Book Review: Branded

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Title: Branded [Sinners 1]

Author: Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Fifty years ago the Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society. He created the Hole where sinners are branded according to their sins and might survive a few years. At best.

Now LUST wraps around my neck like blue fingers strangling me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit and now the Hole is my new home.

Darkness. Death. Violence. Pain.

Now every day is a fight for survival. But I won’t die. I won’t let them win.

The Hole can’t keep me. The Hole can’t break me.

I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter.

My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT- REVIEW BELOW

This book was a bit of a toss-up for me, but in the end, I settled on four stars. Despite the fact that this book was written by two different authors, the style was very uniform without. The narrative was clean, engaging, and easy-to-follow. At times it was a bit juvenile, I’ll admit, but that fits well with the genre this was written for, so I can’t complain. There were a few typos in the kindle version I was given, but they were few and far between, and it was easy to skip over them and continue on. I didn’t feel like I was being kicked out of the story or distracted by the handful of errors I found.

The premise for the story was an interesting one. Lexi Hamilton lives in a dystopian society where the seven deadly sins are taken very seriously. Anyone who commits a sin (or should I say anyone accused of committing a sin) is sent to the Hole… a walled-in district where criminals run amok with very few rules to keep them in check. The only penalty in this place, is death. Unfortunately for our heroin, she’s about to call the Hole home. What follows is a fast-paced story filled with tension, gun-battles, and human suffering. There is abuse and near-rape, so for those of you looking into purchasing this book for your teen, be aware of the content. It is bloody and violent, but I wouldn’t say there’s anything too-graphic in it for your average teen. This is certainly not a light-hearted read though.

For the most part, I really liked this story. Right away I was sucked into the narrative, and I kept reading until I was out of pages. There was a lot of tension throughout the book, a lot of action, and just enough optimism to keep it from being too depressing. I’d have to say that the biggest drawback (and why I only gave it four stars) was that the personal relationships between the characters throughout the book seemed rushed. Lexi and Cole fell in love far too quickly. Lexi’s friendships with various characters developed quickly as well. What should have been one of the most difficult aspects of this book for Lexi—trusting after being abused for years by her step father and betrayed by her mother—came across as a little too contrived. I would have liked to see more time spent with the development of the character relationships. Instead, within days of meeting her guard (Cole) they’ve both fallen deeply in love. She places her trust in characters like Sutton, and her estranged brother Keegan, despite the questions she still holds about their behavior and choices… it just didn’t ring true for me. There was so much grit in the story with the sequence of events… I can’t help but lament the lack of grittiness in the personal relationships.

That aside, I can’t complain. It was very much a dark YA dystopian—exactly as it promised—and I liked it. I’d be happy to recommend it to anyone who enjoys the YA-Dystopian genre.

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