By: Amy Plum
In the City of Lights, two star-crossed lovers battle a fate that is destined to tear them apart again and again for eternity.
When Kate Mercier’s parents die in a tragic car accident, she leaves her life–and memories–behind to live with her grandparents in Paris. For Kate, the only way to survive her pain is escaping into the world of books and Parisian art. Until she meets Vincent.
Mysterious, charming, and devastatingly handsome, Vincent threatens to melt the ice around Kate’s guarded heart with just his smile. As she begins to fall in love with Vincent, Kate discovers that he’s a revenant–an undead being whose fate forces him to sacrifice himself over and over again to save the lives of others. Vincent and those like him are bound in a centuries-old war against a group of evil revenants who exist only to murder and betray. Kate soon realizes that if she follows her heart, she may never be safe again.
My daughter is awakening to the worlds that books have always opened for me. It’s a little weird when my middle school daughter brings home books from the library and says, “Mom, read this.” Even weirder, is the fact that we’ve started talking so much about books that she kind of knows what I like. So when she brought home Die For Me, based on a recommendation from one of her older brother’s friends, I put aside everything else I was reading and did what she said. (So, ok, mainly it’s because I want to know what’s going into my little girl’s head because books had such an influence on me at that age…. Seriously. I was reading Stephen King right next to Nancy Drew and Piers Anthony. You never know what’s going to shape your world view.)
Somewhere in the middle of reading this, I was in the craze of a 50 Shades/Twilight rant to my husband about the stupidity of popular books when he threw my words back at me: Who’s the audience?
Sure, there is nothing new under the sun. After reading a million books, you can see the formula for every genre. What keeps us coming back to the repetition is how the author treats the formula. Does she hold steady? Does she throw in something different? Does she break all the rules, or just a few? What makes this story interesting rather than just a regurgitation of the same old, same old?
I opened Die For Me without any expectation other than how a preteen would read this, and I think it helped open my mind farther than the English major, highly critical woman I am today.
Yes, the book is like Twilight, in that it follows a basic formula. Girl meets boy. Girl discovers an obstacle to being with boy. The couple begins to work through their obstacle, determined to be together. Add the supernatural element and voila, Twilight. But really, that’s where it ends.
Not knowing anything about Twilight, I started reading it because someone mentioned on Facebook the movie was finally coming out. I couldn’t get more than a couple of chapters in. It was sappy, cheesy and pretty bad writing from the first chapter. I felt the very same way about 50 Shades.
What I hated about those books was the very poor writing, the strained way the authors had for forcing the characters into plot points, and the very untypical, unrealistic ways those characters behaved.
Die For Me is not that typical stupid, sappy, cheesy, clichéd writing. The descriptions are almost vibrant. The passions of a 16 year old girl after the death of her parents are realistic. Both sisters show very different, but very real ways of handling the disaster.
Here, I’m going to diverge and address random other reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.
Sure, it’s creepy that some strange guy follows Kate for a while before talking to her. But seriously, girls, how often do you do that? It takes a while to work up the nerve to talk to someone that you find attractive. Why is it that different for guys? Sure, for normal people, it may be a little more difficult. We don’t have friends who would “check out” a potential love interest for us. (Or do we?) We don’t have the ability to “ghost” and find out more. No, realistically, we see someone by accident, think, “Wow, he’s cute.” And go about our day. But if that person frequents the same neighborhood, it is entirely possible we see them more than once in different places and frequently. Then the “obsession” begins. We follow them. We find out where they go and usually when so that we can be there to watch. This behavior is not unrealistic, people.
Others have also said that the book progressed slowly. How quickly should a stalker and his obsession get together? One day? One week? Normal baggage adds time to getting to know someone. Add the supernatural element, the history, and, of course, it’s going to take a beat. Plus, Kate has to deal with some pretty heavy shit from her own history before she can let a new person in.
Also, the zombie thing: Really, people. The characters in the book are making fun of themselves. They are revenants not zombies. I know that the two words are interchangeable in the teenage world, but in the supernatural world, usually zombies are rotting corpses. The undead is a broad term that applies to vampires and zombies and such. If the revenants had to drink blood to live, but did not have fangs, they would joke that they are vampires, but they wouldn’t really be vampires.
Here’s my opinion (finally, you say):
I think this is a very nice first book in a trilogy. You get the beginning. You actually get rising action and a climax. You get the nice tying up of loose ends. The bigger picture is open for further exploration in the next books.
The setting descriptions are fantastic, a nice bit of purple prose on a consistent reading level. I do not think the vocabulary is challenging in any way. (Of course, that’s something I look for in books. You may not.)
The clichéd romance bits on the part of Kate are to be expected for a sixteen year old. None of them exceeds her life experience. Although, they might have been more creative for a character so very well read. She could have and probably should have referenced more of the classic descriptions with which she would be familiar. I also like the fact that Amy Plum addresses a physical component to the love story without falling into the trap that sex sells. She had a fantastic opportunity to throw the main characters in bed with each other, but the characters fought back and brought a bit more realism to the story when deciding not to enact every other love scene.
Now, add the supernatural bit: Humans are so very stupid/romantic. We’ve been falling in love with otherworldly creatures since the before the Greek gods decided to drop down and play with us. This is nothing new. Seriously, readers, go look up Nephilim, please. That’s the result of angels becoming obsessed with humans. The story is old. Way older than, Twilight.
So my main gripe with this book is the mere brush past Egyptian mythology. It has so much potential that I really hope it is addressed in the next books. Perhaps John-Baptiste figures higher in the sequels, doing the explanations rather than flitting around the edges.
Second main gripe: Vincent…inconsolable. I call bullshit.
Last thing that sticks out in my head: One reviewer says something about the ridiculousness of the pop culture in a book like this (or something like this) pointing out the Disney princess reference in the middle of the climax.
I thought that was a pretty good reference. For some reason I saw Jafar standing over Jasmine and Belle, taunting them and the effect they had when fighting back was negligent. In that one sentence Amy Plum showed the seriousness, the impossibility the protagonist faces, and the condescending attitude of someone we’ve seen what, once, in the entire book. Plus, it tickled me.
Despite the fact that this first book in a trilogy focuses only on the romance rather than the good vs evil bigger picture, I thought that Lucien acted as an über-smart villain should act. Rather than making a stupid mistake that gives the heroes an opening, he’s attacking the weak point expecting to win.
So…I’m giving this book 3 stars. (Really, 3.5) It is not the best book I’ve ever read. It didn’t turn my stomach with bad writing or plot.
Amy Plum accomplished a few things many authors these days don’t even bother with: She introduced a supernatural element not typically addressed. She kept the characters within a realistic border (and it felt like she let the characters decide what they were doing rather than tripping them up with random plot devices). She wrote for a specific audience and maintained realistic consistency within an unrealistic world.
The flow of the book didn’t feel like a fantastic roller coaster invented just for shock value. The writing is mostly smooth and the flow is nice. (Personally, there were a few jarring examples of passive voice that could have been avoided. And I did tend to skip past the corny inner dialogue.)
My daughter told me she picked this book because she likes romances. I think it is a good choice.
If you’re looking for supernatural with a romantic undertone, this is not it.
If you’re looking for a romance with a supernatural undertone, this is definitely it.