By Kelley York
Available now from Entangled
When I wrote about MADE OF STARS, I mentioned that I'd long been interested in Kelley York's first book, HUSHED. What then pops up on Netgalley but HUSHED, with a new cover? I seriously couldn't resist the bonkers summary. Archer has been killing people to protect his best friend Vivian, because he once failed to protect her when they were younger.
I'll admit that I never quite warmed up to Archer. There's a real sense of unreality to the premise, but the book was written more realistically than I expected. Archer definitely has psychological trauma, but I never really fell into the revenge fantasy. Maybe I'm just maturing. It didn't help that I had very mixed feelings about the Archer and Vivian friendship. Vivian eventually becomes outright villainous, but at the beginning she was much less manipulative than I expected. She's a little shallow, but that's a minor character flaw comparatively. Archer, meanwhile, is a full blown Nice Guy. He thinks that if stays by Vivian's side (and kills enough people), then she'll realize he's been the perfect guy for her all along.
However, I liked Evan quite a bit. Evan is the catalyst in HUSHED. He's a new student at the local university who first meets Archer when he's alone on campus. Their budding relationship forces Archer to look more critically at his relationship with Vivian. It also starts him towards the realization that you can't just kill people. Evan isn't just an instrument of the plot, however. He has his own interests and family, and his ethical dilemmas about Archer become increasingly important as the story moves on.
I didn't love HUSHED as much as I expected, partially because it wasn't as campy as I was expecting. It suffers a little from wanting to have its cake and eat it too, to portray Archer's crimes as real, unjustified crimes and still have him be the hero of the story. It's pretty entertaining and there is interesting psychological and character work, but it's a little rough. There are definable, understandable reasons for Archer and Vivian's behavior, but there was something about the story that kept me separate from them instead of buying in. The sweet romance between Archer and Evan was a nice counterpoint to the murder and associated darkness, and it was easy to see how that would affect Archer so deeply.
In the end, I still thought HUSHED was worth reading. It was certainly different from the other books I've been reading lately.