~~Moved from GR~~
by Melissa Marr
Aislinn has always had the Sight. She has always known that no matter how lovely the Fae may be, they are unpredictable. Dangerous. Downright wicked. So when a fairy suddenly expresses interest in her, she's far more frightened than flattered. But how can a highschool girl escape when the Summer King of the fae is after her?
My enjoyment of this book really surprised me, because I generally detest romances. For me, even the shortest lovey-dovey moment of any book, is either mind-numbingly dull or embarrassingly squicky. And yet, despite its general YA/romance vibe, I found myself really enjoying Wicked Lovely. Maybe it's the way I felt this book broke the stereotypes. The typical romance plot channels a mixture of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Yes, I know they tend to think they're channeling Austen's Pride and Prejudice; they're not, but that's another rant for another day.
The basic YA/romance plot: girl who believes herself to be plain and unattractive (although any unbiased observer realizes she is beee--uuu-tiful) comes in contact with a man she finds hawt-hawt-hawt. She is usually placed in a position where she is subordinate to him, and he usually is domineering and insulting. She is both attracted and repelled by him, and somewhere along the line as he insults and degrades her, he decides he loves her (oooh the honor!). He is an arrogant, jealous control freak and guilts/compels her to risk or lose everything for him. Sometimes there's a love triangle, and our heroine is torn between arrogant, selfish, fiery, domineering Guy A and arrogant, selfish, cold, domineering Guy B. Girl ends up succumbing and becoming subordinate and submissive to fiery guy and they live "happily ever after", with girl doing everything in her power to please her master. Forget the dull sense of sameness and the (to me) generally gag-inducing nature of the plot; what does this say to young girls about the role that they should play in society? Sure, a lot of elements from my summary above are present in Wicked Lovely, but the fact that this one got a 3 from me means I felt it did a lot of things right.
Our heroine has the choice of characterless-kind-considerate-boytoy Seth and masterful-objectifying-womanizer-fairy-king Keenan. Hey, it's a change! I liked Seth. Granted, we never get a full picture of him, because apparently Aislinn and our narrator only care about what he does for her rather than who he is, but it was fantastic to see a kind, caring, compassionate male in a fantasy series, even if losing masculine arrogance apparently means surrendering all personality and identity. As part of his good-guy romantic persona, he is gentle, forgiving, doesn't exert ownership, and offers her proof of being STD-free right in the middle of a would-be steamy romance scene (huh?). There is also a great discussion between Boytoy Seth and Aislinn about date rape--a particularly important topic, and I really appreciate the way that Marr approached it.
As for the other love interest, he is an arrogant, bullying asshole, but he has his own reasons for it, and they are about the health of his kingdom rather than his own happiness. Yes, he's still irritating and arrogant and selfish, but at least it's slightly more understandable. As far as I can tell, we aren't supposed to like him all that much, which is also a perk, and Marr doesn't try to kid us that stalking, seduction, and manipulation are something beautiful and loving. Yes!
I loved the mythology that the story explored: ubiquitous fey who are invisible to all but humans gifted with the Sight. The idea is very common in old legends, but it's the first time I've seen it in Urban Fantasy, and it's a great story to play with. I wasn't as fond of the writing style, which I found somewhat glutinous, with overly descriptive and overly comma-injected sentences. As a mystery reader, I also felt the plot was slow and simplistic, but I think my expectations were unrealistic for the genre. From the moment the book starts, it's clear how it's going to end. But it takes an awfully long time to get there. The oooh-sexy-forbidden-attraction descriptions were so embedded in the text that I couldn't even skip them because if I did, there would be no book left. One thing that surprised me was how little emotional reactions we saw from the characters. If I was told I was forced to be a faerie whether I will or no, I'd be really, really angry. If my significant other told me she saw faeries and was being stalked by one, I'd exhibit (a) denial and (b) fury. But anger is a reaction curiously lacking from the entire story, and for me, it left a sense of unreality and emptiness. However, I found the characters unexpectedly likeable.
Overall, if there have to be YA romances out there, I vote for this one over all of the Twilights, Hush-Hushes, and other stories of rape and stalking disguised as love. Aislinn is placed in a situation where all of her agency is taken away, but even so, she fights and makes her own choices rather than brainlessly succumbing and groveling to the "hero."