed very rushed, and suddenly rather melodramatic. A chase, a death, a kick to the head (those are really, really hard to do). If not for that ending, I might have given the book full marks!

My Ratings

This  book was definitely readable and enjoyable without having read the first book in the series which is definitely a point in its favour. Of course, being part of a series, it does have an open end
I can't definitely decide on a score, mostly because of that ending. I have put it as 4/5 on my Goodreads account, but it is really somewhere around 4.5. I would definitely recommend it.

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