Cracked by Eliza Crewe is a YA Urban Fantasy from the people at Strange Chemistry, and it is probably the darkest Strange Chemistry novel I've read so far. Death, murder, and a wicked sense of humour run amok, and the end result is one of the most entertaining YA books I've read.
The story follows Meda, a snarky young girl who is half human, half demon, and has to feast on the souls of humans to survive. She tells herself that she is a good little halfling, only killing and feasting on the souls of those who have done irredeemable things like rape and murder. She finds her way into the clutches of the Templars, a secret society dedicated to fighting the demon menace, and while she feels like she has control for a short while, she ends up getting far more involved that what she bargained for.
This is a neat story full of hidden worlds, secret organisations, and powerful teenagers going toe to toe with equally powerful adults (and they don't necessarily win, either). The story is not all that complex, and it does borrow a few YA stereotypes on occasion, but that's okay because in Cracked, the story is a vehicle that allows the author Crewe to explore some interesting moral dilemmas.
Cracked is a very well written novel that opens by presenting you with a conflict of morality. Crewe has no problem with letting the reader confront some traditionally touchy subjects in YA - having the teenage female protagonist as a stone cold murderer and not backing away from the strong visual scenes presented by this choice was definitely a welcome change. The themes do get quite dark, but Crewe is able to lighten the mood through her main character Meda and the timing of some dark inappropriate humour. Crewe also does a great job at playing with the concept of nature vs nurture, providing the reader with some very interesting social commentary that may or may not tow the accepted party line. Kudos to Strange Chemistry for taking a risk and pushing the boundaries of what subjects YA can make use of.
The only thing that felt a little underdone in this book was the supporting characters. The main character Meda took a while for me to connect to but she was a complex person dealing with some really heavy issues, and she really grew on me towards the end. The rest of the cast felt like a collection of YA stereotypes - I feel like this was intentional as it gives a defined structure for Meda to rail against. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I would have liked the support characters to depart from the established stereotypes just a little bit.
Cracked is an interesting book in that the main character and the themes she explores go against standard / expected conventions of YA. This book pushes boundaries in entertaining yet provocative ways, and that is a good thing.
Review by Ryan Lawler
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