I received an e-ARC of this book as part of a blog tour. This did not affect my review in any way.
Summary (as seen on Goodreads)
After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.
This year, it is my turn.
My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.
But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.
Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…
The opening chapter was amazing at giving just enough detail to make readers curious, hinting at what was to come without giving too much away. Clearly something important with the fence was going to arise and Ivy's mother's death was clearly important, but the twists and turns that the novel took were unexpected and incredibly enjoyable to read.
There is also a rare and raw realism in the way Ivy and Bishop fall in love throughout the story. The way the dog-biting story was weaved in throughout the novel and how it connects Ivy and Bishop, Ivy and Callie, and Ivy and her father was thought-provoking and cleverly planned. Thank goodness for the lack of love triangles and insta-love. After finishing this novel, it is clear why the two of them love each other, which is something many books lack.
As the themes of choice, death, and freedom present themselves, Ivy makes a sacrifice for those she loves, even though her family does not love her back like they should. Just as Bishop was able to see through her the whole time, his ability to still see through her, seeing beyond her lies when she was trying so hard to make him trust her and to make him comfortable, played a huge role in this story and makes them a good match for each other. For the novel to end the way it does in such high suspense, with the two lovers separated more than just physically, is also another great thing that the book has going for it.
Pacing throughout the story was, again, realistic and well-done. The fact that Ivy and Bishop's first kiss occurred more than halfway through the book is yet another good choice made by the author. Not only did the romance occur slowly, but so did Ivy's character growth. While very argumentative in the beginning with her want to make others see truth and the way she sees the world, as everything she thought she knew collapses around her, she learns to stay silent in situations where she must, going so far as to lie in order to protect a life. The value and respect she has for life, whether of someone who has wronged her or of someone innocent, really drives her to make her decisions. Although scared like any other human being would be, she is decisive with what she decides, making her a strong lead character with an authentic, enjoyable voice.
Finally, there were some other little details that were great. For example, the specific moments when the characters said each other's names for the first time marked significant encounters. The way Bishop compared Ivy to a book cleared up a lot of confusion about the book title. In fact, the book is very much about the choices she makes, the battle raging in her head and heart, and the readers are the only ones who see the true "book" that she is with each story, thought, and motivation laid out bare.
Overall, a wonderful read, and I can't believe I have to wait a whole year for the sequel. (Crossing my fingers that I get an ARC again because I can't wait!) I will rate this 5 jellyfish.
Anyone else read the book and have some comments? Anyone stopping by as part of the book tour? Give a shout-out or simply say hi!