The tone of this novel is certainly different: that is, the first person’s narrative deviates from the usual first person female heroine perspective presented in most of the novels targeted at young adult audiences. And as welcome as such a change is in the light of how much so many of these heroines annoy me, I cannot say that I cared much for Dante Walker’s narrative either. He was intended to polarise, for sure, and readers were probably expected to grow to like him more as the story progressed and his character “developed”. I actually didn’t feel the dynamic between Charlie, the “assignment”, and Dante. I liked his interactions with Charlie’s friends, Blue and Annabelle, best. I also understand that Dante had to come to terms with his changing perceptions, convictions, and feelings himself. It left me strangely cold is all. Well, not that strangely, really, because it was all a bit too repetitive for my tastes.
The Valery/Max storyline was sweet but all too predictable. Again, it was probably intended for the readers to catch up on this long before the narrator realised the connection, wrapped up as he (Dante) is in his own conflicting feelings and desires. He is quite self-absorbed and over-confident and he carries these traits like a shield – for reasons, of course. He feels the need to cover up his feelings of guilt [over his father’s death, as we learn late in the novel] and his vulnerability. So he prances about basting his invincibility and disdain for human beings. Because he’s a collector, working for the devil himself, bring him souls he did his part in leading astray and over to the “dark side.” Actually, one of the issues I had with this novel was what was considered to cause a smudge on the purity of one’s soul. Yes, being mean and callous and cruel and derogatory would earn you a demerit. That’s fine. But what would ultimately help Dante completing his assignment, namely harvesting Charlie’s (the purest of the purest) soul, would be her having sex. So, sex is bad and will lead you to an eternity in hell? Underage sex? Out-of-wedlock sex? What is the message here? Even if Charlie feels she’s in love with the one she’s having sex with, she’s doing something bad, is being defiled (or letting herself be defiled – because there must be some sort of agency for punishment to be dealt out, right?), is losing her purity and turning evil? I get that Dante is an Agent for evil and will not likely react to meanness with kindness (as illustrated by the retail guy’s hurtful comments about Charlie that Dante punishes with a dark stain on his soul). However, there must be some set of agreed-upon rules that would allow for someone having sex being tantamount to losing a big amount of karma points.
And this hypocrisy and bigotry weren’t the only things that made my brow furrow. There were a number of things that didn’t make sense to me and that kept niggling at me the whole time. The whole time line is one thing. The arch of events takes place over a time of ten days. So much is supposed to happen within these TEN days, relationships develop and deepen, road trips are made, secrets uncovered, and so on and so forth – and it’s a school week, too! There should be such an immediacy but it all feels kind of languid. I also didn’t understand why Dante would be one of only a handful of the devil’s collectors, the master collector who trained the remaining four, no less. Dante himself hasn’t been dead for that long and the devil’s been around for quite some time, last I heard. I would have expected the devil to have some buddies and sidekicks around from way back. Maybe that’s not his style. Maybe collectors have particularly short half-life period or something. Maybe the all turn out like Dante?! There’s a thought. Makes me almost pity the devil. To be honest, though, I’m afraid that this just wasn’t thought through.
Maybe the reasons behind Dante’s meteoric rise among the devil’s ranks will be explained in a later book, but I’m not likely to find out.
I got rather bored reading this. And it was a bit too lovey-dovey for me. I couldn’t even get excited about the big fight scenes. I don’t see myself picking up a second book in this series.