Love-struck teens go to hell and back in this sequel.
After some cursory interactions with her clichéd friends (an angry lesbian and goofy white rapper) and remaining family (her unnamed, weary, now-single mother and oddly toddlerlike 8-year-old brother), Zoe Bissell eagerly trades her humdrum small-town Montana life for more whirlwind romance with 20-year-old brooding, soul-stealing bounty hunter X. Adorkable white teen Zoe undertakes some research then literally plunges into the underworld in pursuit of X. Meanwhile, X—the only living and innocent person in the purgatorial Lowlands—seeks his long-missing mother. X’s MacGuffin-laden quest drags readers across a repulsively and randomly violent Dante’s Inferno rip-off world with all the internal (il)logic and randomly shirtless men of an Old Spice commercial. Secondary characters present as homicidal trading card stats, stereotypes spouting cringeworthy dialogue: the fat, placid, Asian Buddhist; the Cold-War-cartoon “Russian” (who is actually Ukrainian); and the antagonist whose villainy is indicated by inappropriate use of all-caps. Even inexplicably infatuated lovers X and Zoe suffer from cliché, with X’s oddly formal speech and Zoe’s babbling and klutziness. Serious issues like mental illness, domestic violence, and abuse are raised, ham-handedly used to humanize the damned Lowlanders, and then roughly dismissed. The story crams together clichéd YA trends without appreciation for craft, substance, or sympathetic characters.
Fervent fans may be satisfied, but newcomers should be steered to better options (or wait for the inevitable movie). (Fantasy. 14-18)