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BOOK REVIEW: Reckless Hearts by Sean Olin

| 1 December 2015 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Reckless Hearts by Sean Olin

Katherine Tegen Books
November 2015
Hardcover, £19.99 GBP
Reviewed by Aly Locatelli




“When I’m with him, I feel, I don’t know. Reckless.”


The first book in this series by Sean Olin, Wicked Games, was not my favourite. In fact, this reader found herself disliking everything about it: from the unlikable characters (which are usually the characters I always like) to the plot, to the insulting way mental illness was handled in the context of the book. Unfortunately, despite hoping the second installment would be an improvement, Reckless Hearts was no better.

This book would be best described as a train wreck. Usually, we love reading about them with that sort of horrified fascination — you can’t not look at it, no matter how hard you try. Your eyes are automatically drawn to the mess that will inevitably happen. This is the best kind of book. At least, it usually is.

The truth is, Reckless Hearts is a fantastic cure for insomnia. For a book that is supposed to be thrilling, exciting and adrenaline-filled, I found myself falling asleep an awful lot. The characters — particularly our main characters, Jake and Elena — are boring and flat, nothing more than cardboard cutouts that stick to their lines and barely ever do anything exciting. They’re supposed to be creative — a musician and artist respectfully — and fun, and have apparently known each other for years, yet none of that came through unless the author specifically told the reader what was happening. “Jake is writing some songs”, “Elena is creating a new cartoon and eating crackers.” The entirety of the book was narrated in a flat voice that inspired no feelings whatsoever.

And the plot was no better. Although the excitement and action finally came through around the 83% mark (a LONG time to wait for something, anything to happen) it was over too quickly and left me wondering what the hell had just happened.

Elena and Jake have been best friends for years. There is nothing they don’t know about each other, and nothing they can’t speak about. Unless it’s Jake’s true feelings for Elena. He’s fallen in love with her, but doesn’t know how to tell her, and by the time he finally works up the courage to say something, a new guy has entered the scene and swept Elena off her feet. Harlow is everything Jake is not: exciting, daring, with a killer smile and a motorbike. Harlow, a person Elena met online. Harlow, about whom Jake has a gut feeling isn’t telling the whole truth.

And Jake is adamant about proving it.

This is where everything goes wrong, as far as this reader is concerned. Jake acts like a whiny, petulant child who stops talking to Elena the moment Harlow comes on the scene because he can’t deal with his feelings. Rather than stepping up and being the friend he claims he is, Jake runs off with his guitar and a family pack of tissues and whines about how terrible his life is now that Elena has a new guy.

Elena, on the other hand, is dumb as rocks. It’s like she’s never even heard of ‘stranger danger’ or any horror stories about people met online. When you’ve only exchanged a handful of messages before he appears at your door, anyone would be wary of all the safety rules being disregarded. Not only that, but the fact that Harlow doesn’t come across as a nice guy (and even claims to be hunted by some Cuban mob), she doesn’t tell anyone about him, and doesn’t even bother letting her family know where she is going and with whom. The basic safety net is completely ripped away, and for someone who claims to be responsible and sensible, Elena is really stupid.

The plot itself was handled particularly poorly, and it didn’t really evolve. There were so many scenes that were downright unnecessary, and it wass hard to believe that the entire story took place within a month or so, rather than a year. Many scenes were dragged out over several chapters, which split between Jake and Elena (and sometimes a descriptive scene of a new cartoon Elena had uploaded) so some parts are repeated twice (or even three times). Conversations between the characters were recycled and reworded to seem fresh and new when they weren’t; parents were absent and barely looked after their children (or even cared, it seemed); the climax Olin worked so hard for was, unfortunately, a flop. I did not feel “gripped” or “thrilled” or even “mildly excited.” I couldn’t wait for this book to be over so I could take a nap.

The “plot twist” was easy to see coming from a mile away, and so the last 25% or so felt far too heavy and dramatic to cope with, but I’ll give Olin this: He writes some very interesting, very good epilogues that leave me breathless.

Unfortunately, Reckless Hearts was disappointing in every way, and definitely not my cup of tea.

For heart-stopping, wonderfully written YA thrillers, I suggest reading Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas or Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes.

(Reckless Hearts is the second book in the Wicked Games series.)

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

About the Author ()

21. A reader, a writer, a reviewer and a full-time sloth lover. I am addicted to coffee and my laptop, and love reading especially when it's rainy outside.

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