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Book Review: Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz

I have such mixed feelings when it comes to this book. I tried to be as coherent in my review as possible, but I’m not sure how successful I was.

This is just one of the 38539384 books titled “Spellbound” this year… ;)

Title & Author: Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz

Genre: YA with some Fantasy

Release Date: June 21, 2011

Series: Standalone novel with forthcoming companion books

Publisher: HarlequinTeen

How I Got the Book: e-ARC

Description:

What’s a girl to do when meeting The One means she’s cursed to die a horrible death?

Life hasn’t been easy on sixteen-year-old Emma Conner, so a new start in New York may be just the change she needs. But the posh Upper East Side prep school she has to attend? Not so much. Friendly faces are few and far between, except for one that she’s irresistibly drawn to—Brendan Salinger, the guy with the rock-star good looks and the richest kid in school, who might just be her very own white knight.

But even when Brendan inexplicably turns cold, Emma can’t stop staring. Ever since she laid eyes on him, strange things have been happening. Streetlamps go out wherever she walks, and Emma’s been having the oddest dreams: visions of herself in past lives—visions that warn her to stay away from Brendan. Or else.”

Sassy Writing & Hugable Characters

Spellbound is a tough book to review. It had some really great moments peppered with some serious teen angst and a few elements that were just plain hard to stomach.

Let’s start with the good stuff: I really enjoyed the characters in this novel. Emma’s had a hard past- both her mother and brother passed away (at different times, from different causes), which left Emma stuck with her abusive, alcoholic stepdad. After a car accident that almost killed her, Emma decides she’s had enough of her awful stepdad and moves in with her aunt in New York.

Initially, Emma’s emotionally closed off and with good reason (see the description above). She finds refuge in her her younger cousin Ashley, who is really sweet and kind to Emma. Plus, Ashley guides Emma through her first days at the snooty, private school that they both attend.

Emma is a protective and kind  person, and it really shows with her cousin. Ashley’s a great side kick, too: she’s spunky, cute and wise beyond her years…well, with some things (that I will not reveal due to their spoiler-ness). :)

Another thing I really loved was Shultz’ writing style. It was really easy to read and was filled with funny observations. Although Emma isn’t an outspoken character, she sticks up for herself and says some pretty bold things.

Like this- Emma’s thoughts on a mean girl at school:

“No, I’m fine. Don’t even try to think about me.” She [mean girl] bared a row of perfectly straight, bleached-white teeth that stood out in her fake-tanned face. White and orange, orange and white. This girl looked like a Creamsicle.”

Would you check out that sass??? Love it!!

A Mixed Bag

It’s when Emma meets Brendan that things went a little downhill for me. The closed off girl you meet in the beginning chapters can’t help but be intrigued by the aloof, dark-haired cutie, and Emma begins to melt. Her intense fear of letting people in and trusting others simply fades. Overnight.

This is explained further in the book, but it still didn’t sit right with me. Between this novel, Twilight, The Iron Witch and others, I can’t help but feel a little frustrated with the almost instant attraction and feelings of deep love between characters in YA books. I mean, Spellbound has a good reason attached to the whole “insta-love” thing, but it sort of took away from the reading experience instead of adding something to it.

Also, I would definitely classify this book as “fantasy lite.” The magic aspect of this book is barely touched on. There is a whole interesting story behind the intense connection between Emma and Brendan, but the exact “why’s and how’s” aren’t developed.

Plus, Emma supposedly has all these really awesome powers, but she’s too busy making out with Brendan to care! And, you never really find out about them at all! Agh, so killer!

Please Note: I’m not sure if there will be a straight-up sequel to Spellbound or if there’s going to be companion novels with other characters from the book (like Emma’s friend Angelique). Maybe some of my problems with the lack of explanation about Emma’s powers will be explained there. (??)

Overall

Although I did enjoy Spellbound, there were a few world-building and relationship issues that kept me from truly loving this book. This novel was a fun, light read, and though it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, I think other readers may connect with it a bit better.

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.