Book Review: Dead Girl Walking

review-cover-dead girl walking

Title: Dead Girl Walking [Royal Reaper 1]

Author: Ruth Silver

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

Rating: 1 Star

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Description/Synopsis:

Princess Ophelia Dacre sneaks out of the castle to visit her boyfriend in secret. A perfect night cut short when she’s brutally murdered.

Ophelia is given the rare chance to become a grim reaper. She must become Leila Bele, cut ties with her old life, and follow the rules of the reapers. Her greatest adventure begins with death.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I hate giving one-star reviews. I loathe it… but I simply could not get through this book. The cover was gorgeous, the synopsis was interesting, and I was excited when I picked up my ARC copy of Dead Girl Walking by Ruth Silver. Despite my predisposition towards reading YA novels on a regular basis, it did not take me long to realize that I was probably the worst possible reader choice when it came to picking up this book.

This book got a lot of 5-star reviews before it picked it up, so I was expecting a spectacular, in-depth read… but that isn’t what I got. I got a familiar read instead. The plot was uncomfortably similar to another series from a few years back (which just happens to be one of my favorite series), and while I hate to compare books (and so I will not name the series here), the two are remarkably alike. Both series contain a girl who by unfortunate circumstances is killed, and finds herself invited into the ranks of the reapers. Both have younger sisters of about the same age… both main characters chafe against the new rules of being reapers… both take on new identities and appearances… and unfortunately, their method of reaping, how they get their reaping notices, etc, is all nearly identical.  The difference, unfortunately for this novel, is that the older series thrives on it’s in-depth characterization, gripping drama, and world building. Dead Girl Walking contains none of that.

The main character, Ophelia, is entitled in a way that isn’t pleasant: she isn’t aware of how entitled she is. She takes her status in society and wealth as if it were normal, and despite her constant protests that she knows what it is like to be a commoner, she really has no clue. She holds no accountability for the danger she put herself in, the heartbreak she brought to her family, or the job of being a reaper. She’s barely been a reaper for a few hours, and after having the importance of her new job explained to her (and having signed a contract), she is flippant about her obligations. I found it incredibly difficult to relate to her, or even like her.

As she unraveled it, the scroll revealed her first reap. “Absolutely not.” She was not ready for this; she would never feel ready. She rolled the scroll up and shoved it back into her stocking. “It’s your lucky day, Asher Smoot. I’m not taking your soul.”

The other characters faired no better. Though I was given their names and genders, three chapters past their introduction, I still knew nothing about them. Not what they looked like, their ages, their personalities… nothing. Other than Ophelia/Leila, the cast of the book seemed to be present because Ophelia/Leila needed someone to bounce conversations and actions off of. They felt like stand-ins instead of real people. I was given no sense of their personalities, nor what they thought of the main character. They were just names on a page.

I managed to labor through the first quarter of this book, and to be honest, the story seemed to skim by on the bare minimum of content. The world-building is remarkably absent, and was set in a fantasy world for reasons I couldn’t fathom. Other than the fact that it provided the opportunity for the main character to be a princess and for everyone to run around in period clothing and ride horses… there was no lore to fill out the world. This story could have just as easily been placed in a contemporary setting, and with the exception of the main character becoming an Heiress instead of a Princess, there wouldn’t have been much of a difference.

The characters were 1-dimensional, and the descriptions of… well… anything really, are completely missing. Breaks in scenes were treated as if the story just went on from paragraph to paragraph, with no clear delineations of a change in time or location. Sometimes, characters actions seemed out of place or overblown for what was happening, and unfortunately, the reader is not privy to any of the in-head thought processes that would have served to help ground Ophelia’s actions in reality.

“Why can’t we get a carriage?” she fussed.

“Only the royal and wealthy have carriages, which neither of us are. You’ll learn to ride, just like the rest of us.” Violetta took off with Leila gripping her from behind.

Approaching the ocean, they slowed.

Thought this is marketed as a Young Adult novel, in the end, the writing was simplistic and bare-bones, and seemed more reminiscent of a Middle-Grade or children’s book rather than something marketed to teenagers. Though the narrative was grammatically correct and punctuated appropriately, it was written in the most basic of forms. It would probably make for an easy read, but seems almost as if it’s been dumbed down for an age range that doesn’t need to be talked down to. The premise of this book was good. There was a lot of promise in the synopsis and idea behind the story, but in the end, the story fell short of my expectations. In my opinion, the book was off the mark for it’s intended audience, and lacked substantial content. I really wish there had been more meat on the bones of the story…. more characterization, more personality, more description.

Would I read it again? No. Would I recommend it? Maybe for teenagers that don’t commonly read. The narrative style of this book is very simple and lacks the complexity an avid reader would enjoy. I’m sure there are many teens out there that may enjoy this book, but as someone who reads 100+ books a year, I found I had difficulty sinking in. I’ve read some amazing YA books this year that were full of complexity and characterization, and unfortunately, this wasn’t one of them. I truly wish I’d loved this book more than I did. I don’t think it was written poorly, but perhaps not appropriately for it’s reader base. I didn’t find it as engaging as I’d hoped, and in the end, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

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