Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Format: ARC (paperback)
Rating: 3.5/5 Owls
Dying sucks--and high school senior Ember McWilliams knows firsthand. After a fatal car accident, her gifted little sister brought her back. Now anything Ember touches dies. And that, well, really blows.
Ember operates on a no-touch policy with all living things--including boys. When Hayden Cromwell shows up, quoting Oscar Wilde and claiming her curse is a gift, she thinks he’s a crazed cutie. But when he tells her he can help control it, she’s more than interested. There’s just one catch: Ember has to trust Hayden's adopted father, a man she's sure has sinister reasons for collecting children whose abilities even weird her out. However, she’s willing to do anything to hold her sister's hand again. And hell, she'd also like to be able to kiss Hayden. Who wouldn't?
But when Ember learns the accident that turned her into a freak may not've been an accident at all, she’s not sure who to trust. Someone wanted her dead, and the closer she gets to the truth, the closer she is to losing not only her heart, but her life. For real this time.
Jennifer L. Armentrout has one of the most engaging and refreshing young adult voices I’ve ever read. Her words are clear and concise, and she packs just the right amount of punch and wit in her stories. Cursed is the first full-length Armentrout story I’ve read (I also read Daimon), and I was very impressed by it.
She also has a tendency to borrow certain things from other books. I don’t think she does it consciously, but she does it. She mainly borrows from Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy, which I don’t have a problem with, because I love that series. I haven’t read any more of the Half-Blood series than Daimon, but I’ve heard it’s almost an exact replica. The thing I found in this book that was borrowed from the Vampire Academy series is the car crash and the heroine being brought back to life by the sister-like companion. Also, the pet thing, but enough about that!
Ember is a lot different from Rose Hathaway. I didn’t write this review to point out Armentrout’s similarities to other books, so I’ll branch away from that.
Ember McWilliams (that last name is funny to me, for some reason) is a strong-willed character with a bit of a vulnerable side. I liked her a lot, and throughout the book, I was engaged by her witty voice and clever lines in dire situations. Armentrout has a knack for tight plotting; not once did I yawn and think to myself, “When will this be over?” or “When will the excitement kick in?”
Unfortunately, this book loses a star for its characterization, because Ember is quite frankly the only character in the book I liked, except maybe her younger sister and her best friend.
As much as I liked Cursed, it made me want to headdesk for hours in certain parts. Ember is a high-school senior who was brought back to life by her younger sister after she died in a car crash. They’re quasi-in-hiding, and all it takes for their situation to be flipped upside down is a boy named Kurt, or, as he is referred to in the beginning of the book, the boy in the cowboy hat. Later, she wakes up in a room, and is given the “you are gifted” talk by the Carlisle-Cullen-type guardian. This is our little introduction to the Cromwells. Quite frankly, I spent the entire book wanting Ember to wring all of their necks. These characters annoyed me nearly every page they graced, not only with their Cullen-like similarities, but the way they acted so condescending to Ember. Every time she said something, they acted like she was a baby and went “There, there, everything is going to be okay” and verbally swaddled her. I was a bit annoyed at Ember for not defending herself in these situations, until finally she did and I got over it. Their condescending behavior reminded me of when parents tell their children they’re not old enough to know something, but soon enough, they will. That’s exactly what the Cromwells felt like: controlling parents, but in a slightly less annoying way.
******SPOILERS (HIGHLIGHT TO READ)******
One scene in particular left me fuming beyond belief. Ember’s best friend from her hometown, named Adam, came to check in on her in her new residence, one she was living in without her consent (which I will get to later). He arrived in his car and threatened to call the police. One of the Cromwells came outside and erased his memory of all interaction with Ember, and he didn’t recognize her afterward, effectively severing all ties they had together.
What. The. Heck.
This is one of the things that made me question Ember as a person. I think anyone else would’ve stormed out of there and decided never to come back. I would’ve. It takes her maybe five pages to get over it, which I think is totally ridiculous.
The Cromwells are so incredibly Cullen-ish, it’s crazy. I even envisioned the scenes at their house taking place in the Cullens’ living room. As much as I hate to say it considering we share a name, Hayden didn’t enchant me for a while. In fact, I spent the first three quarters of the book in an extreme state of dislike. I finally warmed up to him near the end when he kind of broke away from his family and realized Ember was the one. In the beginning of the book, Ember saw Hayden for a brief moment before he disappeared and she thought he was just a figment of her imagination, which I find hilarious. She referred to him as Hot Dude, or something like that, for the rest of the day.
One character in particular annoyed the living daylights out of me. His name is Jonathan Cromwell. He’s got this aura of cockiness around him that I can’t quite place. He brings Ember to this new place in a new state and expects her to live there willingly for the rest of her life, as a science experiment? And even worse, he describes her gift as “wrong.” He says he is only interested in her sister. The Cromwells already had enough reason for me to dislike them. This just sent it over the top.
So, basically, something I enjoyed about Cursed is how much it made me feel -- whether good or bad, I felt very strongly about certain things, which is always a plus.
On a brighter note, I enjoyed watching Ember’s younger sister progress throughout the book. In the beginning, she was a spoiled younger sister who just got on your nerves and made you want to stick your head in an oven. As the book went on, she grew and became someone a lot less annoying and a lot more grown up.
Something I love about this book is that Armentrout didn’t include a love triangle. It would’ve just bogged down the book and made no sense. Something else I loved is how the love declarations didn’t take place within the first hundred pages. So much YA nowadays is filled with insta-love, and Armentrout chose to take the unconventional route and do something that gave the book a bigger sense of realism. I enjoyed watching her twist up certain things that are overdone. It made Cursed so much better.
The book ended in an explosive climax with a villain I never saw coming and an explanation that made so much sense after I read it. Armentrout’s foreshadowing is phenomenal. It’s a shame there aren’t plans to make Cursed a series, because if given the chance, I would read lots more about Ember and the Cromwell family! Ember is a heroine that will stay with me for a long time.