After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.
This year, it is my turn.
My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.
But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.
Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…
The book started off slow for me. In fact, it took a good 100 pages for me to become thoroughly engrossed. But once I did, it had me by the throat until the last page. There are a lot of similarities to other dystopian stories. There’s a fenced city (Divergent), government pairings (Matched), an oppressive government (Hunger Games, Matched), banishing people from society as punishment (Matched), but there are enough new elements to keep the story from being predictable.
Ivy and her family feel as if they are the rightful ruling family of Westfall, a post currently held by the Lattimer’s. But Ivy’s family has a plan to get control. It just involves Ivy marrying and then killing the president’s son, Bishop. It’s a chilling premise that took a while to develop, but it was easy to see as the days passed that Ivy wasn’t going to have an easy time killing her husband. Because he’s none of the things she was raised to believe. He’s compassionate, fair, considerate, and doesn’t agree with everything his father says and does.
While I had a pretty good idea how things were going to end up, I didn’t know how they would play out, and didn’t see the ending coming. I’m just glad I don’t have to wait a year for the second book since I didn’t get my copy of The Book of Ivy until ALA in June.
Other than slow pacing, the plot was intriguing. There isn’t a lot of action, but this is more of a psychological tale than an action adventure. Ivy’s journey takes her from dutiful daughter to scheming wife, to confused and conflicted teen, to terrified girl, back to dutiful daughter in the course of a few months. As her relationship with Bishop develops, it’s easy to see that she’s going to struggle with carrying out her task. What keeps this story moving is wondering how she’s going to get out of an impossible situation.
Bishop and Ivy are intriguing and complex, while the rest of the characters are more nebulous. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, though. Ivy spends an incredible amount of time inside her head, closing herself off from everyone around her. She’s introverted, lonely, and it’s easy to see that other people don’t factor in heavily in her world. They exist, but she doesn’t truly interact with them on more than a superficial basis, so they come across as superficial. But in a way that shows them to us only through Ivy’s prism. Except for Bishop. And as she allows herself to get closer to him, we get to see his layers and depth blossoming from black and white to full technicolor.
The ending was unexpected, so in my opinion, that makes it strong. If you don’t like cliffhangers, be forewarned, but it’s a satisfying enough ending to tide you over the few days until book 2 comes out.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed about The Book of Ivy:
1. Ivy’s sacrifice. I don’t want to give anything away, so that’s all I’ll say.
2. Bishop Lattimer. The president’s son is swoonworthy in a completely different way than a lot of teen love interests.
3. The plot to bring down the president. It’s surprisingly simple, yet brilliant.
4. Falling in love. The way Bishop and Ivy, virtual strangers on their wedding day, evolve their relationship from stiff and awkward, to friendship, and then something more is beautiful.
5. The ending. I love when I can’t anticipate how everything is going to play out. I didn’t believe Ivy would be able to kill Bishop, but I had no idea how that was all going to resolve, and I was way off base in my prediction.
The Book of Ivy is a familiar dystopian tale with enough of its own uniqueness to set it apart from the rest.
I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher at ALA in San Francisco. This in no way influences my review.
About the Book
Title: The Book of Ivy
Series: The Book of Ivy #1
Author: Amy Engel
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: November 11, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon│Barnes & Noble│Kobo Books│iTunes│Google Books
About the Author
Amy Engel was born in Kansas and after a childhood spent bouncing between countries (Iran, Taiwan) and states (Kansas; California; Missouri; Washington, D.C.), she settled in Kansas City, Missouri, where she lives with her husband and two kids.
Before devoting herself full-time to motherhood and writing, she was a criminal defense attorney, which is not quite as exciting as it looks on TV. When she has a free moment, she can usually be found reading, running, or shoe shopping. The Book of Ivy is her debut YA novel. Find her online at http://amyengel.net/ or @aengelwrites.