The Death of Us – Alice Kuipers // Illusions of Fate – Kiersten White

The Death of Us:

“Callie is shocked when her friend Ivy reappears after an unexplained three-year absence, but the girls pick up where they left off, and suddenly Callie’s summer is full of parties, boys and fun. Beneath the surface, things aren’t what they seem, however, and when a handsome boy with a dark past gets tangled up with Ivy, the girls’ history threatens to destroy their future.”

I read the synopsis and was all “A popular girl comes back to town and turns her outcast best friend’s life upside down, and there’s a cute, mysterious guy…that’s what my book is about”, so of course I had to read The Death of Us. I can now say, thankfully, it’s nothing like Fireworks – it’s something else entirely.

It’s told in three points of view – Callie, Ivy, and Kurt (the “handsome boy with a dark past”). I really liked the structure: Kurt’s passages take place July 31, the day of the car accident, while Callie and Ivy take turns explaining the events starting from two weeks earlier. Despite all that, I felt like I didn’t connect with any of the characters: they were both realistic and oddly mechanic, especially in terms of dialogue. They did have very dramatic back stories, though; there was enough detail to start to understand the character’s mindframe, while still making you wonder.

This is a book I like more after thinking about it. At the time, there was a lot of “what the heck is going on?”, but now that I’ve had time to reflect on it, the ending is somewhat chilling. It’s like that episode of Scrubs where – SPOILER ALERT – Ben dies but you don’t realize he’s actually gone until the funeral in the last five minutes: you spend the episode thinking the story is going in one direction and then BAM, it throws you for a loop and you’re staring at the screen wondering “how did I miss all those signs?!”

Illusions of Fate:

“The people of Albion are different from anyone Jessamin has ever known: harsh, uptight, and obsessed with wealth and rank. Jessamin knew as much when she left her sun-drenched island home to attend school in their gray, dreary country. But she had no idea how different they truly were.

She never thought she would discover a house with doors that open onto a hundred corners of the city or a book that spends its days as a bird. She certainly never expected to become a pawn in a political and magical power struggle between the sinister Lord Downpike and the handsome, charming Finn Ackerly. And she never so much as imagined she’d win Finn’s affections-or that one day his shadow would follow her every step.

Fortunately for Jessamin, fate has other ideas. . . .”

First of all, I love this cover. It’s gorgeous and it’s honestly the reason I wanted to read this (also because it was described as “Downton Abbey meets The Mortal Instruments” – while I can no longer count myself as a fan of TMI, I did love it at one point and I continue to enjoy DA).

I also think I’ve done that thing where I’ve overdosed on YA (again), so that, even though there wasn’t anything glaringly bad about this book, I still felt frustrated and a little bored for most of it. Especially at the end when I thought White was going to break the mold – which would have taken the story from “good” to “great”, in my eyes – but then she reneged and spun a happy conclusion in the last two pages (sometimes I just want unhappy endings, okay?). I desperately wanted to like Finn, and, while he had his moments, I wasn’t left with a “would that he was real!” feeling at the end.

I would also like to say that I saw that twist on the villain coming from really early on. I would have been shocked if it hadn’t gone in that direction. I will give her this though: there were some terrifying descriptions of people being attacked by birds *shivers*.

My favourite character had to be Eleanor, Jessamin’s new high society friend. She was genuinely amusing and I would have been sad it she died (I definitely thought she was headed that way for a while). Jessamin herself seemed to be full of contradictions: on the one hand, she was more independent than most YA heroines, but for all her “I don’t need no man to tell me what to do, not even you, Finn”, she was awfully full of sappy, romantic ideas. Such is life, I suppose – especially in YA books.

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