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Ha! Nothing like letting it all out in the title. Note to self … never write a book review when you’re in this kind of mood… but I am in this kind of mood, and I already started, so here we go…
Today, we’re going to talk about the YA novel Crux, by Julie Reece. Now for starters, I am going to openly admit that Julie Reece is the author I spoke about several months ago who jumped out of the Scribophile world and offered to help me when I needed a beta reader for Last Winter Red. Will this skew my review? (I think you know me better than that by now.) I can honestly say I’ve never met Julie Reece, and wouldn’t know her if I tripped over her in a Wal-Mart. So, no… no problems there.
So this is the deal. I picked up Crux for two reasons. #1: Awesome cover. Totally love it and I’ve made a note to find out who the cover artist is, ‘cause it stopped me dead in my tracks several times. Brilliant cover in my opinion.
The second reason this moved up in the ranks of my “to read” list is because the author is uber nice, and really helped me out when I was in a bind. (It’s that marketing think I’ve been talking about)
So, the basics…
This was written in first person “I” which I’ve subtracted a cookie for in the past, but I’m going to stop doing so now because I’m starting to see first person written well. Crux is no exception.
Tense: This was written in present tense. Ugh! Sorry, Ms. Reece, but it drove me a little batty. Now, don’t get me wrong. She did it well. Once I got used to it the tense was okay. The problem is I needed to “get used to it” every time I started reading the book. I’m not sure why this is, and I am willing to admit that it could just be me. Within a page of reading every night, I was swept away by the story and forgot the tense… but since it jarred me every time I picked up the novel, I need to subtract a cookie.
Were there any explosions? Yes! Well, no… Ummm… sort of. Geeze! I’m gonna say yes. It wasn’t really an explosion, but it had to do with a whole bunch of water and it was uber-fun. Loved it! I will let this fall into the explosion category and give her the extra cookie for it. (I can’t tell you what happens with the water or it will be a spoiler)
Okay, so starting with five cookies, she dropped to four and then hopped back up to five for the modified explosion. Here we go:
The Oreo Cookie concept… Start with the crunchy goodness, dig into the gooey bad stuff, and end on a crunchy good note
The top of the cookie:
Crux is a wonderfully imaginative story, completely original with kick-but characters that are wonderfully easy to relate to (right down to the dog) Even the bad guy is the sleazy gotta-love-him type. There is a strong romantic plotline and the attraction between Grey and Birdie is both completely believable, and undeniable. This is probably the most cleanly written relationship I have EVER read. There was no doubt in my mind, for a single second that the characters were attracted to each other, and acted the way the way they did…
… and Grey… DANG. For the first time ever I can understand how women can swoon over a guy from a book. I don’t know if she just hit on exactly the type of guy I like or what… but his “package” (tee hee) has more to do with his actions and personality than his looks. Awesome Character.
Birdie, the female lead is a great “kick butt” chic. She comes from a troubled past, doesn’t think of herself as strong, but all of the sudden the weight of the world is on her shoulders. This is a “super hero like” story with a likable and believable teen in the role of hero.
The middle of the cookie: The bad stuff
I already subtracted a cookie for the present tense, so I won’t go into it again. There is actually only two other things I have to pick on about this novel because this sucker is CLEAN (not even any typos, come to think of it… I should have mentioned that earlier.
Near the end of the novel, our hero Birdie is holding someone’s hand and “thinking”. She opens her eyes, and the person who’s hand she is holding is on the other side of the room and walking towards her. Huh?
I read the passage over and over again, trying to figure out what I had missed. This bothered me so much that before I wrote this review, I contacted the author and asked about it. She sent back a marked up version of her manuscript page that clearly showed that when she was “thinking” she was in a flashback, and she was never actually holding the person’s hand at all (At that very moment in time). It made complete sense to me as I looked at the marked up manuscript pointing out the elements that I’d missed.
However, I went back to my Kindle, prepped with my new information about what I’d missed… AND I READ IT EXACTLY THE SAME WAY I did when I had read it the first, second, third, and fourth time. Now, I am willing to admit that this may be just because I am a bimbo, but I’m figuring I’m probably not the only bimbo out there. If the author didn’t point out what I’d missed, and couldn’t explain the passage, I would have subtracted a whole cookie, but for this confusion I need to subtract at least a quarter of a cookie… just to make the bimbos of the world not feel so bad.
Another thing… The beginning. Ugh. I really didn’t like it. I am Sooooo glad that I had already purchased the novel, because if I read the first few pages in a preview, I would have dumped it. It’s a shame really. A Kick-Butt novel like this should have a kick-butt beginning… something with more excitement. Frankly, I was bored and completely uninterested.
When I finished the novel, I actually went back and re-read the beginning, and found it read WORSE than it did the first time. Mainly it had to do with the character of Jeff, who I really didn’t like or understand the first read. In the second read, I found everything in the beginning both out of character, and completely unbelievable in the realm of the overall plot. The beginning felt like it was written after the rest of the novel… I have to think that at one time it was written another way, but the author got some bad advice and changed it toooooo… ugh. I’m gonna pretend the novel starts at the point of Birdie running into the restaurant and meeting Grey and his family for the first time. That is followed by a KICK BUTT car chase. From this point on, the novel is an awesome roller coaster ride. The beginning would have been better taken care of in “gentle” backstory and inner thoughts, in my opinion.
Since many reading Crux might dump this novel before it gets good enough for us action lovers, I need to drop another quarter cookie.
The bottom of the cookie; Ending on a crunchy good note.
About three quarters of the way through the book, a little light bulb went off in my head. It had to do with the dog. When that little bulb blinks for me, it is a do or die trigger for the novel. I think “If I’m right, it will ruin the entire novel for me”. As I read the end, my neck muscles tightened, because it looked more and more like I was right… but in the last seconds, what I was dreading didn’t happen. “Whew” what a relief. I’m still not completely convinced that I’m not right… but at least it did not ruin this book for me (although it might blunder a sequel if not done well)
The ending was action packed and exciting. Lots of swords and mayhem and even a few heads getting lopped off for those of you who are in-to that sort of stuff. It was all done without the gore factor though, and the person doing the lopping was not enjoying it one iota. Even with the violence, I have added this to the Monomaniacle Middle Grade Reviewer’s reading list, just to see if he enjoys the book as much as I did.
The only minor thing I will mention about the ending, is that I think it could have sewn up just a little faster. Yes, I know sometimes I complain things sew up tooo fast, but I think this dragged on just a touch too long. I realize though that the next book was being set up, and a few things needed to be ironed out…. Which is good.
Everything is ironed out… even the minor side plotlines, but a few things are left “kind of open” which leaves us ready for a sequel, without leaving the reader feeling cheated. Yes, there is an ending, and it is solid. Nicely done.
So… the verdict is?
We start with five cookies. She lost one for present tense, but gained one back for the “water-kinda like an explosion” thing. We lost a quarter cookie for the beginning of the book, and then we lost a quarter of a cookie because I’m a bimbo. (Sorry, my review, my rules)
So, we have four and a half out of five Oreos for Crux… and a firm place in the top five novels I have ever read, (despite the Sh*tty beginning… which says a LOT about the strength of this story.)
Pick up Crux to research: Great character development, relationship building, realistic dialog, pacing, and just for an all-around fun read.