Vicious by V.E. Schwab: A book review by Panda

Cover of Vicious by V.E. Schwab

This was A VERY GOOD BOOK. My grade for it is 9/10. 90%. A.

It was good; it could have been better. Let me break it down for you:

This book was like a text version of a comic book. It was wonderful. I enjoyed every second of it. It is a gritty story and worth the “new price” I paid for it. You need to know that it reads like a comic book world going in. It will make more sense if you digest it that way. Don’t think of it as exactly our world.

I would classify this book as a New Adult book. I know there is a lot of bitching from the publishing industry saying that NA can only be about Romance and directed at girls in the range of 17 to 20-somethings. But they are wrong. This is a New Adult book. Not for teens. Not necessarily for adults. It is about two college-aged boys (who grow up later on in the story; the focus is on them as “new adults,” really). This is what the industry should be backing when they talk about New Adult. Books like this. A book that uses the f-bomb and deals with mature content YET ISN’T JUST ABOUT SEX – a book teens would like but one that college-goers would most identify with. The target gender of this book could go either way – boy or girl. The main characters are two boys, yet there are two very interesting female characters.

I would summarize the book like this: Two college boys – Victor and Eli – figure out what it takes to give a human superpowers: near death experiences. They both (basically) commit suicide with the other person around so that they can be resuscitated and have powers. They are, essentially, superhumans – what Schwab calls “ExtraOrdinaries.” The second half of the book is actually better than the first. The first is a bit hard to accept because the way Schwab explains the boys’ interest in EOs is not necessarily logical. But, you know, it’s that whole comic book as a novel thing. Also, another problem with the first half is that Eli is a religious nut that later wants to kill all EOs because he thinks God wants him too.

This brings me to how the book could have been better. Eli thinks that because his power is one that keeps him immortal (and ageless) – an introverted power (whatever that even means) – that God is OK with him being an EO. See, before he committed quasi-suicide he asked God to, I guess, “bless” what he’s about to do. But then when Victor accidentally kills his girlfriend when he is going through his own EO change he suddenly thinks all EOs need to die – and that God wants it that way. This is what I had the biggest problem with. The story could have been better if, for example, Eli had the conception of “God creates monsters to kill monsters.” Because then Eli’s personal perception of himself would have been more logical; his vendetta against EOs would have made more sense. But that’s not what you get from the novel.

Really, he has no reason to hate EOs. He only has a reason to hate Victor – the one person who killed his girlfriend. If Schwab wanted me to feel sorry for Eli/to sympathize with Eli (which would have made for a better book, because who doesn’t love feeling sorry for the villains?) then she should have made his reasoning better. He just came off as a psycho nut job, which didn’t give Victor someone really cool to fight against (not that he doesn’t have someone cool to “fight” in the book – the character Serena is amazing. I love her. She’s perfect in every structural way, but she rests on the shoulders of Eli who just is NOT strong as a foundational character). It is because of Eli’s poor character development that the whole book barely makes it to my A grade status. But thankfully, Schwab really pulls it together in the end. Victor is a redeemable character, but there are no real good guys. Exactly what I like in a novel!

The lowdown: Though this is an A book and worth the read, I’m debating on whether or not it has a “changed my life” status. I will definitely read the sequel if there is one (please let there be one!).


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