Monday, 25 June 2012

List Review: Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins

Rating: 3/5
Release date: 1 May 2012
Published by: HarperTeen
Goodreads | Amazon
Summary (Taken from Goodreads):

What if there were teens whose lives literally depended on being bad influences?
This is the reality for sons and daughters of fallen angels.

Tenderhearted Southern girl Anna Whitt was born with the sixth sense to see and feel emotions of other people. She’s aware of a struggle within herself, an inexplicable pull toward danger, but Anna, the ultimate good girl, has always had the advantage of her angel side to balance the darkness within. 

It isn’t until she turns sixteen and meets the alluring Kaidan Rowe that she discovers her terrifying heritage and her willpower is put to the test. He’s the boy your daddy warned you about. If only someone had warned Anna.

Forced to face her destiny, will Anna embrace her halo or her horns?

First, a shout out to Jennifer at Dream Reads for convincing me to read this through her great Dreamcast post, and her uncanny ability to match actors with characters! 

This was a fast-paced, entertaining read, and its title is apt: like candy, Sweet Evil is the kind of book you can't help but enjoy despite its flaws. A couple of thoughts:

1. WORLD-BUILDING:  Aside from Unearthly and Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I can't think of any other angel books I've read, so I'm admittedly not too familiar with what's been done before in the realm of YA, but Higgins has definitely written an interesting take on angels and demons. In Sweet Evil, Nephilim are half-demon, half-human offspring of the Dukes, who each represent cardinal sins. Kaidan Rowe, the love interest, is (of course) the son of the Duke of Lust. Without giving too much away, the Nephilim are meant to further each Duke's purpose by tempting those around them and driving them to sin. Kaidan's job is therefore to seduce people. Hence, "what if there were teens whose lives literally depended on being bad influences"? Higgins has created a really interesting demon hierarchy, and I was glad to see that she explored some of the tension that a hierarchy naturally creates.

2. NEPHILIM: These tensions were exemplified through Kaidan and the other Nephilim. They are teenagers who have been born with a considerable degree of power in their respective areas of 'expertise', yet these powers are also their greatest weakness. (Semi-spoiler) Toward the end of the book, there is a rather disturbing scene where we witness what happens when the Nephilim succumb to their Sin, and the punishment is severe. They walk a dangerous line, made harder by the fact that they are suffering for the mistakes of their fathers, and have grown up knowing that they are damned to Hell simply for being born to a Duke. I was glad that Higgins made these struggles evident, and it added a lot of needed depth to Kaidan, and set up backgrounds for the other Nephilim. When we meet the others we already know a little bit of their story, and so, when they act shallow or cruel, we know that there is at least this one thing that they are all plagued by, and they are automatically spared the label of 'one-dimensional'.

3. KAIDAN ROWE: Kaidan is a half-demon British drummer with intensely blue eyes. As the son of the Duke of Lust, he is indescribably hot and charismatic, and all the girls flock to him. I was admittedly skeptical of this absurdly clichéd description, but... Higgins really pulls it off. Kaidan is HOT, and him and Anna have a palpable chemistry. I found myself fangirling over their scenes and forgetting some his more ridiculous aspects: the whole drummer gig he has going on felt kind of thrown in there as a convenient way to get him and Anna to meet through a non-stop slew of band gigs and random house parties, and after they meet, it's sort of awkwardly dropped. I would have liked to have this part of him fleshed out a bit more and have him at least mention a love of music or something more often, but again, Higgins makes this very easy to ignore!

4. THE PLOT: What I didn't particularly like was the story itself, or lack thereof. Which is... kind of important. Higgins delivered great, original world-building and concepts, some nice internal struggle and tension amongst the demons, and a hot love interest, but when I think back on what this book actually is ABOUT, it's really hard to say. There are hints at a future war between the demons and the angels. There are hints at Satan leading an uprising. There are hints at the Duke of Lust punishing Anna  or coming in-between her and Kai in some way. None of these things actually happen, though, so all we're left with is a string of hints, threats, and build-up to what will probably be major conflicts in the upcoming books in the series. The Dukes and the Legionnaires (demon spirits) are scary, sure, but they don't actually DO much until the end. There is no obvious key villain or antagonist, just hints at one. So what was this actually about?

5. ANNA: Presumably, this should then be a story about Anna's inner struggle as she tries to find a balance between her conflicting sides (she is different from the other Nephilim in that she is half-Angel, half-Demon). This is certainly what the book's summary indicates: "Forced to face her destiny, will Anna embrace her halo or her horns?" What's baffling is that there didn't seem to be much of a struggle or choice to be made at all. It wasn't a problem for ANNA, it was merely an annoyance to the other demons, who constantly mention how Anna's 'starburst' is swirled with white, and (weirdly) how she's still a virgin and an embarrassment to the Neph. The one time she chooses to embrace her darker side in a bar, she feels a bit of guilt but continues the next morning perfectly undisturbed. It doesn't seem to affect her at all, and she is sweet and 'good' throughout the book with little internal conflict or emotional distress. Her main concerns are really her adoptive mother, Patti, and her separation from Kaidan. In the end, while we're meant to assume she has chosen a certain path, it is not really made clear, and we don't see the surely difficult deliberation that leads up to her choice.

Overall, I found this to be a really fun, entertaining read that lacked any distinct conflict and resolution as a story in itself but nicely set up the world and potential conflicts for the sequels. It felt like a prolonged introduction or first act that held my interest purely through Kaidan and Anna's addictive chemistry as we follow them and their friends as they go to parties, avoid their parents and try to make people do bad things. A total guilty pleasure.

Sometimes, this is exactly the kind of thing you want to read though, and I'll definitely be reading the sequels. Sweet Evil is a fast-paced, easy read, if you can overlook the bad! 

Side note: Is it just me, or does the name 'Kai' seem to be very popular amongst 2012 debuts? In the past few books I've read there is a weird amount of crossover in the names:
  • The Gathering Dark: Mal 
  • Cinder: Prince Kai 
  • For Darkness Shows the Stars: Mal + Kai = MALEKAI
  • Sweet Evil: Kaidan
A pretty cool coincidence... or conspiracy; who knows? :)


  1. I've been waffling back and forth on whether or not I should read this one! I honestly haven't had a whole lot of luck with most of the angel books I've tried so far, but I don't want to swear off the sub-genre as a whole either. Maybe if I see Sweet Evil at the library, I'll pick it up.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :)

    1. This was definitely a guilty pleasure read for me! I think you have to be in the right mood. On another day I think I may have been a lot less forgiving. Definitely a borrow rather than a buy though, just to be safe. :)

    2. I also waffled about this book! Your comment " I was admittedly skeptical of this absurdly clichéd description, but... " = HILARIOUS.

      I have to say, I just read Shift by Jeri Ready-Smith and felt the same way regarding awesome world building vs. so-so plot development. That is the worst, when there is such a cool foundation that doesn't really go anywhere.

      Great review! I might have to add this to my guilty pleasure list, too :-)

    3. Hahah thank you, Grad Student! Ooh, I haven't read the first book in that series so I haven't gotten to Shift, but argh that's so disappointing to hear, because it was on my radar. Such a waste. :(

      If you ever read Sweet Evil let me know what you think and PLEASE do a review because your reviews are hilarious!

  2. I have a weakness for angel books. This has gotten some mixed reviews but I still want to read it! Beautiful review, Lauren. :)

    1. Thanks!! I can definitely see why people might not like it, but it was exactly the kind of book I felt like reading! Kind of cheesy and ridiculous at times but just plain fun. Definitely don't read it if you're in the mood for something really heavy or life-altering, hehe. :) Let me know what you think!

  3. Lauren!!!!

    What an amazing review. I just loved how you deconstructed everything and analyzed it. I need more Kai Rowe in my life, haha.

    And thanks so much for the awesome shout-out. Blog blushing right now at your comment about my dreamcast posts. Totally made my day :)

    Oh, and about the name Kai. Soooo true. I was just thinking that the other day and saying to myself: "hmmmm, I've never seen the name Kai before but now it seems to be in every 2012 YA debut" - hahaha. Great minds think alike ;) LOL :)


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