Book Reviews 2015 · Dystopian Books · Young Adult Book Reviews

‘The Book of Ivy’ by Amy Engel

After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.
This year, it is my turn.
My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.
But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.
Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him.

4.75 Stars (Rounded to 5)

I had heard many fantastic things about this dystopian, which was released back in November. ‘The Book of Ivy’ is about a girl forced into an arranged marriage with the president’s son, whose family overpowered hers to take control of the city in the aftermath of the apocalypse. Our eponymous protagonist Ivy has been prepared by her father and sister to gain vital information in order to carry out an assassination on her husband and the president so that her family can gain the power they deserve. This book is not very long at all, and I whizzed through it in a few hours (spread across two days because of lessons and sleep), and I have reached the conclusion that it deserves the hype it is currently receiving, and I cannot wait for the second book.

The first thing to say is that, whilst this plot is not complex, it still makes a good read. The book goes down the route you’d expect it to from the beginning – as soon as Ivy needs to begin plans to kill Bishop, she realises that he is not the monster she was led to believe he was, and she actually rather likes him – however the predictability was not a stopper to my enjoyment. It is worth noting though that this book is not a unique concept, and you should not go into it expecting it to blow your mind – it’s better to have lower expectations.

This book focuses predominantly on Ivy and Bishop’s relationship. I liked the way their relationship panned out – it was definitely not a case of insta-love, and there is a visible progression in Ivy’s feelings. There’s nothing I dislike more than when a character takes one look at somebody and bases their opinion of them on their appearance. Ivy can admit from the beginning that Bishop is an attractive character, and yet it took a very long time for her to develop feelings for him, which is appreciated. I felt chemistry between the pair, and I think that they made a very believable couple (apart from the planned assassination element obviously). Best of all, though, was the fact that even though Ivy did fall in love with Bishop, and their relationship was the central point of the book, at no point does she become dependant on Bishop. Amy Engel understood that many young females have serious issues with a supposedly independent female becoming dependant on her partner, but Ivy never once believes that Bishop is crucial to her survival. In fact, there was a line which greatly won my approval: ‘[my father] taught Callie and me that we had inherent value, that we were fully formed human beings without a boy by our side. For that, I will be forever grateful’. Ivy was grateful for the advice, and I as the reader was also very grateful to see a female YA author pressing that life is not reliant on having a boy who carries us through it. Bravo, Amy Engel.

The book is written in the first person, which I have a love-hate relationship with; I love that it enables you to see deeper into a character’s thoughts, but more often than not first-person protagonists seem far too whiny and unrealistic to me. Thankfully, Engel pulls off the first person narrative when it comes to Ivy’s character. Her thoughts did not come across as overly selfish, miserable or fickle in the same way as many first-person female protagonists, and I could associate with the way in which Ivy thought. She also tended to think about things – be it her actions or what others were telling her – and we see her overcome trust issues and naivety, rather than her being a ‘perfect princess’ from the beginning. Bishop was also a good character. I cheered to discover that he was not the repulsive bad boy lord-of-the-manor I was envisaging him to be. In fact, he was a wholly decent person who actually behaved in a civilised manner and knew how to treat Ivy appropriately. There was even a great deal of depth to some of the secondary roles, such as Bishop’s parents and Ivy’s father, and the addition of the neighbours and their troublesome relationship was genius. On the character front, I thought that the book was a success.

I was planning on giving this book the full 5 stars until about 30 pages from the end. It was a good ending, and it left the book at the perfect stage for the sequel to pick  up, however the ending did not satisfy my own personal wishes. I did not like the actions of Ivy’s father and sister, and while Ivy’s logic was very noble, it was not how I ideally wanted the ending to be, so that did slightly lessen my love for the book.

Overall, I thought that this was a brilliant light read for a fan of YA dystopian, and I was very appreciative of the way Amy Engel portrays her characters and her situation. If you go in expecting little, I think you will come out gaining a lot.

Twitter – @emmathereader

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2 thoughts on “‘The Book of Ivy’ by Amy Engel

  1. Sounds like this book actually has appealing characters! I think I’ll pick it up at some point. It’s refreshing to sometimes read a book knowing it’s not trying to be unique and mind-blowing, as long as it’s done well. Kind of a breather from all the other books out there trying to be original and clever and shocking. I like formula books sometimes. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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