Review: Unnatural Deeds by Cyn Balog

Title: Unnatural Deeds
Author: Cyn Balog
Pages: 288
Genre: YA, Fiction
Source: Free ARC from SOURCEBOOKS Fire

Rating: B+

Note: As stated under the Source (above), I received this book for free from SOURCEBOOKS Fire via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review (and trust me, honest is always what you’ll get).

Summary: Victoria is an anxious girl who doesn’t quite fit in at her new school, but at least she has her boyfriend Andrew, who lives next door and whose own issues keep him from attending school outside of his home. This is her second year at this new school and she’s used to being invisible, that is, until Z comes along and takes notice of her, turning her entire world upside down. She’s enthralled by him, as are most of the students in their class, and she finds herself lying to her family and her boyfriend, in order to spend time with him. But then things get out of hand, someone dies, and Victoria to has come to grips with reality.

Review: The format of the book is essentially Victoria telling her boyfriend Andrew everything that led up to the moment she is in right now. It’s an interesting approach that works pretty well, and in hindsight, it makes a lot of sense. There is definitely a twist at the end that I hadn’t quite anticipated. Through the whole story, you don’t know who is dead, who has been hurt, or who the killer is. While I was necessarily shocked about who had died in the end, the reason behind the killing I hadn’t even begun to guess. And truthfully, I’m not sure how I feel about it.

In order to avoid spoilers, I can’t really say much, but I will say this: I think it is critical that mental illness be addressed through fiction, especially young adult fiction, because there is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation out there, and whether we like it or not, more people read fiction than non-fiction. Fiction is a great way to introduce important topics. However, the topic of mental illness needs to be handled carefully, respectfully, and realistically. I can’t elaborate further without spoilers, but a rather huge leap was taken without a reasonable explanation, and I found it bothersome.

Despite that, I enjoyed the book. The twist at the end, while perhaps a bit far-fetched, was definitely “whoa, I wasn’t expecting that!”, which is exactly what I’d expect from this kind of book. And even though we get answers at the end, I still have a lot of questions because there seems to be inconsistencies between Victoria’s experience of things and the recall of those who are interviewed later by the police. Sort of an interesting look into how individual perspectives influence how an event is interpreted. How does anyone ever know what is real or true when everyone sees everything so differently? Anyway…

I’m not going to run around screaming from the rooftops about it, and I question the way mental illness was handled, but it was well-written, held my attention, and surprised me in the end. Overall, I really did enjoy it, and suspect others will, too.

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