Three and a Half out of Five Stars
I stored Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins away on my “to-read” list in May 2012. I didn’t end up reading past its first page until October 2013. There was no particular reason for this wait. It was just that book that kept slipping down my list, losing its place to long-awaited sequels, school assignments, and whim reads of the moment.
But I wasn’t feeling well the other day, and, (once I’d thoroughly secured my place as most boring college student on the planet by getting into bed at 9:30 on a Friday night), I finally decided to download it to my Kindle.
I didn’t turn off my reading light until 3:00 AM.
Sweet Evil follows good-girl Anna Whitt through the ups and downs of high school, romance, friendship – and the discovery that she’s the product of an angel-demon relationship.
The mythology of Sweet Evil was what first attracted me to it, and it didn’t disappoint. Higgins creates a world in which demons live among us in secret, cajoling humans into lapses of sin and misery, and their own Nephilim children into carrying on the family business. Although not a heavy read by any means, Sweet Evil definitely has a bit of cultural relevance. The paranormal plotline didn’t live in its own vortex, separated from everyday life.
The characters worked in the novel’s favor for the most part, as well. It was easy to see Anna (the sheltered, human-raised daughter of Substance Abuse) and Kaidan’s (the son of Lust) respective backgrounds in their personalities. Kaiden especially, although I initially worried he’d fall into the familiar mold of dark, handsome, cocky paranormal love interest, pulled at my heart. Mostly for empathy-related reasons. Partly because he, well, completely lives up to his heritage. As Anna thought upon meeting him, he’s “HOTT” – too hot for merely one “t.” (That goes for the content of the book as well, by the way. Definitely a more mature young adult novel.)
There were moments when Anna seemed a bit inconsistent to me, but, for the most part, I thought she made a likable protagonist. Perhaps not always the most believable – her wavering between temperance and self-indulgence grew a bit inconsistent at times — but sympathetic. She flickered from resolving to save her virginity for a committed relationship to attempting to sleep with Kaidan (who has no choice but to be about as uncommitted as a guy can get). From resisting alcohol into giving into her dad’s demands that she learn more about it. Sure, there were reasons for both those cases. They just, like several other plot points, seemed sort of contrived.
Now for the minor characters. No complaints over Kai and Anna’s friends – they were all fairly fleshed out. Patti, Anna’s adopted mother, irked me a bit more, as did Anna’s biological father Belial (AKA the demon in charge of Substance Abuse). It felt at points like Higgins was simply using them to carry the plot into a particular direction, rather than paying attention to character development.
Like when overprotective Patti agrees to send her daughter on a cross-country road trip with a Nephilim boy she’s met exactly once. Another justified, but contrived plot point.
Nevertheless, the only real problem I have with Sweet Evil has more to do with organization than anything. The road trip between Kai and Anna — as forced as its beginning felt – actually worked fairly well for the first half of the novel. The twinges of insta-love lingering around their first meetings bugged me, but the road trip solidified a believable bond between them. Then the second half of the novel came. They returned home; Kaidan to the “work” his father forces on him (he gave me so many more Finnick Odair feels than I ever thought possible), Anna to her adoptive mother. Then to learning more about her own responsibilities as a member of the Nephilim. This, too, in itself, worked in terms of plot and even character development. It just felt like it came from a different book. The first and second halves of Sweet Evil seemed very much divided from one another. I almost wish that Higgins could have found a way to expand on each and actually turn each half into its own novel – but, at the same time, that would likely have added a good deal of unnecessary bulk.
The latter half of Sweet Evil might not have seemed as separate from the first to me if Higgins hadn’t chosen to introduce a love triangle. The needless staple of the young adult romance genre. Still, it wasn’t the triangle itself that I disliked. It actually made sense that Kopano would feel a pull towards Anna, and she to him. And they had much more in common, if not nearly as much chemistry, than she’s had so far with Kaidan. Yet, as realistic and understated as it was, the love triangle was still jarring. Jarring and unnecessary. Maybe the next book will show its purpose, but, at the moment, I wish that Higgins had chosen to focus on developing friendship between Kope and Anna, rather than possible romance.
Tropes and occasional forcedness aside, Sweet Evil was a fingers-glued-to-the-book, swoon-worthy read. I doubt I’ll reread it any time soon, but I’ll definitely get my hands on the sequel at some point. And, hopefully, it will take me far less than a year this time.