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 head 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.
Tell Me More: Much like Edie when faced with the prospect of revenge, I confess that I find it difficult to decide where to start with reviewing this novel. The prospect of a YA spin on Faust was irresistible to me, and I had reasonable expectations borne of the good things I’d heard about the author’s previous books. But as I read Mortal Danger, I found it harder and harder to believe in Edie’s world, because it felt like I was reading several different books. As this is the first book in a series, some readers may be intrigued enough to keep going, but I was not sold.
The reader is slammed with some pretty intense discoveries right away–Edie has been pushed to the breaking point by her classmates’ bullying, and the book opens with her about to commit suicide. She’s stopped by a charismatic young man named Kian, who promises to help her exact revenge on the people who made her life so hellish. Aguirre sets a dark tone from the beginning, but it doesn’t remain consistent throughout the book, and part of what clouded that tone was the relationship between Kian and Edie.
As much as love interests can add an interesting dimension to a story, I don’t think that Mortal Danger needed it. Kian could have been an enigmatic character on his own, and his motivations made more dubious without creating a forbidden love scenario. I never felt like they fit with each other, or that the story was made richer by their love. It was those scenes that saw my interest waver the most, and set apart some of the book into a different tangent.
The mythology was not as rich as I had hoped it would be, at times seeming more like Aguirre picked out some rarely used bits of world myth and threw them into the story to spice it up. I found myself having to go back and reread some chapters because I couldn’t be sure if I had missed important reveals or character information, and the few things I learned did not stoke further interest. The last few chapters were especially offbeat: some truly horrific things happen, but there is such little set-up that emotional investment might be challenging. The scares feel forced, a disappointing thing to realize when one particular event is so damaging.
On a final note, I was not comfortable with some of the throwaway comments made by Edie and other characters regarding race. Edie talks about a character as her “Japanese boyfriend,” an awkward phrasing at best. She mentions that a character’s mother is Thai, but, don’t worry, she speaks “perfect English.” It’s a detail that isn’t outright offensive, but does make me wonder why it was necessary to include that qualification at all, when it doesn’t add anything to the plot.
The Final Say: With a mythology that never feels concrete enough to ground the rest of the story, Mortal Danger was not a good bargain for my time.
Ann Aguirre is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author with a degree in English Literature; before she began writing full time, she was a clown, a clerk, a voice actress, and a savior of stray kittens, not necessarily in that order. She grew up in a yellow house across from a cornfield, but now she lives in sunny Mexico with her husband, children, and various pets. She likes all kinds of books, emo music, action movies and Doctor Who. She writes all kind of fiction in multiple genres, both YA and for adults.