Cursed by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Title: Cursed
Loved it
Graded
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Genre: Paranormal
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Elements: Killing touch
Series: Stand alone

Dying sucks– and high school senior Ember McWilliams knows firsthand. After a fatal car accident, her gifted little sister brought her back. Now anything Ember touches dies. And that, well, really blows.

Ember operates on a no-touch policy with all living things–including boys. When Hayden Cromwell shows up, quoting Oscar Wilde and claiming her curse is a gift, she thinks he’s a crazed cutie. But when he tells her he can help control it, she’s more than interested. There’s just one catch: Ember has to trust Hayden’s adopted father, a man she’s sure has sinister reasons for collecting children whose abilities even weird her out.

However, she’s willing to do anything to hold her sister’s hand again. And hell, she’d also like to be able to kiss Hayden. Who wouldn’t? But when Ember learns the accident that turned her into a freak may not have been an accident at all, she’s not sure who to trust. Someone wanted her dead, and the closer she gets to the truth, the closer she is to losing not only her heart, but her life. For real this time.

You guys. I am tired of giving Jennifer L. Armentrout books a full 10/10 rating. Wait, what? I’ve never done so? My feels must have cheated me. CURSED is darn well worth the wait for a perfect LiyanaLand rating.

I’m looking through my notes on Goodreads, and there’s one that sticks out in my mind:

THIS BOOK DESTROYED MY HAPPY GENES.

Lately, I’ve read several books handling the hook of “touching means killing.” Michelle Hodkins’ THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER and Tahereh Mafi’s SHATTER ME are two that come to mind, both being Young Adult books and both having a strong fanbase.

CURSED is the story of one Ember Williams, brought back to life by her little sister Olivia. With a new life comes a new catch: every living thing that Ember touches dies immediately. That simple explanation is enough to move the story beyond the hook, towards the conflict and consequences that come with such ability.

It’s been said that humans make connections not only through conversations, but through the physical aspects. In Ember’s case, that fact meant she was unable to form friendships or relationships for fear of causing their deaths through an accidental touch. The previously cheerful, popular teenager chooses to keep to herself and shun other people, leading to a particularly lonely existence in school, where she keeps to herself, hidden within the depths of her hoodie.

Ember’s despair permeates the very text, and I found it hard to get out of her deep funk. It feels wrong (but so right) to say that the emotional trauma was well done, and such a pleasure to read as Ember fought to find her own happiness.

The main conflict stemmed from Ember’s inner dilemma: to trust her kidnappers and live a happy life born of ignorance, or protect herself and live a bleak existence of not trusting anyone. Her choice to push her limits, to make her own choices and not accept those offered to her was admirable. Agency is always admirable, and that she chose to forgo reaction for action made me root for her.

The resolution felt a bit clumsily done, with the reasons feeling tacked on so as to show the parallels between the two families and complete the circle. More could be fleshed out about the main antagonist; as it was, he happened to be mysterious and evil for the sake of keeping Ember’s suspicious alive.

Hayden, the love interest, is a callback to Armentrout’s original leading man (Aiden from the Covenant series)–compassionate and gracious, more subdued and less wisecracks. His personality and gentle approach kept Ember’s unwilling trust in him, which was a relief to read because frankly, that girl needs someone gentle on her emotional journey. Character-wise, Hayden’s conflict stemmed mainly from the fact that he was the son of Ember and Olivia’s kidnapper.

Though Ember was drawn to Hayden, she was level-headed enough to realise how sick it was to feel attracted to him. This buys into Ember’s fragile emotional state, which came across as codependency at the start. As she grew out of her shell, her outlook towards the Cromwell family changed. Ember’s character and emotional development was amazing. Though Hayden and Olivia were a couple of reasons she came to her self-realisation, I loved that it was her who chose to be happy and to make something of her circumstances.

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