PG-13, revenge-thriller, new-adult novel, suitable for mature teens and adults
Reading Level: New Adult Romance
Release Date: October 10, 2019
Pages: 158 pages
Source: ARC from Booksprout
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Defiance Falls Revolution (DFR) is the second book in a trilogy, and it does not stand alone. The first book, Defiance Falls (DF), ends on a cliffhanger, and this book will not make much sense if DF is not read first. DFR begins immediately after the end of DF, and its events occur across the length of less than a week. Like DF, DFR ends in a cliffhanger, but all plot threads will be tied up at the end of Book 3, Defiance Falls War.
DF is written entirely from the point of view of the heroine, Hazel. However, DFR is written in the dual points of view of both Hazel and Cruz, her love interest, which I personally very much appreciate in a romance story. Hazel is almost 18 and Cruz is just turned 18.
In this book we receive answers to all of Hazel’s burning questions from DF, and the main conflict with a powerful set of mafia-like villains, who were introduced in DF, is massively increased and complicated in DFR. In addition, Hazel’s relationship with Cruz is solidified, and their interactions remain intensely passionate. The same cast of characters from DF are also in DFR, with a few new characters introduced on the evil-villain side of the equation.
I personally would classify this novel as PG-13. It is possible to claim that this book is Young Adult (YA), which is the genre in which this author has always written before now, by asserting that it fits into the YA, social-drama subgenre described by mainstream publishers as “edgy” and “gritty.” Many such YA novels incorporate, as this novel does, coarse language, underage drinking, drunkenness and drug use, moderately explicit sex scenes, and overt violence. However, I believe it might be more accurate to categorize this novel as New Adult (NA) for these reasons: The main characters are either legally adults at age 18, or very close to 18, and in any state in the USA would be tried as adults if charged with a crime. They consistently act with the autonomy of adults, and they illegally carry and brandish unlicensed firearms.
There is a strong focus in this book on aspects of two very popular, storytelling genres. These include: romantic suspense and a subgenre of action-adventure, the revenge thriller, also referred to as a vigilante or vendetta plot. In a revenge-thriller plot, the revenge that the protagonists pursue against their enemies, especially with a female protagonist, tends to be proportionate in an “eye for an eye” type of way. But sometimes the revenge so far exceeds the violence of the original crime committed against the protagonist by the villain, that the protagonist slides away from being “heroic” and into the category of “anti-hero.” A lack of such proportionality is very much the case in the brutal climax of this book.
Personally, vengeful violence, even if proportional, is always a bit much for me to take, because I am rather squeamish. For that reason, a vigilante novel is something I read rarely, and only when written by truly outstanding authors. Which is why I was willing to read DFR, because I am a big fan of Ali Dean’s YA sports romances. Unfortunately, in addition to finding some of the DFR violence difficult to witness, I was personally uncomfortable with the linking of the sexual passion between Hazel and Cruz with their mutual, vengeful blood lust. However, I do realize that this latter plot device can be quite common, and popular with many readers, in romance subplots in the urban fantasy genre, especially in shapeshifter, demon and vampire novels. I also freely admit that true fans of revenge stories might actually consider this novel’s vengeful violence to lie on the “tamer” end of the continuum of the type of violence which routinely occurs in classic vigilante plots.
One last, personal pique of mine is this: I find the unchallenged, pious claim of “virginity” coming from a significant character in this book, who freely admits to having engaged in unprotected, mutual, oral sex with multiple partners, to be the height of self-delusion and hypocrisy. Oral sex is, in fact, sex. It is extremely heteronormative to assume that only the insertion of a penis into a vagina constitutes sex. In addition, though unprotected oral sex does not cause pregnancy, it can definitely spread sexually transmitted diseases. However, once again, I admit that including unprotected oral sex in the sexual history of romance protagonists is a fairly frequent occurrence in NA romances in general, though this book’s inclusion of the “technical virgin” claim is the first I’ve personally seen in a YA or NA novel.
Those personal quibbles aside, however, as always, Ali Dean writes compelling characters in exciting situations in all her books, including this one, and she is an excellent writer in general. Her books are also, without fail, well edited, well formatted, and contain lovely covers, and DFR is no exception in that regard either.
Note: I received an ARC of this novel from Booksprout.
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 5
Revenge-Thriller, Anti-Hero Plot: 3