Friday, November 12, 2010

Review: Branded

Keary Taylor
Young Adult
370 pages
Available Now
Received from author for book tour

Every time she sleeps it's the same. Her hands are tied. Her face is covered. She stands before a cadre of angels, both exalted and condemned, judgment passed down to her for crimes not of her making. Then she is burned. A searing red X at the nape of her neck every time the one for whom she stands trial is condemned. But even more disturbing than the nightmares is the fact that when she wakes, her brand is there, a glaring testament to the reality of her daily punishment.

Such is the way of Jessica's life. It's been this way for as long as she can remember, and has caused her more pain than just the burning of her skin when she dares to sleep. Her mother has disowned her, tired of her lies regarding angels and judgment, and she now works alone as a caretaker for a lake house in a fairly isolated area. Her solitude is interrupted with the arrival of Alex, the grandson of the couple who owns the home, and he informs Jessica of his grandparent's passing and his subsequent ownership of the property.

Alex agrees to keep Jessica on as a caretaker, and though she fears the repercussions of living with someone who will be able to hear her screams as she wakes from the nightmares, she begins to find comfort in living with someone else. While Jessica works up the courage to tell Alex the truth, her dreams begin to change. The leader of the condemned is missing. Her one saving grace, the bag over her head hiding her true identity from the angels, has been stripped away and all have seen who she really is. Voices plague her. Blackouts consume her. And the nightmares are only getting worse...

Branded has a powerful and memorable premise, pumping us full of a vicarious adrenaline and a very real fear our own dreams may come to reflect some of the terror of Jessica's now that we have knowledge of them. The thought of enduring constant persecution night after night for the sins of strangers is horrifying, a fear only compounded by the fact that Jessica's waking hours provide little escape or solace, her brands a permanent reminder of what awaits her when her eyelids fall. This story is one that forces us to think, to question, and ultimately to worry about the possibility of finding ourselves in a similar situation when the time comes, facing judgment as a detailed list of our rights and wrongs are read aloud, and a simple vote of up or down seals our everlasting fate.

While the overall concept is thought-provoking and mesmerizing in it's ability to stay with us once the covers of the book have long since closed, the characterization doesn't entirely match the book's potential. Though Jessica has an undeniable fortitude and we are instantly sympathetic to her plight, a connection never fully forms beyond a phantom tug at our heartstrings every so often. A strong pull to her remains elusive, as though we are watching her through a frosted plate glass window where her voice, her fears, and her actions are effectively muted, and we receive only the moments extreme enough to make their way through the barrier, the full spectrum of emotions still locked behind the cool surface.

The romance between Alex and Jessica is sweet, and while we're glad she has a sliver of happiness to counter her slumberous torture, the relationship seems almost too easy. He shows up, there's an instant attraction, and then he breezily accepts the part of her past boyfriends and her own family have vehemently pushed away, irreversibly denying her the comfort of their understanding. There's no real challenge for them as a couple, nothing to make us want to fight with them and beside them as they attempt to interpret the new developments of her nightmares. The relationship quickly becomes everything to Jessica, and though it's understandable based on her previous solitary existence, her actions toward the end blatantly contradict the strength of will she's shown up to this point. She attempts to take the easy way out when things take a final disastrous turn, giving up entirely, abandoning all hope, and surrendering body and soul to the epic battle that has crossed the threshold from nightmare to reality. All along she's shown immeasurable strength, constantly raging against her dire circumstances, and it's not until a boyfriend enters the picture that her courage begins to wan, her overwhelming attachment to Alex seeming to leech her strength instead of bolstering her against the onslaught of an unimaginable horror.

Overall, Branded has a great deal of promise and a truly enticing concept, and though certain elements are predictable and a bit too convenient, the conclusion provides quite a few surprises and leaves events open enough that we know this story is far from over, but also gives us enough of a resolution that we aren't screaming out in frustration. I look forward to reading more of Jessica's story with the hope she'll find a balance between the strong, lonely girl who's fought alone her whole life, and this new girl who's found a partner she can trust but also one on whom she's become dangerously dependent.

Rating: 2.5/5


  1. This sounds like a dark book, I love those. The branded thing get me interested. I am glad to she she had someone who she can count own. Going through hardships alone just bites. Nice review :)

  2. "her overwhelming attachment to Alex seeming to leech her strength..."

    Doesn't sound like such a good example, especially since this is a YA. I'll definitely be skipping this one.

  3. Hiya!
    I like your review! Makes this book sound quite cool, and I think I might check this book out after all ;-)

    Already an avid follower, but thought I'd stop by again because it's Friday Follow :-)


  4. Shoot! I'm sorry to hear this one didn't quite live up to its potential, but I thank you for the honest review, Jenny! I hate when events and romances are too dependent and convenient. It takes away from the story for me. :)

  5. Savy - It has a really great story, very creepy and disturbing:)

    Mollie - I had some trouble with Jessica toward the end, there was an event that really bothered me.

    Darkeva - Thanks! I'll most likely continue the series because the concept is so strong, I'll be interested to see what you think if you give it a try!

    Melissa - I was a little disappointed with the relationship aspect, it just wasn't as intense as the story itself.

  6. Sounds like a really unique book. Too bad you did't like it better -especially their relationship. Is the angel theme pretty prominent? I just finished the newest Blue Bloods book and I'm rather sick of angels.

  7. That sounds deeply disturbing.....I like it :-)
    Although I won't be rushing it to the top of the TBR pile I will be keeping an eye out for it at the bookstore.

  8. Alison - It's fairly prominent but its quite a different take on angels. And it's more about her being judged than the angels themselves.

    Karen - It is quite a disturbing idea, but in a good way:)

  9. Sounds like somebody should get that girl an exorcist!! [snickers] Thanks for the constructive review! This book seems really interesting, although it might be a little too dark for me.

  10. I do like your reviews! They are very thourough and methodical!

    -Linds, bibliophile brouhaha

  11. OH, this sounds so good, but a let down at the ending. Maybe I'll check it out at the library. It sounds so intriguing in the beginning. Great review!

    Buried in Books

  12. Great review! I feel the realtionship aspect of this story would annoy me. I think they should be somewhat realistic. Realtionships take work.

  13. Kristin - You're welcome:)

    Linds - Thank you, I try!

    Heather - It would be a good library read, and I think I'll still pick up Forsaken to see what happens.

    Nic - That was part of it, the relationship was just too easy to be real. They definitely take work and there are always struggles.

  14. ohhh, dark and creepy. I think I will read it! thanks for the great review!

  15. a very fair and thoughtful review. i think the premise has great potential. thanks

  16. Truly disappointed to read that this one didn't work out for you because I'm in cover love and the premise does sound so good.

    But yeah, I've come across my fair share of stories packed with potential that just didn't translate that promise on paper well.

    It's a nightmare. <--- lame joke. obviously. *fails*

  17. I've seen this book around, but I guess I never really read the summary, because I had no idea that this was what Branded was about. It sounds pretty good though, so I think I'll give it a shot. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  18. Hello fellow blogger! new follower to your page here. Just wanted to drop some *love* and say that you have a wonderful blog here! I'm new to blogging and would love if you could return the favor and follow my page! Happy Blogging!

    how many times do you think i used the word blog?

  19. I think yours must be the first review that I've seen for this book. I loved reading your review, but am kind of torn about whether I'd want to read this one myself - it sounds like a very dark, dark read! Perhaps I'll pick it up at the library, who knows?

  20. I am reading Born at Midnight now and it is good. A real page turner. Wither is on my TBR pile and I can't wait to start it.

  21. Love your review! This one sounds like it has a fantastic concept, it's a shame the characterisation didn't deliver. Probably not one for me, since character is the thing I'm most drawn to in books. But I might pick it up when my TBR pile dwindles a bit -- sometimes I can connect with protagonists who are distant :)

  22. I love the premise of this book. As a YA writer I know how hard it is to create characters that jump off the page. I appreciate the honesty of your review.

  23. This book was great. Jessica gets branded from her dream trials and it is very interesting to witness her trauma. It is so cute when how Jessica and Alex grow in their relationship. Cole is the leader of hell's angel council and seeks Jessica out in the real world, when he is dead already. He grows possessive and is determined on keeping Jessica for himself. Alex discovers his plan and valiantly saves Jessica. After he saves her, their relationship will never be the same. I will definitely finish the series.