Story Arc: Standalone with Potential for a Series
Publication: September 18, 2012 by Spencer Hill Press
Hardcover: 312 pages
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy
Age Group: Teen, Young Adult
Source: Borrowed from Molli
Content: Violence, Sadistic Bullying, Light to Heavy Kissing, Death, Attempted Murder
I'd been having an amazing dream--right up until the point I felt something small and furry moving over my chest...
Dying sucks--and high school senior Ember McWilliams knows firsthand. After a fatal car accident, her gifted little sister brought her back. Now anything Ember touches dies. And that, well, really blows.The last time Ember was able to wrap her arms around her little sister, Olivia, was right before the car accident. She remembers having a father—the guilt is horribly weighing when she reminisces the night her life changed irrevocably. She also remembers having a mother, which makes the pain she bears so much more searing every time her thoughts travel back to the broken doll—beautiful, lifeless, basically irreparable—sleeping her days away masking as her mother now. Her mother can’t hear her, her sister can’t touch her, and her father is six feet under. Little details like groceries and driving her sister to school get done by Ember, because she’s alone in a way no teenager should be. There’s also the tiny problem of Olivia resurrecting the dead, and Ember being capable of withering any living thing with a simple touch. A reminder that you not only look and act abnormal, but you are also fundamentally not normal inside, in your makeup, unable to engage in basic contact like a handshake, a quick peck on the cheek, a hug, is a wonderful way to start the day, huh?
Ember operates on a no-touch policy with all living things--including boys. When Hayden Cromwell shows up, quoting Oscar Wilde and claiming her curse is a gift, she thinks he’s a crazed cutie. But when he tells her he can help control it, she’s more than interested. There’s just one catch: Ember has to trust Hayden's adopted father, a man she's sure has sinister reasons for collecting children whose abilities even weird her out. However, she’s willing to do anything to hold her sister's hand again. And hell, she'd also like to be able to kiss Hayden. Who wouldn't?
But when Ember learns the accident that turned her into a freak may not've been an accident at all, she’s not sure who to trust. Someone wanted her dead, and the closer she gets to the truth, the closer she is to losing not only her heart, but her life. For real this time.
As Ember believes, dying sucks.
It’s impossible to restrain yourself from wanting to offer comfort to poor Ember. She may be a wallower, but with good reason—she’s had absolutely nothing amazing happen in her life since the accident. Damaging, permanent, devastating, yes, but nothing positively great in the last year. She’s assumed all the household responsibilities, carefully budgeting what’s left of her dad’s life insurance, to ensure that her sister neither goes hungry nor without a place to sleep. She does so without complaint, but a strong dose of misery. Her feelings went from heartbreakingly adult to wrenchingly childlike, mentally begging for her mother to jump out of bed one day, all smiles and gung-ho about living her life again. That child in need of her mother peeks through here and there, and I felt my heart tear a little bit each time I noticed it. Because, after all, what child should be anything but what they are and not have to mentally make the leap in years?
Olivia is a tornado of tantrums and charm and happiness. She’s fickle in the expression of her emotions. She’s also five years old. You can’t blame a five-year-old for not grasping certain absolute truths, some that are too ripping for a small child to understand or are even beyond comprehension. So her bouts of unappreciative behavior or her spontaneous hugs to bring comfort or small happiness feel perfectly consistent with a kid her age. I was a little disappointed that about halfway into the book, her reappearances are greatly lessened even though the importance of her abilities grows exponentially. I would’ve loved to have seen more of her learning about her power. I could argue with myself saying that she’s not the main character, but then I would argue back that she’s a large piece of Ember’s life, and should’ve been focused on more.
Instead, Cursed by Jennifer L. Armentrout goes from the mystery linked to Ember’s ability, withstanding her grief and burdening responsibilities, to the romance between Ember and Hayden. There’s much that happens in between—being kidnapped, ostracized by people more like Olivia than her—but the highlight was definitely their blooming relationship. Which is actually kind of disappointing. Not totally, but somewhat. Because while I enjoyed all the romantic spark and tension and wondering ‘What ifs?’, as well as the friendship that first grows though it’s charged with sexual tension, their romance isn’t such a powerful event that could easily make the purpose of the rest of the story fade or seem less important. I enjoyed them, but I wasn’t consumed by the pair and their interactions. And because I feel like so much of the story is dedicated to them, the pacing slows down and obstacles crop up as if I were playing Whac-a-Mole—temporary dilemmas that get shut down almost instantly when the characters are quick enough. Which left me no time to appreciate any creativity or feel any fear or anticipation. I felt cheated. Had Hayden and Ember been stellar characters, I could’ve gotten past that—because, hello, major character girl over here—but because they aren’t, Cursed by Jennifer L. Armentrout left me unfulfilled in that area.
Even so, one thing I love about Armentrout’s novels is the Armentrout flair working through. Each book she’s written—no matter how unoriginal or underdeveloped an idea she presents is—has her stamp all over it. Her main characters run toward the sarcastic, witty, dry humorous type, which not only make for some obviously hilarious dialogue and narration, but automatically puts the book’s foot through the door. Cursed by Jennifer L. Armentrout may indeed be nowhere near a perfect or completely fulfilling read, but I can’t tell that you it isn’t addictive, as most of her books are, which then helps set it apart from other books on the market. So, yes, though a killer touch—literally—may not be anything new to us avid readers, Jennifer’s style makes the story interesting, intriguing, and engrossing enough to want to finish it.
Although I’m only mildly curious about a sequel, Cursed by Jennifer L. Armentrout entertained and interested me enough to keep reading, and had me almost completely liking the way it ends. If you’re on the edge of your seat for this one, I would say simmer down and let your expectations cool a bit before diving into the book. But, I will also say that if you’re addicted to Armentrout’s writing, then go for it and I’m sure you’ll come out generally pleased, though only marginally impressed.
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