Review: Mortal Danger by Ann Aguirre

Mortal Danger
Ann Aguirre

Feiwel & Friends
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher
Released August 5, 2014
YA / Fantasy / Supernatural

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Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Edie Kramer has a score to settle with the beautiful people at Blackbriar Academy. Their cruelty drove her to the brink of despair, and four months ago, she couldn't imagine being strong enough to face her senior year. But thanks to a Faustian compact with the enigmatic Kian, she has the power to make the bullies pay. She's not supposed to think about Kian once the deal is done, but devastating pain burns behind his unearthly beauty, and he's impossible to forget.

In one short summer, her entire life changes, and she sweeps through Blackbriar, prepped to take the beautiful people down from the inside. A whisper here, a look there, and suddenly... bad things are happening. It's a heady rush, seeing her tormentors get what they deserve, but things that seem too good to be true usually are, and soon, the pranks and payback turns from delicious to deadly. Edie is alone in a world teeming with secrets and fiends lurking in the shadows. In this murky morass of devil's bargains, she isn't sure who—or what--she can trust. Not even her own mind...

I really wanted to like this book. It’s every outcast’s dream to return from a summer looking beautiful and with the skills to get back at your tormentors. For that alone Edie is a relatable character, though probably a little shortsighted considering how it’s hammered in how smart she is. It’s more the execution where Mortal Danger fails.

First of all the title is so generic that, when friends asked me what I was currently reading, I honestly couldn’t remember the title even though I’d been looking at the cover of the book just a few hours before. I suppose it makes sense considering all the mortals are always in danger, but it’s not that memorable.

It opens with Edie going through with her plot to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge. As she’s standing there, preparing for that final push, a hand lands on her shoulder. The hand belongs to a ridiculously attractive boy, who asks her to listen to the offer he has for her. If she doesn’t like what he has to say, he’ll bring her right back to the bridge where she can continue from where she left off. This boy, Kian, is, of course, an attractive stand in for whatever demon-esque character employs him. He offers her three wishes after which she will be required to do three tasks for Kian’s employer. As an adult who has seen how these demon deals work on Supernatural, this sounds like a horrible idea, but for a tortured teenager who desperately wants to get back at the popular crowd who destroyed her life, this is a reason to live. She accepts the deal and the story begins.

The plot was intriguing and, as I said before, I bought into the overall arc of the plot because – while I wasn’t quite in Edie’s shoes as a teenager – I remember the hell that was high school and that feeling of wanting to get back at the pretty people. From the beginning, there was a huge emphasis placed on the event at school that broke Edie, pushing her to the point of wanting to jump off a bridge, but it wasn’t until much later that the event was described. While the event was humiliating and devastating, the implication building up to it was that it was something far more severe and physically damaging. To avoid spoilers, I felt sympathy towards Edie while at the same time feeling very much, “Really? That was the big horrible thing?”

Perhaps I don’t remember what it’s like to be a teenager quite so much after all.

My other big grip is just with the pacing of the book. Aguirre has a writing style where it seems like most everything in a scene much be accounted for – if an object is picked up, it must be put back down. If a glass of water was requested, it must arrive and be sipped. All these small things must be noted. It drags pacing down, so that when the big emotional moments happen, they seem to come out of nowhere and lose a lot of potentially emotional impact. Moments that should have been authentically shocking left me feeling very much like, “Huh… so that happened.” It made it difficult to fear for the characters safety or sanity, or really feel anything for the characters when something traumatic happened.

Also if monsters are haunting you and you know a person who knows things about monsters, you should probably call them right away and tell them a creepy man with two creepy children are following you around. Seriously. I’ve watched Supernatural. I know how things end if you don’t.

As the story goes along, it becomes obvious that it’s much bigger than Edie’s desire for revenge. There is a larger game going on with much more powerful players controlling the pieces. That fascinated me and was only vaguely sketched out as Edie figured out pieces. That alone may convince me to read the next book because it seems that any sequels will require a focus on the bigger picture than the high school daily life that Edie leads and as she learns more things, she can become a much stronger player. I just hope future volumes have better pacing so that those huge character changing moments have some impact instead of coming and going much in the same way as a mention that Edie went on a jog.