Ashleigh Paige

I'm a full-time college sophomore pursuing my B.A. in English with hopes of one day working as an editor. Cats, musicals, documentaries about cults/disasters/tragedies, and curse words are just a few of my favorite things. Also, check out our blog or I WILL FIND YOU.

Unleashed

Unleashed - Nancy Holder, Debbie ViguiƩ Also appears on The YA Kitten. I received an ARC of this through Amazon Vine.After an earthquake kills her mother, Katelyn McBride is sent to live with her grandfather Ed all the way out in Wolf Springs, Arkansas. The transition from LA to small-town America is a rough one, but other matters come to occupy her time. Two girls die from wolf attacks, there's a program just outside town to help people "release their inner wolves," and her new friend Cordelia is hiding something about her family. Then there are the two boys in her life: Justin, Cordelia's cousin and a hottie whose gaze sets her on fire, and Trick, the sweetheart she rides to school with. Katelyn may turn out to be what the people of Wolf Springs have been waiting for: the end to an ancient war.Katelyn is a petty, judgmental brat. Would you not dislike a heroine who seriously expects to go to school in a small town to see students wearing overalls and cutoff denim shorts, chewing on straw, and driving tractors? I hate, hate, hate characters who are mean about small towns or small town life. Then you add in her saying another girl must be putting out to have a certain guy as her boyfriend and you have a character I would happily push over a cliff. At the very least, Katelyn admits she is too stupid to live, but this does not make her any more tolerable or likeable. If anything, it shows that someone thought through how ridiculous she is and still did not change it.Some personal bias comes in concerning the budding relationship between Katelyn and Justin. It's a long story, but the short version is that a good friend of mine and her boyfriend have a toxic relationship that has hurt her badly and her boyfriend claims to be a werewolf. My dislike of him translates into a dislike of werewolves, but I didn't realize this until after I requested a copy of Unleashed, so bully for it.There are multiple similarities between my friend and Katelyn and then the boyfriend and Justin, the most important being that the guys both had girlfriends when they met the girls and cheated on their girlfriends with the girls. Infidelity is a huge pet peeve of mine. Supporting Justin and Katelyn is already impossible because of their heavy resemblance to my friend's toxic relationship, but if not for that, it would still be impossible for me to support them because Justin is cheating on his girlfriend for Katelyn. No magical connection makes cheating okay.Other than that, characterization is thin. Justin is a disgusting creep who always manages to seem like he's turned on, Trick is... well, Trick doesn't get much characterization, and there are multiple characters who only exist to be around for a scene or two, tell Katelyn this important plot point at this point in time, and then get put on a bus by divorce or fading into obscurity. With all these infodump characters lying around, you think one could explain how an old man living out in the middle of the woods would know a high school guy like Trick and convince him to drive his granddaughter an hour back and forth each day for school.The title of the novel, series name, and cover make it obvious what kind of book this is. The painfully predictable events of the novel make it even more obvious. Yet Katelyn does not figure out what's going on at any point--someone else has to tell her, and that doesn't happen until page 278 out of 382 in my copy.There was exactly one scene in this book I liked, and that would be the earthquake scene at the very beginning of the book. The Fenner family dynamic with a father suffering from dementia and a mentally disabled little brother captures some of my interest too, but some is also lost due to the cliche characterization of the rest of the family. Otherwise, there isn't anything I liked and the novel is full of holes, like how a room full of werewolves--at least ten, up to thirty--with enhanced senses of smell managed not to smell Katelyn when she was close enough to hear them.Writing this negative review isn't exactly fun when there's so little praise I can offer, but it has to be done. I'm not going to lie about liking something when I didn't--I'm a truthful reviewer. I only ever get so negative when there is something to be negative about. My advice is to skip this one, but make your own decisions on it.A deeper explanation of my personal bias for the curious is behind the spoiler tag:My opinion of this book should be taken with a grain of salt, but getting a copy from Amazon Vine means a review is mandatory, so here is the start of it. Warning: this is heavily personal and though it may not be my story to tell, it is necessary to tell it in order to get my point across on why I feel the way I do about this book. Names have been changed to protect the parties involved.I wish I had thought through my decision to procure a copy of Unleashed though. At the very least, I should have done my research and read a few other reviews first. For years, I have said I have no particular grudge against werewolves or werewolf books. Something about this ugly, rainy day made me realize on my way to lunch that I do have something against werewolves. It all began when I was but fifteen and at my best friend's birthday party. I met a girl there named Emilie and we hit it off that night thanks to similar tastes in books and hobbies. Sadly, we didn't stay in touch after that night. Emilie drifted into the abyss that is my memory.Cut to tenth grade. Alec, a boy in my biology class, befriended me and we sat together for the rest of the year. Alec was... strange. When I complained of being cold during winter, he would put my hand up his shirt so I could see how warm he was and get warm that way. (I would just take my hand back.) Occasionally, he would put his hand on my thigh--especially on days when I wore skirts--and slide it a little upwards, though it never went into dangerous territory, among other such dubious moves. (This should have been enough to get me away from him, but alas, I lacked the ability to recognize this as NOT OKAY then.) The strangest thing about him was his claim to be a werewolf. A true, changes-form-during-the-full-moon werewolf. I did not know how to respond to this, so I just let it go and survived the year, learning only at the end of it that Emilie was his girlfriend.Then we come to eleventh grade. Emilie and I share a history class! How wonderful! Now we could talk to one another regularly. Over the course of the year, I learned all about her relationship with Alec: how it began, its ups and downs (including him cheating on her multiple times), and for a time, how it ended. During the year, Emilie broke up with Alec because she couldn't take it anymore. Over the course of a few weeks, she came to realize how unhealthy her relationship with Alec was. After their breakup, he would text her desperately to try and get her to talk to him--suicide threats, angry texts, anything was game. Emilie was also involved with the occult (she was a vampire/werewolf hybrid) and when she threatened to tell her parents so they could get a restraining order, he threatened to tell them all of the occult things going on and get her on charges of statutory rape, because she was of-age and he was a minor when they had sex. I advised her the best I could when she asked, and my main advice was to move on and never go back.Final snapshot of their relationship: the three of us are in twelfth grade. Despite all her promises never to get stuck in that trap again, Emilie is back to dating Alec.Alec and Justin, one of the love interests in Unleashed, have more than a few things in common, but this is their most important similarity: both had girlfriends when they met Emilie and Katelyn, respectively, and both cheated on their girlfriends with the new girls. The girls mooned over them anyway, and while I do not yet know how the story will end with Justin and Katelyn, I saw how it went with Emilie and Alec. When I look at the couple in this book, I see them. When your relationship starts with being the "other man" or "other woman," how can you be sure they won't cheat on you too?Of course, there are still many differences between Emlie and Alec's story and Katelyn and Justin's developing story; while Katelyn is a judgmental brat, Emilie is a pretty nice girl, if more desperate to find a place in life more than the usual person is.Is it a surprise I hate werewolves after knowing a guy like Alec, someone who vehemently claims to be a werewolf? There are many objective reasons for me to dislike this book--thin/terrible characterization, very predictable, blandly written except for one or two scenes--but this personal bias affects my experience greatly.