BOOK REPORT for Unnatural Deeds by Cyn Balog

Cover Story: Every Rose Has Its Thorn
BFF Charm: Nay
Swoonworthy Scale: 5
Talky Talk: Kiss Me Deadly
Bonus Factor: Unreliable Narrator
Anti-Bonus Factor: Awful Grownups
Relationship Status: You Give Love A Bad Name

Cover Story: Every Rose Has Its Thorn

I LOVE this cover. It manages to be both creepy and beautiful—the tiny blood spatter and rusty scissors alongside the tag line are just enough to convey that this is a mystery/thriller. Well done, cover designer!

The Deal:

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We all know that guy—the effortlessly popular, good-looking one who instantly wraps everyone around his finger. It’s not surprising that Vic falls under his spell, too. Z (short for Zachary Zimmerman) is a new-kid enigma, and he shows just enough interest in Vic that she’ll follow him to the ends of the earth. Sure, she’s got a boyfriend—agoraphobic, homeschooled, literal boy-next-door Andrew—but Vic keeps finding herself spending more and more time in Z’s company. It’s an obsession, and she’s not sure if her feelings are returned. All Vic knows is that she’ll do practically anything to keep him…

BFF Charm: Nay

Getting to know someone in the middle of their all-consuming obsession is generally not the best time, and Vic is no exception. She doesn’t seem to have any life or even hobbies outside of her love interests, and she definitely doesn’t have any female friends either here or at her old school. Part of this is because she has debilitating anxiety, which makes her character sympathetic, but part is because she doesn’t care to exist outside of Z.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

High school is that perfect time for unrelenting crushes/obsessions, where every look and gesture is analyzed to death. I’ve been there, and I bet you have, too—so that part of the book is completely relatable. On the other hand, Z is the living embodiment of a red flag. Red flags aren’t just waving. They have pulled a Beyonce, got in formation, and are marching on Vic’s house.

AND YET. There are a few sexy scenes in here, in which you know nothing good is going to come of it all, but it sounds pretty fun anyway.

Talky Talk: Kiss Me Deadly

Cyn Balog has chosen to write Vic’s story as if Vic is talking to Andrew—initially, the use of “you” and “us” made for a slow start, but as Vic gets into the meatier parts, it flows. Vic’s story is juxtaposed against newspaper clippings and interviews with her classmates, which keeps the reader off-balance—who’s lying? Why? 

It’s a page-turner, to be sure, and although you know something is off, the exact details are unclear until the end. (It’s to Balog’s credit that the big reveal actually was fairly revelatory.)

Bonus Factor: Unreliable Narrator 

I love books with unreliable narrators, especially when they leave you questioning everything you just read. Even if you guess at the ending ahead of time, I found myself more interested in how the ending changed what I knew about the characters, rather than the plot. 

Anti-Bonus Factor: Awful Grownups  

This book is peppered with awful grownups, from Andrew’s parents to Z’s lack of them. Vic’s parents are concerned about her relationship with Z (they seem to be on top of her anxiety and medication, for the most part), but apparently not so concerned that they intervene. GET THESE KIDS SOME HELP.

Casting Call:

Mia Wasikowska as Vic

Mia is so good at playing creepy, haunted characters—she might be a little old for Vic now, but I kept picturing a young version of her throughout the book. 

Cruel Intentions-era Ryan Phillipe as Z

Relationship Status: You Give Love A Bad Name

Book, our date was as mysterious and creepy as Z himself—I knew something was terribly wrong, but you kept me guessing until the end. If it’s all the same to you, though, I think I’m going to back away slowly before I suffer the same fates of your characters…

Unnatural Deeds is available now. 

Jennie lives in San Francisco and has an excessive fondness for historical fiction, spreadsheets, turquoise sparkly things, and bourbon. When she’s not reading, writing, or writing about reading, she cooks obsessively, runs an Etsy shop, and thrifts for vintage everything.