I will not beat around the bush here. This is the best YA book I've read in AGES. It might be better than Vampire Academy. (!!!!) Don't let this schmaltzy cover fool you. (Maybe I am alone in this, but when I see a flashy jacket with overly gorgeous airbrushed humans, featuring a dude with bulging muscles looking directly at the camera with an un-ironic smoldering gaze, I assume the book is going to be a trashy romance novel. This book is ANYTHING BUT.)
From the first sentence of the first page, I was sucked in and could never put this down again. As it happened, I was stuck in an airport the day I was reading this, due to a volatile combination of tornados in my destination AND a broken airplane (pretty sure one or the other independently would have been sufficient to keep us grounded, but experiencing both simultaneously was extra special.) If I hadn't had a book as all-consuming as this to occupy my time, I may have gone into a homicidal rage, so thank you, Kresley Cole!
Where to begin. How about the beginning! As the book begins, a sadistic killer is waxing eloquent about his plans to torture and eventually kill a young woman, Evie, whom he has just lured into his house. Pretending to be a harmless young man who just wants to learn more about the people around him, he asks Evie to tell him her life story before and after the Flash, an apocalyptic event that occurred about 200 days prior. Little does she know, he has actually poisoned her hot chocolate with a sedative. He intends to imprison her in his cellar so that he can do gruesome scientific experiments on her body.
This warm & fuzzy narration then switches to Evie's POV as she tells her life story to the sadistic killer. As Evie begins to narrate, we are seamlessly transported out of this horror novel to a scene that could have come straight out of a Simone Elkeles or Sarah Dessen book, and the transition is so completely believable and well done that I was immediately certain I was going to love this book and need to read everything else Kresley Cole has ever written. Evie's story begins a few days before the Flash, just as she's about to begin her junior year of high school. A popular cheerleader, she is nervous about seeing her football-quarterback-boyfriend for the first time in a couple months. But there is a twist: she hasn't spent the summer away at a sorority prep camp like she told all her friends; she's actually been in a mental institution. Evie has visions, hears voices, and her mother and doctors assume it's because she's crazy...no one believes for a second that her visions of doomsday might actually be prophetic. *DUN DUN DUN*
So then she starts high school again and is dealing with all the typical YA stresses like feeling pressured by her boyfriend to move faster than she wants, developing a crush on a dead sexy cajun boy from the other side of the tracks (who is a dead ringer for Alex Fuentes of Perfect Chemistry but like also his own unique person), while also finding, to her horror, that her hallucinations have come back with a vengeance, even though she's still taking the medicine that seemed to have been working for awhile. And this whole time, as high school life goes on and normal things like breaking curfew, bickering with your best friend, and bantering with the bad boy in your English class occur, you, the reader, are well aware that the apocalypse is only days away and that 200 days from now poor Evie will find herself entrapped in the lair of a psycho who intends to mutilate and torture her to death. *CHILLS*
Ok I'm bored of summarizing and can't say much more without spoiling stuff anyway so I'll leave it there. I'm sure others have made these comparisons before, but if I had to sum up this book in one sentence it would be Stephen King's The Stand (his post-apocalyptic epic) meets Simone Elkeles's Perfect Chemistry with a dash of Hunger Games thrown in the mix. It's insane. The plot and world building are both so complex, so well thought out, the characters so vivid, developed, and for the most part likable, that I am just basically in raptures. It is so rare to read a book like this for the first time (I can assure you I will read this one many more times) and I'm just so happy I found it!!! If you've read many of my reviews (I KNOW YOU HAVEN'T BUT JUST BEAR WITH ME), you will know it is pretty unusual for me to get this excited about anything...so, believe me, this book is amazing. RAPTURES.
I love Evie. I love that she's not your typical YA Mary Sue character. She's not some dull, passive girl who never had a friend in her life until the hottest boy in school suddenly Discovers her and professes his undying love. She's already confident and feisty when the book starts, and she only gets more interesting and complex as it progresses.
Jackson has the sizzling charisma that SO FEW of these YA boys actually manage to vividly exhibit on the page. I would put him up there with Dimitri Belikov of Vampire Academy, which, for me, is really like beyond the highest praise I can possibly give. For any author that wants a lesson on SHOWING rather than TELLING...read this book, study these characters! Cole is a master!!!
Ok I will put a sock in it now. I'm almost done with the second book and panic is starting to set in as I realize I'll have to wait some ungodly amount of time for the third and final installment. It is rare these days that I feel compelled to even read a sequel, let alone a complete series, so let that be the final proof that this book is A GODSEND AND YOU MUST READ IT NOW.
5 FRIGGIN STARS!!!