Isabel is the girl who rules the school with an iron fist and a gang of minions who do her bidding. Her friends are scared of her, her teachers can't get through to her, and that's just the way she likes it. With her razor-sharp edges and tall walls, nothing gets to Isabel and no one, but no one, is ever going to discover her dark, sad secrets. Then she meets Smith. And Isabel learns that sometimes when all the expectations and pressures are too much, you just need someone to help you get lost.So here’s the thing. Isabel isn’t really a likeable character. Like, at all. She’s sarcastic and bitchy and closed off and frustrating. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But the thing is, despite all that, I cared about her. Even when I was at the point where I was going to chuck the book across the room if she did one more selfish or self-destructive thing, I sympathized with her. Her emotional pain was so obvious, and while that didn’t make her any less frustrating of a character, it made me want to read through to the end to make sure that poor girl got some resolution. And man, does the author make you work for that resolution. Isabel doesn’t budge an inch or let go of one ounce of her steely control for, like, 98 percent of the book. So when she finally does, oh my goodness does it feel worth it. I felt like a giant weight was taken off my shoulders as well as Isabel’s.
Isabel’s relationship with Smith I’m a little meh about. I appreciated that he was the one person Isabel felt safe around and the one person willing to call out Isabel on all her crap, but Smith remained a little too one dimensional for my taste. I think the book was so centered on the development and slow revelation of Isabel’s character that Smith’s character development fell by the wayside. As a result, I never felt like I truly got to know him.
Overall, though Isabel pushed my patience almost to the breaking point, I just couldn’t give up on her and her story. I didn’t want to. Which is the thing that I kinda really adore about Sarra Manning’s books. That ability to keep me invested in characters I don’t relate to much at all.
Rating: 3.5 / 5