4 out of 4 stars
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How far would you go to become successful or famous? Would you be willing to hurt your best friend? Inflict pain that leaves physical scars on yourself? Could you lie to yourself and everyone around you?
These are the central issues that the two main protagonists, Poppy and Mila, face in book one of The Synth Series: Severed by L.M. Du Preez and Z. Labuschagne. The book is a seamless collaboration by Du Preez and Labuschagne. The authors split the work of writing by character, with Du Preez writing for Poppy and Labuschagne writing for Mila. The result is a fast paced and gripping read with each character getting their own alternating chapter. The authors do an impressive job of making each part of the book maintain a consistent tone. The book fits into the young adult genre.
Poppy, a regular at club Synth, has low self-esteem and her heart broken by the same man countless times. She is ruled by her emotions and jumps at the opportunity to join Loch, the heartbreaker and lead singer in the clubs band, in a ritual to obtain success. There is only one catch, they need four people to make it work. Poppy automatically thinks of her fiercely competitive best friend, Mila, who is “cautious and meticulous” in her decisions and used to being Poppy’s voice of reason. When Mila takes the summer off from ballet to spend time with her increasingly distant best friend Poppy, she thinks the trip is only about reconnecting. Instead of a girl’s vacation, Mila is lead into the strange world of Synth and forced to break out of her comfort zone.
What makes this novel so successful is how different the main characters are from each other and yet they are both completely relatable. The character development happens organically and each girl evokes empathy. Both characters are guilty of using justifications to explain their bad choices, however, this does not take away from their likeability.
Du Preez and Labuschagne have a wonderful command of imagery when explain emotions. The settings and secret world of Synth are realistic and interesting. The carefully crafted emotional state of Poppy and Mila help build the mystery and suspense, as the two girls have very different experiences regarding the secret ritual. Written in first person, the dialogue feels authentic and does a nice job keeping the book timeless. This is as much a psychological thriller as it is a mystery; ensuring that the reader is invested in this character driven story.
One criticism is that Poppy’s dialogue has an emotion at the end of every line. It makes reading cumbersome and takes longer than necessary to read through. For example, “I sincerely ask” or “I confidently confess.” The writing would be smoother if the emotion was allowed to be intuitively gleaned from the tone of the conversation rather than spoon fed.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. The distinct characters and cohesive writing is well done and engaging. The mystery and thrill ride kept my interest and made this book difficult to put down. The descriptive style and realistic character development made this book very enjoyable. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy character driven stories, college coming of age tales, or are looking for something that is an exciting read and does not have a lot of curse words or descriptive sex scenes.
Synth: Severed - The Synth Series Book 1
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