I finished this book for the second time about five minutes ago and I’m absolutely desperate to get my feelings out because I didn’t get the chance the first time around. I wasn’t planning to but I’m doing review for The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel before I explode from fangirl excitement. You’ve been warned 😀
Author: Amy Engel
Genre: Young-adult dystopian/romance
Paperback: 282 pages
Published: November 11th 2014
Synopsis: After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. War ensued. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.
This year, it is my turn. My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.
But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.
Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…
I said on my Goodreads review for this book that this is one of those books that you never knew you needed to read until you realise you’ve been reading for six hours straight and have devoured the entire thing. Everything about this book sucks you in. Let’s discuss.
Ivy Westfall is a perfectly flawed character. By that, I mean throughout the whole novel she’s questioning herself. Never sure. It’s fascinating to watch the decisions she makes and her reasoning behind each of them. She developed like nothing you’ve ever seen. She may not be the most strong or brave of characters but she’s discovering herself and her want to do what’s right is why I enjoyed reading about her journey so much. Sometimes she may frustrate you to no end but she shows herself to be a normal teenage human being, figuring out her path and learning. I connected with her on a deep, emotional level because of these qualities.
I’ll also talk about Bishop quickly because damn can I get a Bishop? Pretty please? He’s not what you’d expect from Ivy’s point of view but everything you’d expect when you get to know him at the same time. His sensitivity, care and empathy never failed to make me swoon and like him more and more every scene. His intelligence was also something I admired about his character, he doesn’t just act, he calculates and I adore characters like that. I also thought he developed very well. Particularly with Ivy, growing together. Their romance was adorable and heated. I loved seeing these characters together. The way they grew closer was natural and beautiful.
Like the first time, I found the first 80 pages or so quite introductory and a little bit slow. We are meeting the characters, getting to know the world and gradually delve more into the plan to do with Bishop and the community in general. I found it easier to get through the second time around probably because I expected it. After the introduction, the plot was un-put-downable . It was a steady flow of feelings and hoping and wondering right up to the climax and big cliffhanger that makes you want the next book desperately. Engel creates an addicting and intense story-line mostly due to how much is at stake in the society she has created. She leaves you guessing as to what Ivy will choose to do right up until the very end which is equal parts maddening and exciting. If I had to describe the plot in one word it would be consuming.
Romance is a significant focus in the story but don’t worry if you don’t particularly like this because I think it is interwoven with the overall heist plot line very well. Also, reserve judgement because Bishop may make you change your mind 😉
Engel’s writing is fast-paced and easy to read and understand. This doesn’t mean she can’t create some beautiful sentences and imagery of a scene though, which she does well. It’s not just this though, it’s the way she creates tension and divide through writing that is the best part. A constant throughout this book is Engel’s question of human morals. Domestic violence, freedom of choice, crime and punishment, sacrifice all present in a 200 page book. I was always asking myself ‘what would I do in this situation?’ I don’t want to spoil you but I found the topics brought up in The Book of Ivy fascinating and the ways the characters justified their actions interesting too. A deeper question was always held behind what someone might call a basic plot line or dialogue.
Here are some of my favourite passages, hopefully you get the gist of what I was trying to say:
“But I want to be better than the lessons they taught me. I want my love to be greater that my hate, my mercy to be stronger than my vengeance.”
“Even if most of the time we navigate so carefully we might as well be bombs trying not to explode, we are still always there, in each other’s paths. Just waiting for the moments we intersect.”
“How do you measure the life of one person against the greater good? Can it ever be the right thing to sacrifice an innocent person? And how do you know what the greater good really is?”
Engel discusses all topics respectfully but in a real way too, highlighting the truths of these matters. This is one of my favourite parts of this book. Engel can pack so much into such a short, simple story.
The world in this novel was quite imaginative, not fully explored or explained, but well on the way. The nuclear war background in the story was inventive and the way Engel explains how the society came to be was easily understood. I only wish we explored more of the landscape and what conditions were like, how Westfall found the survivors and set up the community that now lives in this place. We are told about how life is different, for example food and power resources, but how they changed isn’t fully talked about. I think that The Revolution of Ivy will explore this further especially after what happened at the end of the first book. I’ll be interested to see more of the impacts of the nuclear war in the second and final installment.
All in all, an adrenaline pumping, high-stakes drama with everything I wanted. Romance, betrayal and character questioning. Please give this story a go, you won’t regret it!
I gave The Book of Ivy:
I hope I’ve convinced some of you to give this underrated book a go 🙂
You can’t imagine the excitement I’m feeling about reading the last book in the duology. I’ll make sure to post a review when I’m finished!
Thank you so much for reading and I’ll talk to you in my next post!