My library has this little off shoot room called Teenscape. It’s full of wonderful YA books and shuffling teenagers. Chicago had a room like this in its library, but the room was huge and the one here in my local village could fit four times over in it. I hate going in those rooms. For one, it is usually full of teenagers. Secondly, I carry into the room with me the belief that people probably think I’m a teenager because I’m in the teenage section, and don’t realize that I have actually graduated high school, college, AND law school. Because in spite being a decade older, most people think I’m at most 22. In Chicago, I used to just put the teen books on hold and pick them up on my weekly trip to the library because the hold section was in the adult area. Here, I have no time excuse not to just pick out my own damn books and plus I wanted to browse.
I walked by the room twice, double checking to see if there were any lumbering lurking teens hidden in between the three aisles. Seeing none, I held my head high and snuck inside. Then I got down to business and starting with the A’s and going through the entire alphabet I browsed to my hearts content, even when I was interrupted twice by shuffling feet and downward glances. There seems to be an unwritten rule of teenagers in the Teenscape land not to look anyone in the eye. It’s unnerving.
In my browsing I found a really pretty cover and after reading the back decided to check out Embrace, by Jessica Shervington. I haven’t read a lot of the demon/angel subgenre, but what I’ve read has been entertaining, and so I thought I would broaden my knowledge of that area of YA fiction. Embrace is the story of Violet Eden who is turning 17. Every birthday is a reminder of her dead mother and absent father who ignores her in his continual grief and workaholism. Luckily, Violet has lots of money, big boobs, a quirky best friend, and a sparring partner to keep her busy. And …. some …. of this is about to change. Not the dead mother, or the absent father, but Violet’s seemingly normal rich teenage life is interrupted by the revelation that she must choose whether or not she will embrace (see what I did there?) her Grigori heritage. Grigori are half-human half-angel hybrid, and protect humans against the exiled angels wrecking havoc on earth.
While and interesting and rather light reading that kept me page turning, Embrace had a few pitfalls that would land it in purgatory at least. Violet is yet another, “I don’t want to be what I clearly already am” character, and that is not the only YA trope to grace the pages. However, Violet at least reconciles this part of herself by the end of the book. For me this is passable. It’s when the warring within the self goes on for several books that I have an issue.
There is of course the triangle of good boy versus bad boy. Each male character is rather underdeveloped and of one note, there is always hope that further character development will happen in the rest of the series. But it would have been refreshing for the male leads to be fleshed out full characters the first time around. One non-YA trope was that Violet has sex in the book. Then yet another trope as unfortunately, as her sex life (or as much as someone who is 17 and UNDERAGE! has a sex life) becomes a thing of shame and gossip. In fact, her sexual advances mean that Violet is emotionally connected to someone who preys on that connection to the extreme. More disturbingly, Violet was sexually assaulted in the not too distance past by an adult figure in her life, which factors into why she is learning to spar, but is not brought up in the context of her sexual development as a woman.
Violet needs some counseling, in fact, a lot of fantasy characters do. Why is this a thing? Why can’t we have our favorite characters learning how to be emotionally healthy so that they can deal with all the weird stuff that happens in their lives? One review I read suggested that this series should have been given an older protagonist and I agree. If Violet was just a bit older both parents could be dead and Violet living on her own rather than a dead mother and absent, except when needed to further the plot, father. Furthermore, an older protagonist would have had some time to work through her sexual assault and be better ready for exploring her sexuality.
Despite all the tropes, Embrace was an interesting read. Shirvington writes with a fresh and uncluttered voice. So while there is no real plot twist, and it is a trope filled story, I kept reading to see what would happen and how Violet would react. Embrace is simply (perhaps too simply) a coming of age story of Violet, a half-human half-angel girl. While, I’ve more than a few quibbles with the book, if you want a light consume the book in a day down by the pool read, it has enough going for it that you might not want to come inside right away for dinner.
Read a review by The Book Smugglers, who points out a few more plot holes and also is a bit more spoilery than my own review.