Every flame begins with a spark.
Blackwood Academy was supposed to be a fresh start for Ashline Wilde. A secluded boarding school deep in the heart of California’s redwood forests, three thousand miles from her old life – it sounded like the new beginning she needed after an act of unspeakable violence left a girl in her hometown dead.
But Blackwood is far from the peaceful haven Ashline was searching for.
Because terrifying, supernatural beasts roam the forests around campus.
Because the murderer from Ashline’s hometown – her own sister – has followed her across the country.
Because a group of reincarnated gods and goddesses has been mysteriously summoned to Blackwood…
…and Ashline’s one of them
“I didn’t say anything,” Ash said.
“Maybe not with your mouth, but your eyes just called me a slut.”
First, the good, because I’m a positive person. The main character in this book is a Polynesian girl. A person of color. A very rare thing to happen within an YA novel.
But now the bad. Just because the book makes an effort towards diversity, doesn’t mean it’s going to be good. And for me, this book was not good.
Believe me, I wanted so much to love the main character. I wanted her to be feisty, I wanted her to be fierce. What I got instead was a gigantic slut-shaming bitch. I like strong characters, but there is a very clear, definite line between someone who is strong-willed, and someone who has massive anger control issues. I don’t like those types of characters. I do not like abuse. I don’t like angry guys and love interests within books, and the same goes for angry females. Just because a character is female does not give her the right to be violent towards others without repercussion.Violence is violence.
The main character, Ash, is different because of the color of her skin. That feeling of estrangement can hurt. I understand that, and I understand her frustration.
Ash raised her hand and touched the skin over her cheek, at once painfully self-conscious of how her skin, the hue of earthen clay, clashed against the backdrop of her predominantly white school. She spent the better part of each day feeling like a grizzly in the polar bear cage.
Ash really has anger management issues. She explodes in a heartbeat. She beats people up if they piss her off, boys and girls alike.
Ash ripped her alarm clock from its socket and hurled it across the room. It struck the door frame right by his face, the plastic shattering on impact. Even in her unbridled rage she could enjoy the look of terror on his face as he covered his head and shrank back.
And – oh, the hypocrisy – she has the nerve to complain when faced with her (horrifyingly) more violent older sister.
Ash had tears in her eyes. “Why do you always do this?” she whispered. “You couldn’t have just come back to see me. You had to make it about destruction. It’s always about destroying something.”
Oh, honey. “It’s always about destroying something?” You could be describing yourself.
Ashline has no character. Well, that’s not completely true. Her character is thoroughly unpleasant, and that’s it. There is no depth to her. That little bit of introspection about her being different because of the color of her skin and her frustration about her missing sister is the only bit we get about what goes on within her head. There is no more driving force to her anger and her violence other than the very rudimentary.
The violence and the profanity within this book was utterly gratuitous. And that should say something, coming from me.
Despite the fact that the female characters in this book are strong – goddesses – there is a horrifying amount of misogyny.In the beginning of the book, Ash’s boyfriend cheated on her with another girl. Ash ended up blaming the girl.
Rich Lesley, despite all his visible egocentricity, had served as a much-needed bandage, bringing with him an entourage of substitute friends in the form of his fellow tennis players and their plus-ones. But now the bandage had been ripped off with a single flick of the wrist—or, in this case, Lizzie Jacobs’s tongue—and the wound of loneliness had sprung open anew.
Calling her a slut, etc.
Ash smiled acidly. “I figured I’d tag you, so that animal control would know that there’s a bitch on the loose.”
“With all the guys who come in and out of the revolving door to your Volvo’s backseat, you had to get your paws on Rich, too?” Ash asked.
Cheating is a two-way street. And if the girls in this book are all unpleasant, the guys aren’t exactly winners either.
“Well, I’ll give it two days before she figures out the truth. That you’re a superman on the streets . . .” She paused provocatively. “And a dud in the sheets.”
Rolfe inhaled a sharp breath, and Ashline’s whole body constricted as she prepared to intervene. But then Rolfe let his breath out slowly. “Better a dud in the sheets,” he said coolly, “than a bitch who never had a chance.”