Heaven and Hell #1
After Heven was involved in an attack she doesn't remember, her scars only make her want to hide. But when the mysterious Sam appears at her school, she begins to come out of her shell and reclaim the life she once had – or she would if the people who attacked her would stop threatening her. Only with Sam's help can she remember who attacked her and why...but Sam has a past of his own...
Having heard some amazing reviews, I was quite excited to get this book through PNR/UF Fanatics' R2R program. I didn't know much about it before I began, having only read the synopsis and skimmed reviews. (I don't like accidentally reading spoilers.)
I'm sorry to say I was a little disappointed. Other than a few moments of excitement, a lot of the story was rather slow. The first half in particular was mainly Heven talking about how miserable her life is (which complaint, to be fair, was not without some truth to it), Sam mooning over Heven, and the random appearances of unknown characters, which were explained only much later. Building suspense is a little bit like building a tower of cards. If you do it right, it's really cool, but it's not easy and trying to draw it out for too long just makes it topple.
I was quite frustrated by the characters. They epitomized the qualities of YA leads that really bother me: from Heven, insecurity, clinginess, angst, superficiality; from Sam, overprotectiveness and possessiveness. Some of these attributes can be reasonable in small quantities, but when they make up a majority of a character's thoughts and behavior, it's gone too far. Sam's jealous reaction to Cole particularly bothered me, as did Heven's constant need to whine about something. I don't want to trivialize her injury, because of course it was terrible, but at the same time I would much rather read about how determined she is to deal with it or at least see some kind of change in her, but she seems quite willing to go straight back to her old life.
I'm not a fan of love at first sight in general because it tends to breed this kind of character development and because it often excludes other characters from the story when the main couple are so wrapped up in each other. In 99 percent of cases, the love-at-first-sight trope just seems fake because there's nothing between the characters to back it up.
On a more positive note, this was a very quick read and did capture my attention. I finished it in about a day, even though it was rather long (a little too long for this sort of story if you ask me, but that's not really the point). Masquerade's world is creative, containing a lot of religious elements without being preachy. I do wish there had been more explanation for some of the supernatural/divine aspects other than Sam's nature, because anyone, however benevolent, who claims to be following some sort of Divine Plan makes me nervous, but as that element was introduced later in the story I imagine there will be more in future books.
Even though I personally didn't like it, I think other people who like the things I mentioned in the review might enjoy it. It wasn't horribly written or anything, it just wasn't my kind of book. If you love all examples of YA PNR, this might be the book for you.
Read Masquerade if you liked:
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
Firelight by Sophie Jordan
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick