Thursday, April 18, 2013

Review for Cheating Death by Jen Naumann

Unique and Real

5 Stars. The beginning of this book sucked me in with a creepy hook, but it was the ending that made me love it. This is a very different story from the usual YA’s I like to read. It’s about something deeper and more real than what paranormal romances tend to deal with. I completely understand why Mrs. Naumann decided to make this NA, because while it starts out with the main character graduating high school it ends up dealing with some adult issues.

When Lysandra runs away with Aydin you sort of expect this story to go a certain way, and I loved that it completely veered off in a different direction. I feel like this book took a moment to look at some of the things that are often romanticized in YA and NA paranormal romances and give an honest and real perspective on them. Cheating Death is about growing up and learning to deal with life changing events in a responsible way; and, it makes some serious comments about teen drinking, suicide, rape, and second chances.

There seems to be a formula that paranormal themed books follow these days. Basically it comes out as human girl meets supernatural boy and against all odds they find a way to be together regardless of the consequences, even if that means the human girl has to give up everything in her life including friends, family and even her very humanity. Naumann completely breaks free of this trend and puts out a very different message with Cheating Death. She looks at how selfish these choices can be and how they affect all of the people in Lysandra’s life. This may be a paranormal book, but at its core it’s about something very real. This book isn’t about the undying love a girl has for a boy; it’s about life and the choices we make.

Lysandra has been a bit of a follower all of her life. She’s a little lost - as I think many people are at eighteen, wondering what she wants to do with the rest of her life. But, she has to grow up incredibly fast. One moment she’s a kid and the next she’s dealing with adult problems, and you really feel her loss over that middle part of her life. Her young adult years vanish. The way she deals with everything that happens to her is this downward spiral of events that tear her apart, and build her into a stronger person at the same time.

I loved Lysandra. She felt really real to me and I could understand her love/hate relationships with her friends. One thing that annoyed me a little with her, however, was that after she woke up in a stranger’s bed after a party that she couldn’t remember, she didn’t even wonder if maybe she’d been taken advantage of. Other people had to point this out to her. But, looking at her personality and the overall concept of the book I think that was just part of her immaturity in that stage of her life. She’s hard on herself because she doesn’t know who she is yet. And she blames herself for what happened because in her journey to discover who she is she makes mistakes and takes risks that aren’t true to who she is.

The ending of this book was incredible. It wrapped everything up nicely and in an unexpected way. You really see Lysandra’s growth in those final chapters. When she first realizes that she was meant to die, but didn’t, she doesn’t fully understand what this means or care about how it affects her friends, family and the entire world. Even when her very existence causes the deaths of innocent people she’s too selfish not to even consider that she’s not supposed to be there. In the end, it is a necessary thing for her to be willing to die for someone else for the greater good, for her to grow up. This is also a nice opposing force to Lysandra’s decision to die selfishly. Driving her car off the bridge had nothing to do with the greater good, only with easing her own pain. The end of this book really brings it all together and shows how Lysandra has learned to be not only self-less but a well-rounded person.

Jen was nice enough to do an interview for me where she talks about this book, which you can read here.