Publisher: Chicken House.
Paperback, 384 pages.
Release date: January 1st 2015.
Rating: 4½ out of 5.
Source: Received for review.
Reviewed by: Arianne.
When it comes to revenge, love is a dangerous complication.With a fierce rivalry raging between two warring families, falling in love is the deadliest thing Sophie could do. An epic debut set outside modern-day Chicago.
When five brothers move into the abandoned mansion in her neighbourhood, Sophie Gracewell's life changes forever. Irresistibly drawn to bad boy Nicoli, Sophie finds herself falling into a criminal underworld governed by powerful families. As the boys' dark secrets begin to come to light, Sophie is confronted with stinging truths about her own family, too. She must choose between two warring dynasties - the one she was born into, and the one she is falling in love with. When she does, blood will spill and hearts will break
Thrilling, explosive and brilliantly dangerous. Vendetta is young adult fiction’s answer to The Godfather. Throw in a mystery that needs solving and a very forbidden romance, and it’s no wonder Catherine Doyle is being hailed as one of the most original new voices in teen fiction. The beautiful pastel cover design may have you thinking this is just another YA love story, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Vendetta is complex, brutal even, with a plot that twists and turns like a skater on an ice rink.
The writing in this book is seriously good. It’s super stylish and sings with clarity. It’s detailed yet straightforward, illustrative yet practical. It’s full of little flourishes that make you think, “This is what great writing looks like. This is what YA should be.” It catches your attention but more importantly, it holds your attention.
Set on the outskirts of Chicago, one of Vendetta’s most surprising strengths is its authenticity. It feels American, but it’s never overbearing. It pays homage to iconic gangster movies of the 20th century, but make no mistake: Vendetta’s timelessness is skilfully balanced with a feeling that it has its feet firmly planted in the present day. The city’s seedy underbelly may be run by gangs, but that doesn’t mean everyday life stops for everyone else. Much of the story focuses on challenges we can all relate to, from trying to balance school and work, to managing family ties and trying to remain true to yourself in the face of overwhelming pressure on all sides. Being born into a life of Mafia crime is probably a little less relatable for most readers, but the characters at the real core of this story, Sophie and Nic, are innately human, and that’s what keeps you reading.
Sophie is a narrator I can see a lot of readers identifying with. She’s just an ordinary girl, but she’s also refreshingly sure of herself and fabulously sarcastic. I particularly loved that she always took command of her own decisions (even if they weren’t always the wisest). Her best friend Millie is also tremendous fun, but even more than that, she feels real. All too often best friends in YA are forced to fit tropes — the friend who sleeps around, the friend who needs to come out of their shell, the airhead friend, the sporty friend — but Millie is one of the first characters I’ve seen who not only defies that stereotype, but destroys it. I can’t wait to see more of her in the later books.
I’d heard long before I started reading Vendetta that the love interest was hot, but stone the flaming crows, this guy is so hot he practically sizzles. I was surprised there weren’t burn marks left on the pages because of him. But the best thing about Nic Falcone? He’s got heart. He’s torn between loyalty to his family and the sudden hope of his feelings for Sophie, but this is the start of a trilogy, and he’s not about to throw everything away because he’s pulled too strongly by one side or the other. It is true, however, that he and Sophie don’t have to the opportunity to spend much time getting to know each other in this book, so I’m definitely hoping we’ll get to see their relationship develop more in the sequels.
And of course, I have to mention that Nic has not one, not two, not three, but four brothers. Luca in particular will win many fans of his own. The entire Falcone family aesthetic is a gift to the world of the YA literature, really — except perhaps for the fact that they might be Mafia-born killers.
That’s where this book’s power truly starts to show itself, because when I say there’s brutality in this book, I mean there is a lot of brutality in this book. As the story continues it is increasingly evident that Doyle does not want to create some pale, glossed-over imitation of the gang culture the novel so draws on. The Falcone brothers, as the next generation of a crime family elbow-deep in the damage it’s done, are involved in a very violent way of life. Bloodshed for them is not only normal, but necessary, and unfortunately, heroine Sophie is not immune to the danger of that reality. While her relationship with Nic is a wonderful addition to the novel, it would wrong to say it’s the most realistic of romances, since most people would (and should!) run a mile the second they realize their potential suitor was actually a member of one of the most notorious Mafia dynasties on the block— and that’s not even starting on the link between horrors of Sophie’s past and that of the Falcones, either. I don’t usually advocate age ratings on books, but for Vendetta, I’d probably recommend it only for readers aged 14 and up.
That said, the storytelling of Vendetta is pretty fantastic. I saw some of the twists coming, but the adventure itself is undeniably addictive. If you can stick with the early chapters and the cold open (a prologue-esque chapter which introduces a concept seemingly unrelated to the rest of the book but which has huge importance later) you’re in for a real treat. Vendetta is hands down the most unique book to arise from the Irish and UKYA scene in years, and it’s just the injection of adrenaline both shelves needed.
In short: Fiercely original, page-turning and brilliantly written, Vendetta is a sheer marvel. Catherine Doyle is an incredible new talent for YA. If you’re looking for a debut that doesn’t hold back, look no further than this explosive tale of forbidden love, thrilling danger and
Italians swearing great storytelling.