I picked this one up after narfna’s rave review, and while I liked it, I didn’t love it as much as her, potentially because I had set my expectations a bit high. I also think this is the second book I’ve read in the past month where a character rushed to call another character a murderer for what was really more of an accidental death. I guess I am more technical than the characters, and in the accuser’s defense just because it was an accident doesn’t mean the other characters weren’t partially to blame.
Anyway, as the novel starts, it flashes back and forth between the novel’s present day and ten years prior when Eli and Victor are college seniors, both involved in pre-med. When it comes time to select their senior thesis, Victor chooses a topic involving adrenaline while Eli wants to explore EOs, or people with extra ordinary abilities. While their existence is merely rumor, he is able to convince the professor to let him do research on what it might take for someone to gain these types of abilities.
In the present, Vincent has recently escaped from prison after a ten year confinement along with Mitch, and on the way they have added a young girl with abilities to their group. While in college, Victor convinced Eli to take his research a step further and not only figure out how EOs were made, but to attempt to make one, using themselves as guinea pigs. Based on Victor’s current abilities, it is obvious they succeeded but it takes a bit longer for the novel to reveal the price of their powers or how the split occurred between the two friends.
Victor has spent the last ten years in prison so he is a natural for the villain role but Eli’s extracurricular activities don’t make him a hero. While he may play the hero in society’s eyes, his actions, while entirely justifiable to him, make him the greater villain. The difference is that Vince knows he is not a good person and has used his powers to control people, while Eli thinks he is God’s chosen one and on a righteous mission as he commits acts far worse than Tom.
The epigraph is perfectly chosen and sets the mood and the theme of the novel: “Life – the way it really is – is a battle not between Bad and Good, but between Bad and Worse.” Villain, hero, all are a matter of perspective and shades of grey. I know there is a sequel, which I will definitely read. I’m having a hard time putting my finger on why I didn’t enjoy this novel more. I almost want to say this feels like a first act, and even though there is a sequel, I don’t feel like Schwab is trying to use this novel to set up a long series so first act feels like a bad description. Despite the character studies and investigation of motivations, something about this novel feels shallow to me – maybe it was the plot itself more than the characters? That’s not the right way to put it either, but I feel like the novel needed more of something intangible to make me truly love it rather than intellectually appreciate it.