Wednesday, 10 February 2016

The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel



After taking a year-long hiatus from reading dystopian novels - I'm back with Amy Engel's praised debut, The Book of Ivy.

In this dystopian world, people are controlled by arranged marriages. Everyone takes a personality test when they are about 15/16 and are matched; the day they meet is the day they get married. This system was a result of a war. The nation that survived is enclosed by a fence. So within this fence are two societies: the richer Lattimers and the poorer Westfalls. The Westfall family were the founders of this nation but the Lattimers sort of took the power from them. In order to preserve their name, they've been marrying off Westfall daughters to Lattimer sons.

When Ivy Westfall turns 16 its her turn to marry Bishop Lattimer. She and her family decide that she will kill Bishop and his father, in order to restore power to the Westfall family.


The fast half of the book is pretty slow going. When Ivy gets married, she doesn't really talk to Bishop because they are strangers and frankly have been put in a pretty horrific situation.  I think you'll immediately be on her side and sympathize with her and her family. They are hoping to put an end to these arranged marriages, among other undemocratic laws imposed on the people by the Lattimers. So I felt not only was I immediately on her side but nothing is happening because there isn't really much dialogue between Ivy and Bishop and after the marriage, that is probably all you'll bethinking off.

This really picks up in the second half  where everything suddenly becomes very exciting and fast paced. When Ivy gradually gets to know Bishop and everything we thought about him, the Lattimers and most importantly Ivy's own family starts to change. Like Ivy, we start to second guess ourselves. Who should we really be supporting?



The story seriously lacks a development of this post-apocalyptic world. I mean apart from the arranged marriages, all the main characters talk about how oppressive the Lattimers are and have been in the past but nothing, nada, zilt on what they actually do. This was such a good set up and SO many more elements of this world could've been explored that weren't - hence why I couldn't give this book a 4/5. But when the plot picks up in the second half, there is the most BEAUTIFUL slow-burning romance between Bishop and Ivy that will frankly, give you life. What this story lacks in setting, it certainly makes up for in character development. AT the end of the first half, you feel you know these characters and you begin to settle with them. But then they start becoming seriously unpredictable which made me question all the opinions I had formed up to that point.

Overall, a satisfying re-introduction into dystopian novels and I'm looking forward to reading the final installment of the series! I wouldn't really recommend it if you're looking for that hardcore super developed dystopian world but the romance in this book was beautifully developed.

3/5

SPOILER DISCUSSION BELOW




1. BISHOP LATTIMER
I really had to downplay how much of a fan I was of Bishop. He's 16 which kind of makes my attraction to him seem wrong but he's also fictional so whatevs.

Didn't you just love the fact that he was so mature and understanding and gentle throughout the book but, he also seemed really strong and masculine and in control. SIGH.

I will say this though when choosing your heroic male lead, names are important. 'Bishop' is not an entirely attractive name I mean I was in inner turmoil because one hand, dream guy. On the other hand, his name is Bishop.

2. Ivy increasingly irritated me as the book went on and I realized how immature she was. I mean, who agrees to kill someone without knowing, or trying to find out the real backstory. Okay so she tries eventually but honestly, too little too late.

I also really didn't like the fact that she looked down on her mum and labelled her as a coward, just because she was unhappy and committed suicide.  I lost count of how many times she said "I don’t want to give up like my own mother." It seemed so insensitive and made me question whether Ivy really understood what she was fighting for. Wasn't women like her mum she was fighting for? This idea of suicide being cowardly isn't really resolved and I really feel Amy Engel missed an opportunity on this one.

3. Real talk, was anyone else shocked at how quickly her dad and sister turned on her?! They would rather she died outside the fence than their plan be revealed? WHAT!

Can I just say I hated her dad from about chapter 3. I found him so patronizing, controlling at times and towards the end - cruel. How could he not understand that Ivy couldn't just kill Bishop because she was in love with him! I guess because he could easily turn on his own daughter. And her dad as a ruler?! It was pretty clear that this was going to be a President Coin from the Hunger Games situation.








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