Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book Review: Mortal Danger by Ann Aguirre

I was supposed to die at 5:57 a.m.

Sometimes, things don't always go according to plan. At least, not for Edie Kramer, a suicidal teenage who has been pushed far past the breaking point by her peers.

At Blackbriar Academy... it wasn't ok to be ugly, weird, or different. I was all of the above. And not in the movie way, either, where the geek girl took down her hair and swapped her horn rims for contacts, then suddenly, she was a hottie. 

I will admit that this book caught my attention because I was initially able to identify with Edie. I was bullied and had a rough couple of years in middle school. I never struggled with suicidal thoughts, but I would have given anything to be accepted by those who deemed me unacceptable. I was dorky times a million, not pretty by any stretch of the imagination, and very insecure. In other words, I made a perfect target for those who had a more assertive, domineering personality than me.

I used to tell myself I could survive it- I quoted Nietzsche in my head and pretended I was a fearless heroine. Except I would quote Austen instead of Nietzsche.

Edie cannot take it anymore. She has planned her death and every contingency that could possibly occur. She's about to fling herself over the edge of a bridge, but a hand reaches out to stop her. It's not a concerned pedestrian, nor is it a friend or family member. Instead, looking back at her is a boy with a perfect, beautiful face. Kian Riley. In short, he offers her a chance to change everything- her looks, her future, and live with the power she never had. In exchange for three favors, Kian only requests that she also give three favors to the company that he works for. He informs her that her future is too important to the advancement of mankind, and offers to make her commitment worth her time. She agrees to do so.

Her first "wish" is to be beautiful. In order to pull this off, she must go away for a few months, so Kian pulls some strings and gets her into a summer science program that would require her to be away for the whole summer. There, he (literally) sculpts and molds her body and face, transforming her from overweight and mousy, giving her a perfect hourglass body, supermodel face, and flowing locks. (Yet somehow, he "embellished" off of what she already had so that people would still be able to tell it was her...). She learns how to be confident and make friends at the summer program, and returns to school at the end of the summer with a plan to exact her revenge. Meanwhile, she and Kian are falling deeply, madly, passionately in love with each other. It seems his creation is far too perfect, and he can't help but want to be with her.

Yet, as time passes, she realizes that the company that she owes favors to is far more dangerous than she ever imagined. She finds her control slipping slowly away as Kian informs her that there is yet another company that is trying to vie for her "potential." Edie must choose what is more important to her- exacting revenge but being a slave to a monster, or taking control of your own life without the promise of success or perfection. 

Right from the bat, I had a major problem with the entire premise of this book. An "ugly" brainiac gets a second chance at life- but only once she becomes perfectly beautiful...? Seriously? Is this what we are encouraging today's teens to believe? I kept hoping that the author would pull something substantive out of her hat, but it just never happened. 
Ann Aguirre had some serious potential here. I would have liked to see her expound on the ideas of not giving up, not ending your life, and not allowing the bullies to steal your power as a human being. As someone who can relate to the feeling of hopelessness at the hands of bullies, I was hoping for a powerful come-back story. Sadly, the book focuses on superficial beauty and a super-hot love interest as it's main storyline and solution to Edie's problem. Completely disappointing.

Additionally, I was bothered by Edie's very real hate for the people who bullied her:
"'I wish I didn't have it in me. But I look at Brittany . . . and I think, what would it take to break you? Would I have to mess up her face?' I couldn't believe I was saying that, because it was so ugly, and it made me sick, that I could still be this full of hate. I knew for the sake of my own mental health, I had to let it go. 
But I couldn't. Not yet."

She let them have power over her in such a deep way. She feels as though she has the upper hand due to her overwhelming beauty, but she's become ugly on the inside. Kian seemed to make her believe that he could make her beautiful on the outside AND take revenge on her bullies, but she just becomes another pawn in someone else's game. But I guess it's ok if you suddenly become beautiful...

Yet, as she starts to see her nemeses fall and experience the pain that she had, she realizes it's not that satisfying. Shocker! Not.

Also, the romance in this novel is worse than Twilight... From the crazy instalove with a stalker stranger, to realizing that she has zero reason to trust him (he watched her get bullied and did nothing to stop it), Edie conveniently lets all of that go because he has a beautiful face and plunges head first into decision-altering "love." 
"My fingers itched to touch the copper streaks in his hair, and despite my misgivings about his trustworthiness and his story, I wanted to hug him and then kiss the crap out of him." WHAT?

Literally, the rest of the book is her deciding whether or not she should trust Kian and moving closer towards the realization that her perfect beauty has cost her more than she bargained for.

All in all, it's just a bad mess of trust issues, a plot that lacks substance or reality, and a bunch of bad decisions made just to be beautiful. I don't think I've ever seen a character so obsessed with their external beauty since The Phantom of the Opera...

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars. 
Mortal Danger by Ann Aguirre is published by Feiwel & Friends- and imprint of Macmillan. Review copy provided by the publisher. Release date:August 5th  2014. 

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