YA Book Reviews

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

I meant to make this a Mid-Week Review, but after looking over my existing notes, I realized I had a lot more to say than I originally thought. This book is also particularly important to me: Something Strange and Deadly is the one thousandth book I’ve ever read! I started keeping track of how many books I’ve read in my life around 2012, and after setting some serious goals for reading in the past couple of years, I can proudly say I’ve read 1,000 books. Here’s to this review, and many more fantastic books in the future!

There’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia. . . .

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper: The Dead are rising in Philadelphia. And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor . . . from her brother. Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

Ironically, I actually highly disliked this novel. This was just bad. And seriously boring. I’m amazed that I actually managed to get through the entire thing. Marie Lu recommended this book for “fans of Clockwork Angel,” which is one of my absolute favorite YA books, but this was nothing at all like the popular Cassandra Clare trilogy. Eleanor is a thoughtless, annoying protagonist, with an equally bothersome mother. The love triangle and instalove come together to make two barely romantic, unhealthy, and unstimulating relationships between the rich, troubled ass that is Clarence and the ‘wrongly accused’ convict and broken-hearts-for-eyes Spirit Hunter that is Daniel. Allison is a shrewd yet flimsy attempt at a female friendship, and the only good character, Jie, is a horribly borderline racist portrayal of a Chinese woman in the mid-to-late 1800s. Speaking of that, I wouldn’t even know it was set in the 1800s if it wasn’t for how often Eleanor brought up how awful her corsets were or how improper it was to go anywhere without a chaperone (but not sneak out to be with Spirit Hunters and hail a cab and come home covered in graveyard dirt. Like, what?)

The Dead are also not intimidating or interesting in the slightest. You would think that more people would be freaking out about dead people coming back to life, but instead it’s more of a “oh, that’s fascinating. Maybe we should hold a seance and actually try to contact some spirits instead of being afraid for our lives!” (Complete with emphasis and exclamation.) I was really hoping to see some badass Victorian age fighting going on, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies style, but alas, instead we got a sobbing mess, which may be more realistic but certainly wasn’t holding my attention while reading.

“Their fingers dug off my blistered skin, and, oh God – it hurt! Their lidless eyes were so close I could see the milky haze where their pupils had once been. Carrion breath, numbing and noxious, rolled over me. I kept screaming. I pawed at the hands – everywhere! The Dead were everywhere! This was not how I wanted to die!”

I got really sick of this writing after three chapters. Truly, the inner dialogue was just cringe-worthy, and I wish it hadn’t taken up so much of the book as “how do I move the plot forward? I don’t know… Oh, maybe thinking will do the trick!”

“No chaperone? But that meant. . . My breath caught in my throat. That meant I had an escape! Ugly dress or not, this was a gaping wide opportunity for an unrestrained trip to the Spirit-Hunters!”

Honestly, I don’t think I’m going to pick up another Susan Dennard novel after this. She sounds like a wonderful person, and she’s best friends with the excellent author Sarah J. Maas, and yet I cannot stand her writing style, story development, or any of her characters in general. I’m simply not enjoying reading her books at all. Hopefully the next Truthwitch novel will be an improvement, but I’m hopping off the bandwagon before I have to sit through another book like this.

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