REVIEW: Branded by Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki

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Rating: 4 stars

One of the things that I admire most about YA dystopian authors is that they create a world from nothing. A world with different rules, codes, morals and way of life than what you or I live by in today’s world. This is the biggest reason why I love these types of books. I am a self-professed lover of YA dystopian books because I am utterly fascinated with the concept that the future of our world is still undecided and our society could change in a blink of an eye.

I knew I wanted to read this book as soon as I read the synopsis. Lexi Hamilton has been falsely accused and arrested. But in this world, the world she lives in, there is no innocence until proven guilty, there is no trial. Instead, as soon as the accusation was made she was arrested and branded with the deadly sin of LUST. At the time of her arrest you don’t know what she has done to deserve such an accusation, but you do know that she’s been sentenced to live the rest of her life in The Hole.

Lexi has a past that haunts her. Something happened between her and her stepfather, which led to her being accused of being a sinner. You do not find out the details of her past until towards the end of the book, but once you do find out you cannot help but respect Lexi and her decisions to guard the truth of her past with her life.

“What I don’t tell him is that I’m fighting a major battle within myself over him. It’s a hopeless war, but it rages on, giving me a headache. To trust or not to trust?” ~Lexi

The Hole is the place where all the sinners go once they are branded. They are given a job and expected to sleep, go to work and then go back to their room. It is described as being similar to a prison. Bottom line…being sent to the Hole is one of the worst things that could happen and your life is over once you are sent there. Guards are assigned to sinners at the beginning and then serve to patrol the grounds in The Hole.

Guards have been known to be horrible to the sinners they are assigned to. Female sinners are usually raped and/or beaten by the guards so it is by pure luck that Lexi is assigned to Cole. At first Cole is completely stand offish and very terse with Lexi. He is never mean or rough with her yet he makes it a point to try and maintain his distance.

“No matter how hard I try to hate you or be disgusted, the opposite happens. You’re like my magnet. You pull me in, but when I get too close, it takes everything I have to remain at a safe distance.” ~ Cole

There is a chemistry and attraction flowing between Cole and Lexi, but what the authors did, which I think was brilliant, was minimize this feeling for Lexi at first. For almost the first half of the book, you were left knowing they had some sort of feelings for one another, but it was not the focus. The focus remained on Lexi dealing with her new life in The Hole and as a sinner.

Downplaying their feelings for one another was also a good reason because of the consequences of anyone every finding out about their relationship, whatever it was. As a reader, we are given the opportunity of seeing what exactly happens when a guard falls in love with a sinner. It was heartbreaking and really made an impact on Lexi that stayed with her throughout the book. You could totally tell that both of them were fighting their feelings tooth and nail. As crazy as it sounds, they didn’t want to have these feelings for each other.

“What am I thinking, allowing myself these feelings when they can’t go anywhere?” ~ Lexi

“I have orders that I have to follow. If I follow them, I’ll lose you. If I don’t, I’ll be executed and then you’ll lose me. Either way, I’m screwed and so are you. Damn it, you’ve complicated everything.” ~ Cole

The thing that caught me off guard was that once Cole and Lexi confessed their feelings for one another, Cole became openly affectionate and verbose about his feelings for her, even in front of other people. At times I wondered where that came from especially when he spent the first part of the book, trying to deny and suppress his feelings. It just kind of came out of left field for me since he never behaved that way before and then one day he just started to.

I loved the supporting characters in this book. Sutton, Bruno, Zeus and Alyssa. In addition to Cole, they are the rocks that make Lexi’s world bearable. I loved the personal attachments that Lexi formed which each and every one of them and how they reciprocated her feelings despite the fact that she is branded a ‘whore’.

Ironically, I loved everything about this book up until Lexi breaks free from her Hole assignment. As her relationship with Cole is outed, Cole takes Lexi into hiding to someone from her past and who would protect her. Once Lexi got to the rebellion, the story lost me slightly.

At about 75% into the book, a lot seems to take place and a lot of information was thrown at me. I was bothered by how the leader of this sector of the rebellion was openly hostile to Cole and his relationship with Lexi, despite everything that Lexi had told him. I was annoyed by how the leader exercised control and dominance over Lexi and how Lexi let him out of loyalty. I did not like the leader really at all – he was a bit of an ass and I never really warmed up to him.

I did feel like the last 25% of the book was a bit rushed. A lot of important events seemed to happen all at once and it was a lot to take in in such a short amount of time. Once I finished, I didn’t really know how I felt about the turn of the events. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love how the book ended.

The ending of this book felt like it could’ve been the ending of Lexi’s story. There is no cliffhanger and there is a sense of happily ever after. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that this is not the last of Lexi and Cole and I really hope not. I would love to revisit them to see what happens in the future.

Ultimately, I loved Lexi. She was the driving force behind this book and throughout the book I was able to understand where she was coming from and how she was feeling. She grew into a strong, driven woman with one purpose – to be free. The authors did a fantastic job making her a girl just trying to survive – not someone who was caught up in feelings for her guard or someone with a chip on her shoulder.

And Cole. I knew he was different from other guards the moment he entered Lexi’s life. He does everything in his power to protect Lexi and this is even before any feelings were revealed. I loved the passion he had in him – it came out in his words and actions and I never once doubted his devotion to Lexi.

“You are not allowed to leave me. If you die, I die – right?” ~ Lexi

I absolutely recommend that you read this book, just for the mere fact that this world that the authors created is such a novel concept and idea that you don’t want to miss. It is such a fascinating story that I know will go places and I can’t wait to see where the Sinners Series takes me.

4.5 stars for first 75% of book
3.5 stars for last 25% of book

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Excerpt: Chapter One

I’m buried six feet under, and no one hears my screams.

The rope chafes as I loop it around my neck. I pull down on it, making sure the knot is secure. It seems sturdy enough.

My legs shake. My heart beats heavy in my throat. Sweat pours down my back.

Death and I glare at each other through my tears.

I take one last look at the crystal chandelier, the foyer outlined with mirrors, and the flawless decorations. No photographs adorn the walls. No happy memories here.

I’m ready to go. On the count of three.

I inhale, preparing myself for the finality of it all. Dropping my hands, a glimmer catches my eye. It’s my ring, the last precious gift my father gave me. I twist it around to read the inscription. Picturing his face forces me to reconsider my choice. He’d be heartbroken if he could see me now.

A door slams in the hallway, almost causing me to lose my balance. My thoughts already muddled, I stand, waiting with the rope around my neck. Voices I don’t recognize creep through the walls.

Curiosity overshadows my current thoughts. It’s late at night, and this is a secure building in High Society. No one disturbs the peace here—ever. I tug on the noose and pull it back over my head.

Peering through the eyehole in our doorway, I see a large group of armed guards banging on my neighbors’ door. A heated conversation ensues, and my neighbors point toward my family’s home.

It hits me. I’ve been accused and they’re here to arrest me.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF CHAPTER ONE OF BRANDED

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Purchase Links

AMAZON Kindle ➤ http://amzn.to/12iH51a

AMAZON Paperback ➤ http://amzn.to/150HnfZ

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About Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki

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Abi and Missy met in the summer of 1999 at college orientation and have been best friends ever since. After college, they added jobs, husbands and kids to their lives, but they still found time for their friendship. Instead of hanging out on weekends, they went to dinner once a month and reviewed books. What started out as an enjoyable hobby has now become an incredible adventure.

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

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