Outcast by Adrienne Cress was a book that wasn’t even on my radar, but when I got an email from BookBub telling me it was only $1 for ebook, I was intrigued by the synopsis
(and the cover). However, even though it had a really promising premise, it did not live up to it’s potential. It went in a different direction than I had been expecting, and the writing really halted the plotline and took stars away.
Riley lives in a stereotypical, all-American, small little Southern town. They attend church regularly, uphold tradition, and have strict expectations for their family members. Everything seems as normal as can be, except for the fact that angels have been terrorizing them for the past six years. They swoop down and, at random, steal members of their town each year. Riley Carver is sixteen, and one year, she’s so fed up with the angels ruining her life that she shoots it. Instead of dying, it turns into a hot, yet naked boy named Gabe. Not only does she have to somehow deal with a random boy, but it turns out he is from the 50s, and doesn’t remember anything from the past half century or so. Expecting a supernatural love story, this actually turns into a creepy revenge-esque story (but the romance is still there).
Something that is really important to me is liking (or at least appreciating) the characters, and Riley just annoyed the heck out of me. The first thing is she was just so whiny. “Ah, the angels ruined my life! Ah, my parents just don’t understand me! Ah, why is Gabe ignoring me?” Some complaining is allowed, but she just. didn’t. stop. Also, she was supposed to be an eccentric and wacky character, but it didn’t feel natural. It felt like she was just given wacky characteristics to say she was “wacky yet relatable”, but it just formed an odd and forced character that I just couldn’t connect to. And lastly, there was the dreaded “chosen one” YA trope. Nothing else to say but ugh.
As for Gabe, I mean, I liked him, but he was just so stereotypical. It was like Kress read the handbook on how to create a typical bad boy and then used all the characteristics on Gabe. He had a Southern drawl, motorcycle, no family, was flirty and charming and a bad influence on Riley. Combined, he’s likable in a bad boy way, but so typical and cliche that he wasn’t exciting.
To continue on the list of cliche characters in a coming of age novel (are we keeping track? There’s the wacky character and the bad boy love interest), we get the mean girl with the redemption arc. To be fair, I actually liked Lacy. She was the only one who seemed real. And ordinarily, I would be all over the redemption arc. They are one of my favorite tropes. But again, just combined with all the other cliche elements of the novel, this was just another note on the list.
To diverge away from the characters, the plot was also a letdown. I got super excited about the suggestion of angel mythology, but this barely even addressed it. The motive behind stealing the town members is very vague and poorly explained, and the town is just so awful! I am a huge fan of small Southern towns, but this town did not look out for each other and were honestly so ignorant of what was happening. They let themselves be basically hypnotized by a sensationalized priest claiming he was an expert on these angels. Like hello, that doesn’t sound fake to anyone else? I was also expecting a lot more of a gradual romance blooming between Riley and Gabe (instead of this cheesy insta-love I received), and was not expecting the whole vengeance plot going on. And it was actually creepy! I, with my weak stomach and cowardice, did not like being surprised by the creepiness.
And then we get to the ending. Everything seemed to work out so perfectly that you just have to role your eyes and think “How convenient”. You can tell the author tried to do one of those bittersweet, non happy endings, but it was so expected by the end of this cliche book that it just felt forced and too perfectly imperfect.
Overall, this was a book I was excited for that ended up being a letdown. I feel no desire to read it again, and don’t feel like there was anything. It was just a book chock full of YA tropes and cliches.
Have you read this book? What is your most dreaded YA trope?