Monday, January 19, 2015

Review: "The Conspiracy of Us" by Maggie Hall.

I wouldn't say that I've been in a reading slump, but I definitely have not been on my game. After marathoning the Under the Never Sky series (review to come), no book has been able to fully keep my attention. Thankfully, Maggie Hall came to my rescue! I pre-ordered this book, and featured it in my Top 10 Tuesday: Most Anticipated 2015 Debuts--and I was not disappointed by it.

Onto the book!


 
 
A fast-paced international escapade, laced with adrenaline, glamour, and romance--perfect for fans of Ally Carter

Avery West's newfound family can shut down Prada when they want to shop in peace, and can just as easily order a bombing when they want to start a war. Part of a powerful and dangerous secret society called the Circle, they believe Avery is the key to an ancient prophecy. Some want to use her as a pawn. Some want her dead.

To unravel the mystery putting her life in danger, Avery must follow a trail of clues from the monuments of Paris to the back alleys of Istanbul with two boys who work for the Circle—beautiful, volatile Stellan and mysterious, magnetic Jack. But as the clues expose a stunning conspiracy that might plunge the world into World War 3, she discovers that both boys are hiding secrets of their own. Now she will have to choose not only between freedom and family--but between the boy who might help her save the world, and the one she's falling in love with.
I was a little nervous about even picking up this book, because to me the description reads like a YA Dan Brown novel, and I like Dan Brown but I don't know how any of the ideas or excitement would translate realistically to the YA book world. Similar to Brown's novels, "The Conspiracy of Us" is a plot-driven, action-packed novel. I don't think the description above actually fits this book. When I read the description (and saw the cover) I thought this was going to be more of a political/princess thriller with Avery working within the Circle and having fun getting carried away with the glitter, etc. That's the opposite of what happens.

In fact, the only thing about the character of Avery that I liked (AT ALL) was that she does not, for more than a second, get swept up by the riches of the discoveries made. She also doesn't focus unrealistically on the two boys that join her on her adventure--Stellan and Jack. There isn't a lot of love-obsessing, and I liked that.

Although *INSERT JACK SWOON HERE*
I picture him in my mind like Bash from Reign, Torrance Coombs, just FYI everyone:
 
 
The fact that the action held Avery's attention was important to me, because it was what carried this book. There truly is a conspiracy at work, there really are two sides of people out to get the main character, they really can find her everywhere, and she really does know more than they do. I like that--and I like that the plot makes sense. It wasn't too confusing to follow, it held pretty closely to historical facts, and like adult action books, it used well-known names as a jumping off point to connect the reader to the conspiracy at large. A lot of work went into the research and story of this novel, and Maggie Hall deserves a round of applause for that.
 
I also enjoyed the development of the two male leads--Jack and Stellan. Jack, as noted above, is pretty swoon-worthy, but we learn a lot about him as a person and he seemed pretty grounded to me. The same can be said for Stellan, I felt like I knew about him and his personality from the dialogue and actions that took place in the building parts of the novel. Both men (boys?) are Keepers (aka bodyguards/gophers) for the Circle families. they both have fairly tragic backstories, and both are dedicated to their morals and employers.
 
However, the same can't be said for Avery, as noted above--her character was not a favorite for me, but I did appreciate that she was smart, funny, and moved the plot along. I didn't dislike her, but I just felt like I didn't KNOW her. I could physically describe her, and she had moments where I smiled at her jokes, or rolled my eyes along with her, but other than being afraid of heights, I'm lost for a character description. Meanwhile I could tell you how Jack or Stellan would react in any given situation, Avery's character would be an unknown. Sometimes she knows self defense, sometimes she knows ballroom dancing, and sometimes she's helpless. None of this is necessarily a bad this--I'm pumped to learn more about her in the (HOPEFULLY COMING VERY SOON) sequel to this book.
 
Overall, I give this book 4 1/2 STARS! But I'm leaning closer to 5 than 4, so that's how I'll rate it on Goodreads. The story and plot were exciting and held my attention, the two male characters were fun, funny, and also held my attention, but I hesitate to give the book five stars because of the main character. This was a great read and felt like watching a movie in my head. I highly recommend it.
 
In addition to the story overall, Maggie Hall is an author to watch. This debut is unlike anything I have read currently in YA books, and she bridges a lot of gaps. She is an author who isn't afraid to let her plot be the most important part of the story, and still writes romance and everything else most of us love to read.
 
Spoilers after the jump! :)
 


If you are here you better have read this book already, or you're in trouble. These spoiler parts are kind of all over the place, but I'm writing them based on how important they were to me.

Ok, so if you didn't know that Jack or Stellan were going to end up being The One, you need to reevaluate your life priorities. In fact, I found myself getting a little frustrated that it took them so long to get there--but once they did I LOVED that Stellan didn't believe them and reacted the way he did. I also loved that Avery was completely unaware that the implied Union between her and Stellan would be first place that Jack would go was smile-worthy and a fun moment.

I am happy Hall killed Mr. Emerson, I think that was a brave move, being the connector between our three main players. Many authors would have been weaker and killed the less relevant (at least so far), and kind of witchy mother character. But she went for the heart with all three of them. It made me sad, but it made me happy at the same time.

I loved the last page of the book, a lot, I'm excited for what it foreshadows and for the fact that it's realistic and portrays the best parts of all the characters so far.

Finally, I leave you with one of the best lines ever, in fact, I liked it so much I took a picture of it and cursed myself for not having Post-Its handy:

"The only thing that feels right is as wrong as it can get."

*slow clap* Thank you Maggie Hall. Thank you.


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