Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Review: The Devil You Know by Trish Doller

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Release date: June 2nd 2015
Genre: Young Adult contemporary mystery
Source: NetGalley - I received a free advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!

Eighteen-year-old Arcadia wants adventure. Living in a tiny Florida town with her dad and four-year-old brother, Cadie spends most of her time working, going to school, and taking care of her family. So when she meets two handsome cousins at a campfire party, she finally has a chance for fun. They invite her and friend to join them on a road trip, and it's just the risk she's been craving-the opportunity to escape. But what starts out as a fun, sexy journey quickly becomes dangerous when she discovers that one of them is not at all who he claims to be. One of them has deadly intentions.
I fangirled about Trish Doller's debut Something Like Normal forever, but then never got around to reading her sophomore novel. Which is why I was beyond excited to get an eGalley of her newest, The Devil You Know. And despite my very high expectations, The Devil You Know did not disappoint!

The main reason I loved this book is Cadie. Cadie's not the typical YA MC - she's inexperienced and innocent in some ways (that I'll talk about later), but she has strong opinions and isn't afraid to tell you about them; she's tough, quick-witted, and snarky, and I loved everything about her. Her voice is strong, and I loved being inside her head for this story.

I also loved her family - her mom, who died a couple of years ago, was a badass feminist whose opinions definitely rubbed off on Cadie. Whenever Cadie needs to make a decision, she thinks of her mom and the lessons she taught her. All of these lessons incorporate feminism in some way, from the discussion about women's roles in our world to relationships with guys and an awesomely feminist sex talk, Cadie's mom's is basically the definition feminist parenting. I wish we could have met her in more than Cadie's memories. This strong mother-daughter relationship was my favorite, but Cadie's relationship with her dad is fully-developed, too, and I loved her little brother Danny.

This romance is such a breath of fresh air in YA romances. This is one of the few YAs I've read where the main character and the love interest meet at a party and semi-hook up that same night. The 'almost' is because Cadie does feel kind of weird about it - she ends up changing her mind and telling Noah no. Noah, upset, storms out of the tent, but they have a really good talk about consent after. Throughout the novel, I loved how sex is addressed - it's clear that Noah wants to sleep with Cadie but that Cadie has some reservations, and they honestly talk about that, but he never pressures her into anything she doesn't want to do. When they do end up sleeping together, how Cadie feels about losing her virginity is handled with great honesty, and I loved how Cadie talks about how this mattered to her, but it doesn't necessarily have to. I loved Noah's character throughout the novel - he's older than the typical YA love interest, and he's gone through a lot of stuff with his family. The dark backstory worked perfectly with his character. The two of them have amazing chemistry, both during their conversations and during their steamier scenes, and I would have been perfectly happy if the novel consisted of scenes between these two exclusively.

I also loved how figuring out who you are and what you're doing with your life was integrated into the story in such a casual way. It's not the focus of the story, but there's plenty of references to how Cadie wants to get out of the small-town life that she feels is trapping her, without knowing where she would want to go or what she would want to do. Cadie learns a lot and grows over the course of the story, trying to figure out how to balance what she wants and still supporting her family. Casual is really the only way I can describe how this whole storyline is handled, how Cadie finds ways to live her life fully without demonizing where she comes from.

Even though there's a creepy atmosphere throughout the novel, the actual thriller-part doesn't start until pretty far into the book. I did have some issues with the mystery - it's pretty predictable as I knew more or less exactly who the killer would be and what would happen is pretty obvious. The motivations of the killer aren't quite fleshed-out enough to be realistic, and it was strange to me how the other guy didn't know what was going on and didn't do anything to stop it. But I did still enjoy the mystery element: the suspense throughout the novel is expertly done, and the creepy atmosphere kept me on my toes even if I did already see the plot twist coming. Now that I'm thinking about it, maybe the plot twist wasn't even supposed to be surprising: knowing who the killer would be, and how Cadie so willingly trusts him and walks into his trap, made for a very suspenseful and thrilling read.

Trish Doller has impressed me with her writing once again. Her engrossing writing kept me flipping the pages faster and faster, except when I had to stop and marvel at one of her especially poignant and powerful sentences. While the mystery isn't perfect, the memorable characters and impressive writing more than made up for it. I need to get my hands on a copy of Trish Doller's sophomore novel, Where the Stars Still Shine, as soon as possible!

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