Title: The Book of Ivy
Series: The Book of Ivy #1
Author: Amy Engel
Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Published: November 11th 2014 by Entangled: Teen
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.
This year, it is my turn.
My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.
But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.
Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…
“My mission is not to make him happy and bear his children and be his wife. My mission is to kill him.”
THE BOOK OF IVY by Amy Engel is an intensely compelling YA dystopian debut novel. It gives new meaning to arranged marriages as Ivy Westfall, our heroine, marries tasked with killing her husband, our hero, Bishop Lattimer. The author's writing was simple, straightforward, poignant and compelling. The story was well-crafted; The characters were realistic and relatable.
THE BOOK OF IVY perfectly complies with all of the characteristics of a dystopian society. A dystopia is a futuristic, imagined universe in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control. The characteristics of a dystopian society are defined as follows:
• Propaganda is used to control the citizens of society.
• Information, independent thought, and freedom are restricted.
• A figurehead or concept is worshipped by the citizens of the society.
• Citizens are perceived to be under constant surveillance.
• Citizens have a fear of the outside world.
• Citizens live in a dehumanized state.
• The natural world is banished and distrusted.
• Citizens conform to uniform expectations. Individuality and dissent are bad.
• The society is an illusion of a perfect utopian world.
As the story begins, we learn that years ago, Ivy Westfall's grandfather had been overthrown by her intended husband's grandfather. Since then, Eastglen had housed the winning side and Westside had housed the losing side. Ivy's father and sister have drilled into her since she was very young that when she marries Bishop Lattimer, she must kill him to restore her father and therefore, her family, to power. Her family was seriously vile. They had no regard for Ivy or her feelings and I went from disliking them to hating them as the tale developed.
Ivy is now sixteen years old and is being married off the next marriage day, a yearly tradition in this broken society. On marriage day, 16-year-old boys of Eastglen marry 16-year-old girls of Westside. The purpose of marriage day is to keep the peace because intermingling the groups this way makes it more difficult for the opposite side to initiate war as their daughters or grandchildren would be on the other side.
Think of a dystopian Romeo and Juliet story... Bishop was awesome as one of the star-crossed lovers. He was an amazing guy who truly wanted their marriage to work. He was honestly interested in Ivy's opinions and enjoyed her company. He was beyond patient, not forcing a relationship with Ivy even though he could have as her husband. He cared not only about Ivy but about everyone - even the downtrodden in this society.
I wanted to strangle Ivy at times as she was withdrawn and had issues engaging with Bishop. But, in her defense, she'd never had a friend. She feared, but mindlessly followed, her creepy family's decrees. Ivy was essentially a robotic assassin seeking revenge for something that had happened before she was born. However, Ivy had expected a tyrannical Bishop; She instead found a genuine friend as she grew to like and respect him. She was slowly becoming friends with him - something she'd never had thanks to her sick family - and was learning to trust Bishop when her fragile world came crashing down.
Following please find a few of my favorite quotes:
"Who do you want to turn into?" I mean the question to be mocking, but that's not how it comes out. I sound interested. I reach down and scratch my leg, trying to hid my embarrassment.
Bishop looks at me. "Someone honest. Someone who tries to do the right thing. Someone who follows his own heart, even if it disappoints people." He pauses. "Someone brave enough to be all those things."
A boy who doesn't want to lie, married to a girl who can't tell the truth. If there is a God, he has a sick sense of humor.
People. And the brutal things we do to one another.
The fence shakes against my cheek and I turn, careful to keep my gaze lifted. I don't have it in me to look at her again. Bishop is grasping the chain-link with both hands, knuckles white, his eyes closed. His whole body is wound tight as a spring, like if I reached for him he would simply break apart at the joints, splinter into a hundred pi8eces. I don't try to touch him.
He lets out a yell and then another and another, loud and wild and out of control. He shakes the fence hard with both hands. His anger and frustration are more potent somehow because they are unexpected. When his scream fades into silence, he rests his forehead against the metal. "Sometimes," he says, voice raw, "I hate this place." He twists his neck and looks at me, hands still hooked in the fence above his head.
"I know," I say, barely a whisper. "Me, too."
"That night we played truth or dare. You said that after a while you stopped trying to earn your mother's affection." I pause. "Why didn't you give up with me, too?"
"You know why," he says quietly. I close my eyes. I do know, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to hear it. But some part of me must be, because I wouldn't have asked the question otherwise, not of Bishop, the boy who never chooses to say something easy just because the truth is hard. Maybe I want to hear it so that i will know, once and for all, that there is no going back.
"Because I'm in love with you, Ivy," he whispers. "Giving up on you isn't an option." He lifts my hair away from the back of my neck and kisses the delicate skin there.
My breath shudders out of me. The silence spirals into the dark room, and maybe it was foolish to ask the question, but I'm not sorry. I uncurl his hand and kiss his palm, his skin cool and dry. I place his hand over my heart, cover it with my own.
We fall asleep that way. His lips on my neck. My heart in his hand.
I am curious about one matter not addressed in the book about marriage day. None of the other boys and girls got to choose; Their mates were chosen for them. Why did Bishop get to choose? He was originally slated to marry Ivy's sister but disavowed her and selected Ivy instead. The story of how he selected Ivy was one of my favorite parts. But... how was he able to do this? Was it because his father was the dictator? Hopefully this question will be answered in the next installment.
If you'd like to view the book's trailer, it can be found here: http://www.entangledteen.com/the-book-of-ivy-by-amy-engel-book-trailer/
There's also a special prequel scene not in the book available here: http://www.entangledteen.com/introducing-ivy/
If you love poignant, heartbreaking, thought-provoking dystopias, pick up this book! Nothing in this book was black and white. There was no clearly defined these people or practices were wrong and these were right. It was all shades of gray and the conflict for Ivy was which path she would follow. I didn't agree with Ivy's choice at the end, but it is what it is, and now we must wait for the next story. Once I started it, I stayed up way past my bedtime twice and snuck in time to read during two days until I'd finished it. It's a gripping story spotlighting moral, familial, and political issues that will grab and hold your attention.
Warning: For those who dislike cliffhangers, there's an intense, off-the-cliff, cliff hanger that I've not been able to forget since I finished this book... AND the next book isn't due out until November 2015! AAAGH! I know I can't wait to read it!