Here's my seventh review for this
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Author: Cambria Hebert
Format: Trade Paperback, 360 pages
Publisher: Otherworld Publications
Published: December 16, 2011
Genres: YA Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy
This is one of those books that pulled me in the minute I saw the cover. It's a very unique one, too! Not every book with a gorgeous cover has a compelling story to match, however, but this one certainly does! In fact, I found it so compelling that I had to read it obsessively until the very end! Hebert's writing is tight, expressive, tantalizing. She keeps the reader on the edge of the seat, while she throws out elusive hints. The result? Non-stop delight, as well as a truly mesmerizing read!
Heven, the book's main character and one of its narrators, is someone who not only elicits compassion, but admiration as well. She has been horribly disfigured by an unknown assailant, and she remembers nothing at all of this attack. She has no idea why she was attacked, either. All she has are her nightmares, in which she relives the first few moments of her ordeal... In spite of all this, she has attempted to live as normal a life as possible, although she does hide her face, either with her hoodies, or her long, blond hair.
Heven was once a cheerleader, a member of 'the popular crowd', but that was Before. Her best friend, Kimber, is the only one who has stuck by her. She and Cole, her boyfriend, have been Heven's only source of support among their peers since the mysterious accident that gave Heven her scars.
A crucial shift in the story takes place when Kimber catches Cole kissing another girl; at the same time, a handsome new student, Sam, starts school.
As the book progresses, it becomes apparent that Kimber is not as supportive of Heven as she seemed to be, at first. In fact, she has been jealous of Heven for a long time, and only now, when Heven is scarred, does she feel that she herself can be noticed.
After Kimber's attempt to get revenge on Cole by dating Sam has the desired effect, resulting in Cole's reconciliation with Kimber, Heven is happy to be able to start a relationship with this mysterious new boy. As they start to get to know each other, she doesn't believe he'll be interested in her because of her scars, but she's so wrong...
It's interesting to see how this novel starts off as a story of the cruelty and fickleness of high school life, but then becomes something more, as the supernatural elements are gradually introduced. Sam is not what he appears to be -- at least, not exactly. Yet, his love and devotion for Heven are all too real. Heven herself is a remarkable individual, and we see her grow throughout the novel to become someone as awe-inspiring as Sam already is.
There's an unexpected twist to the story, as well, which intensifies its supernatural flavor. While it isn't entirely surprising to me, being the veteran fantasy reader that I am, it does create a heightened sense of "otherworldliness" which I found utterly fascinating.
The love story of Heven and Sam is one of the most beautiful I've read in a while. Although Heven starts off as being very insecure because of her disfigurement, Sam makes her realize that inner beauty is much more important than outer beauty. He tells her, over and over again, how beautiful she is in his eyes. He is so tender and sweet to her...yet, he is all-male! To me, he's the quintessential man -- romantic, loving, tender, strong, and always ready to protect and defend the woman he loves.
Hebert's story is highly original and unique. For one thing, she has four different narrators telling the story: Heven, Sam, The Hate, and The Hope. The last two are supernatural beings, but their identity is not revealed until much later in the novel. I especially like the idea of contrasting these two. It's amazing to see how an evil being twists the events taking place into something utterly depraved, while the same events, seen from the perspective of a good being, take on a shining beauty. Furthermore, using these two narrators has the effect of drawing the reader along, turning pages to find out, among other things, just who and what these narrators are.
Sam's background story is another original element. The events themselves are also uniquely Hebert's, as is her deft handling of them. The world-building is also very original, and very well done.
I was initially disappointed by one thing -- the depiction of Heven's mother as a Bible-thumping, fanatical Christian. This sounded too much like a stereotype. As I read, however, I had to admit that I myself have encountered such people. Stereotypes, after all, become stereotypes for a reason. While she did care for her daughter on some level, Heven's mother was too caught up in her rather twisted ideology to see Heven as someone needing help and confidence-boosting, not condemnation. My initial disappointment then shifted; I was now disturbed that this woman could not see her own daughter's emotional needs.
There's one very special character in this novel, aside from Sam and Heven, of course, and that's Heven's grandmother, whom she calls "Gran". Gran is Heven's paternal grandmother, so she doesn't really get along with Heven's mother. She becomes the one relative that Heven can rely on for the emotional support and understanding that her mother seems incapable of giving her. Needless to say, I love Gran as fiercely as Heven does! When the tension between Heven and her mother (I don't recall her ever being named in the novel) escalates almost unbearably, Heven turns to her Gran, and is immediately welcomed into her warmly loving arms.
The central villain in the novel is very convincingly evil. Of course, I hated this character! A skilled author has to make sure to have properly evil villains, and Hebert certainly doesn't disappoint. Heven is in very real danger from this villain, and I spent some very tense moments while reading about what this character was eager to do to her!
The initial mystery to the story is who, or what, Sam is. Hebert keeps the plot relentlessly moving, the mystery deepening as the reader desperately wonders what, exactly is going on. I found it very addictive reading, indeed!
In short, this is a highly entertaining, enchanting novel, one that also makes some very important points about true beauty, the value of sincere friendship, and the power of love to transcend all obstacles. Hebert's novel is definitely in the YA genre, yet, I firmly believe that it will also appeal to adults, precisely because of these themes.
This book now forms part of my favorites shelf! I love the characters, the plot, and how everything is tied together in the end, yet, everything points to the next book in this series, Charade, which I am eagerly anticipating!
Where To Buy: Amazon, Barnes & Noble