Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins

After Monday's post about failing to connect with a book, I figured I would post a review from another book I read last year that I felt unsettled about, but for a very different reason than Seraphina. Although I found the concept to be fascinating, the characters in Sweet Evil made me extremely uncomfortable. This time, I don't think my opinion would change on a re-read. Even so, I'm fascinated enough that I will probably read book 2. 

Sweet Evil
by Wendy Higgins 
Read: May 2012
Published: May 1, 2012 by HarperTeen
Source: Library book
Category: Paranormal Romance(?) YA

Embrace the Forbidden

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? (From Goodreads)

Sweet Evil is one of several angel/demon books that I read last year. Although it wasn't my favorite, the book definitely stood out because of how many emotions it brought out of me. I'm still thinking about it even now almost a year after I read it. Sweet Evil fascinated me, made me nervous and uncomfortable, want to cry, and yes, I swooned a bit too (much to my dismay). The concept of the children of demons being groomed to follow in their fathers’ “work,” and then sent out into the world to negatively influence others is very intriguing. I appreciated the lengths that the author went through to tell her story, which made it both more authentic and also a difficult concept to digest. 

There is a lot of ugly in the world done by and to people, and this author doesn’t shy away from describing it in her story. The way the world works in Sweet Evil actually reminded me a bit of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, which is all about an older demon showing a younger one how to influence humans subtly. That is exactly what the demons in this book are taught, find a susceptible person and exploit their weakness. Or quietly create one in them. In order to portray this behavior, t
he characters in Sweet Evil were put in some very difficult situations, some of which made me feel very uncomfortable. But they also made me think a lot about how I would react if I were one of them, and about good and evil and human nature in general.  

Anna is the narrator for the story, and the start of the book she is very sheltered and naive about the world. The very definition of a 'good girl.'  I enjoyed watching her discover who she was and begin to stand up for herself and her beliefs. I actually connected to Anna a bit in the beginning of the book, because I was similar in high school. I could especially relate to her feelings about some of the things that she experiences. She struggles a lot in this story with who she is, and what kind of person she's supposed to be - and wants to become. However, I know that many people had trouble with Anna's sheltered nature. Not everyone identifies with this type of character. Also, the further I got into the story, the less I connected to her, and the more uncomfortable her behavior made me. 

I think what was hardest for me to handle where Anna is concerned, is her relationship with Kaiden (Ky-den). Kaiden is the son of a demon, and has been raised all of his life to do the work of his father - and his particular specialty is lust. It is not an exaggeration to say that Kai's behavior/work is somewhere between a male prostitute and a sexual predator. I get what the author was trying to do with this book, and the boundaries she pushed with the character’s actions, but it was really hard for me to read about his growing 'relationship' with Anna, especially in terms of how much she fell for him, all the while he was 'working.' 

I wish there had been more of something to make me less uncomfortable with how much Anna loved/trusted Kaiden. Anna keeps telling the reader that they care about each other, but I didn’t really believe it from him. It would have been helpful to hear from Kaiden's POV, because I wasn’t as confident as Anna was on his feelings for her.* Although there are some things that happen that do give an insight into how he feels about her, most of his behavior doesn’t change enough for me to root for him (for her) at this point. Let me spell out what I mean by this: Kaiden is continuing his "work" for his father, all throughout this book, and he is very good at getting people to fall for him. So it was hard for me to distinguish that behavior from how he was acting towards Anna. I know many people love the ultimate bad boy, but Kai took it a bit too far for comfort level. 

For his credit, Kai does warn Anna about who he is, and she ignores it. She definitely comes across as suffering from a bad case of wanting to save the bad boy from himself. This is where she began to get on my nerves. Kaiden is the epitome of a bad boy, and it is clear that he enjoys what he does and that he's good at. Even so, there is definitely something sad and tragic about his life, which he has little control over. There were also moments where I could see him begin to want something else. Still, I didn’t see enough redeemable about him in this story to root for him for Anna, and I honestly cringed during most of the swoon scenes. However, I see a lot of potential in Kai. Also, I know that my issues with him will not bother everyone. You might end this book completely pro-Kaiden.

Although they made me think the most, Anna and Kaiden are not the only people we meet in Sweet Evil. The story is filled with a lot of other intriguing characters. I especially liked Kopano, and I hope we get more from Anna's dad. For the most part, the plot worked for me, in the scheme of the world Wendy Higgins created. However there were a few choices made by characters that seemed to happen because the author wanted to force the story in a certain direction, and not because it was natural for them. This made the storyline feel forced and unnatural in places. 

If I could sum up this book for me I would use the word uncomfortable. Even so, I want to find out what happens next, so I'll most likely read Sweet Peril when it comes out next month.

NOTE: Sweet Evil is screaming for a good discussion. However, they are heavy topics so I would personally recommend it for an older/mature YA audience. 

Love Triangle Factor: From Anna's POV: Mild. From Kaiden's: ???? It's complicated.
Cliffhanger Scale: Low-Medium (this one really depends on your perspective)

*Since the book was published, the author has posted at least two Kaiden POV scenes from Sweet Evil. They have given a glimpse of insight into him and that has helped me understand his feelings for Anna better. 


  1. Honestly, sometimes I think we need to read books that push us into an "uncomfortable" place, however, I don't mean to say that things like sexual deviancy or predatorial behavior is okay. What I mean is that, I like books to challenge my beliefs and perceptions about what is right and wrong. I do think there's a gray area and books that sort of walk that line and leave you questioning motivations, intentions and the way of life can sometimes be a good thing. It might not make for the most enjoyable reading experience but it makes for a memorable one at the very least (which seems to be true with Sweet Evil).

    It sounds like Anna is quite the frustrating character, however, her actions do come across as believable to me. She falls for this bad boy whose known talent is making women fall for him and, yet, she makes excuses for it. Frustrating as this is, think about how many young girls have fallen for the wrong guy and they think they can be the one to save him --- that they're different and what that guys feels for them is real. It happens SO much because they are young, naieve and inexperienced, much like Anna. It's hard to see good people being swayed in a bad direction but I think it makes for an interesting read, at best.

    You bring up some very valid points about this book, Lauren, and I'm happy to see you continue with the series. I'm interested to hear if your thoughts change as you read on. Great discussion/review!

    1. This is a great comment! And you're right. In all, I'm actually glad I read this book. It DID make me think about the world in which we live, and pushed me, because it made me feel so uncomfortable. I can't imagine being put in these characters' positions. For instance, Kaiden is what he is largely because it is expected of him from his father, and it's what his father raised him to be. He doesn't have much of a choice. Yes, he enjoys it, and it is his vice. But he is pushed into the extreme. A tough situation all around.

      You're right, I think Anna is my major the difficulty here. Although Kaiden does make changes, it is her that pushes him for something. She challenges who she is, which is good. But somehow thinks she's different from all the girls who've come before her. In many ways she is, but I didn't see enough in him to make me comfortable with how much she fell for him, or her continued declarations that he loves her, when I didn't see all that much on his end. And yet, I'm still open to the idea that they could have a future together. However, both need to grow, and he needs to make some HUGE lifestyle changes for me to feel okay about them together.

      Looking forward to what's in store in book 2. I think Anna will be very different.

  2. So, so interested in this book. Don't judge.
    So interested in the comparison to CS Lewis, to the subtle influences.
    Southern characters and nice cover.
    REALLY want to read this one.
    I'd love more discussion on this one at some point. :)

    1. I want you to read this one! No judgement here. I think you will be much more sympathetic to the situation than I am. I don't dislike Kai. I just dislike how much Anna pursued him, and some of her behavior in general.

      YES, discussable!! I don't know if the author was influenced by Lewis or not (or that other author you mentioned whom I'm blanking on - demon books freak me out so I never read those). But I think there is some truth here, and that makes what these characters do even scarier. Definitely some truth here. You read, and we'll talk!

    2. I definitely want to be in on this discussion when it happens, girls:)

  3. I've been so conflicted in picking this up, mostly because it sounds like something that would take on a typical route, but reviews keep saying it's different. I'm still not sure if I'll read this and the type of uncomfortable you describe doesn't sound like something I'd like. I think there's the type of uncomfortable where you recognize that something bad is happening and it's so terrible you can't bring yourself to feel good about it - that's the type of uncomfortable that demands to be read. Other types, though, like this one, I generally stay away from. I'll wait to see your thoughts on the sequel before finally entering into this series. Wonderful review, Lauren! :)

    1. This one IS different, Keertana. Definitely not your typical PNR. I do like that the author pushes issues. I'm not sure whether you will like it or not. I think Kai's behavior is uncomfortable, but also real in the context of who he is in this book. I think it's Anna's reaction to him - how much she falls for him, how she wants to 'save' him, and how much she claims they love each other (without a lot of proof on his side) - that largely bothered me. I think she would get on your nerves. Good idea to wait and see where this goes. That could make a big difference.

      Also, I like what you said about some uncomfortable books demanding to be read, and some not. This one definitely straddles that line. In all, I am glad I read this one, though.

  4. I've been skeptical to read this one for practically a year, I have a copy of it on my TBR shelf but keep ignoring it since I have an uneasy feeling about it. I think that 'uncomfortable' feeling you described you felt reading can be both good and bad and i really think it depends on how the writer incorproates it into the story and if the reader is meant to like the 'uncomfortable' bits. I think I'll probably get over my skeptism about this one and pick it up this weekend! Great Review Lauren :)

    1. I'll be looking for how you react to this one. Many people really like the book, and are able to see past the characters' behavior. But I agree with what you said. This is a squirmy uncomfortable, and yet, I am glad I read it overall. I think Anna's behavior is the most frustrating. I wish she had stood against Kai more, instead of becoming like all the other girls who fall for him.

  5. This premise has always kind of creeped me out. I mean, teens of demons whose job it is to tempt others? The only scenario I like reading about that in is Paradise Lost. And now knowing that the male lead is basically a sexual predator? Although I have to also give the author props for being a risk-taker in her choice of a YA book here. I'm not quite sure this book is for me, unless people continue to gush about the next book in the series.

    The C.S. Lewis book sounds interesting though. I would like to look into that!

    1. I'm thinking that this would not be a book for you, Amanda.

      You're right. These teens are children of demons, and their fathers train them in their 'work.' Each has a vice that the cultivate, and they promote it to teens - drinking, gambling, anger, sex. It's a fascinating concept. And I give the write props for it, but definitely also uncomfortable.

      The Screwtape Letters are pretty fascinating. Let me know if you read them!

  6. It seems like a lot of people really really love this and I like getting a different angle of it. Its still one I will definitely read but I have much better idea of what to expect. Thanks for the great review!

    1. I bet you'd like this one, Candace! Many people do not share my worries. Let me know if you read it.

  7. Ok, I'm feeling like Asheley, I kind of want to check this one out. I remember Jen reviewing it and I was kind of intrigued then too. I love this review! I've not heard of the C.S. Lewis book you compared it too but like Amanda I'm curious.

    You know what Kaiden and Anna's relationship reminds me of? Have you ever seen that 80s movie 9 1/2 Weeks with Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke (before he got all weird looking)? You were probably just a little kid when it came out (I was a freshman in HS.) Rourke's character is very much into racy, some might say sexually deviant, things and Basinger is this kind of innocent young woman he seduces and ends up really messing with her head. It's definitely a movie that made some people uncomfortable (and turned a lot of others on!) Sweet evil sounds like a paranormal, PG version of that film.

    Gonna have to go check it out now, L and give my two cents! Darn it, like I don't have enough to read...

    1. Heather, I think you would like this one. I hope that you and Asheley DO read it. I'll have to see what Jen said about it.

      I have not seen 9 1/2 weeks. I'm SURE my parents would have forbidden it - well I was in elementary school so of course it was off limits. Sounds interesting. I'm not sure this book is exactly like that, but I see what you mean in that it made some uncomfortable, and some liked the idea.

      I think this author DOES want you to believe that Kaiden wants to be with Anna. But he's in a tough situation, and not ready to completely change. I appreciate the lengths she went through to write him, and I don't dislike him in general. I think I had the most trouble with Anna in this book. The way she fell for Kai and was so certain of him, while he was saying that he knows exactly how to seduce her and that he can't change, and he's 'working' too. It was too much for me. I wish Anna had stood against him more, instead of falling right into his charms. But I don't count this couple out for the future. It is a 3 book series, and I think they will be getting back together. There are some great secondaries. I think this would probably be a win for you!

  8. I had fun with this book. I first read it for a read-along and I've since read it twice more, just when I was in a funk and not really feeling other reads. It's a slump-buster for me, I guess you could say. :) I get why the book makes you uncomfortable. I took issue with just how naive Anna was in the beginning, too. But Kaiden grew on me. There are a couple of excerpts told from his POV on the author's website...maybe those would help sway you to the dark side? :P Glad you're going to give Sweet Peril a chance. :)

    1. I don't think I could ever see this as a slumpbuster (I like that term!), but I know many people do.

      I did see those excerpts, and they did help. I just wish that Anna hadn't fallen right into Kai's charms, and I wanted to see more change from him before she considered trying to be with him. It still makes me so uncomfortable to think about how much she pined away and was convinced that they loved each other, while he was working away. BUT I'm glad I read this book, and I'm hopeful that she will be less naive, and he will be a little more willing to take some risks in future books. I think this book ended perfectly, for them too, and I do have hope for their future.

  9. I...didn't care much for this book. I was actually surprised to see such serious discussion about it here (not that I should expect anything less than thoughtful analysis from you, Lauren!), because I disliked the male love interest, and I remember thinking the emotional stuff was on the less developed side. To be fair, I ended up skimming the second half and never wrote a review, though, so many of the details have escaped me all these months later.

    I'll be on the lookout to see what you think of book two, though. Great review, as always.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    1. I like to surprise you sometimes ;). I can basically analyze anything. HAHA.

      I agree with what you said here about the less developed emotional side of the book, and I also had a problem with the love interest, though Anna frustrated me more (Kaiden was pretty much a douchebag, and I wanted her away from him most of the time - but she just kept falling for his 'charms.' Even so, I do think he was an interesting character, and he certainly intrigued me.). This book has me totally puzzled because I had a lot of problems with it, but I am still struggling to articulate that, so I feel like I just keep worrying it. Also, I know many people love this book. I think it's indulgent in some ways, and I do like the demon mythology. But the characters had major problems.

  10. I honestly couldn't put it down! Such good character development! Can't wait to start the second one and for the third to come out!

    Irene (Indianapolis SEO)


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