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Review: DIVIDE by Jessa Russo

Divide e-book coverFrom senior class president to dejected social outcast, with just the flick of a match.

After accusations of torching her ex-boyfriend’s home are followed by the mysterious poisoning of her ex-best friend, seventeen-year-old Holland Briggs assumes her life is over. And it is. But not in the way she thinks.

As Holland learns the truth about her cursed fate—that she is descended from the Beast most have only ever heard of in fairytales—she unites with an unlikely ally, good-looking newcomer Mick Stevenson.

Mick knows more about Holland’s twisted history than she does, and enlightening as it is to learn about, his suggestion for a cure is unsettling at best. Holland must fall in love with Mick in order to break the spell, and save their future generations from repeating her cursed fate. Should they fail, Holland will be lost to the beast inside her forever.

I was provided with a free copy of Divide by the author for this review. This review may contain spoilers.

When I first heard about Divide, I was totally pumped. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale, and Jekyll & Hyde is another of my absolute favorites. Throw in a little gender-swapping and this sounded like it was practically tailored to my interests. Alas, I must admit to being a little less than wowed.

REDUX

The novel’s strongest element is undoubtedly the retooling of the Beauty and the Beast tale. It fleshes the original version, which was simply a moral tale about inner beauty and being kind, into a tale of revenge, jealousy, and power dynamics, making it an altogether human story. The Jekyll & Hyde twist actually flips the timeline as well, so that the story is not about rehumanizing the Beast, but about stopping Holland from becoming the Beast at all. These stories naturally fit together, and the clever combination creates a new tale that stands solidly on its own.

Russo also maintains a wry awareness of the insta-love issue inherent to the genre, and the romance between Mick and Holland starts out well-paced and realistic. This provides a good foundation for later on, when their hands are forced and the time to develop their feelings is cut drastically short.

BUT?

I felt that the characters were poorly showcased by the dialogue, which was (with some exceptions) overall very expected. There were very few moments when I was surprised by the direction a conversation or internal monologue took, and that translated into a predictable narrative. Because of this, I never quite engaged. It made me feel generally neutral toward the novel–not a negative, necessarily, but I never really got excited either.

I was also disappointed by the superficiality of Holland’s beastyness and Mick’s tactic of calming her down, which was literally only to have her focus on his breathing. I was hoping that the curse would twist real feelings Holland had, not just fill her with general rage, and that Mick would have to engage verbally with her to work through those feelings. This, I feel, would have put a much stronger and better fleshed emphasis on their connection, their love, and their trust in each other, even after Mick’s plans are derailed.

VERDICT

Overall, this book is a solid addition to the genre of fairy tale retellings, but it doesn’t break the mold.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Recommended for: People who like to know what they’re getting