The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel
Published by Entangled Teen on November 4th 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Family, Love & Romance
Lately, I have been a bit weary of hype. Hype can be a great thing because it enables you to find books you would otherwise never have picked up. However, it can also take the fun out of reading because you practically already know everything about a book before you’ve even read the first page. This is why I decided to pick up The Book of Ivy, which I really hadn’t heard that much about previously. In this case, the decision paid of. I really enjoyed this novel; it was a very short, quick read.
The Book of Ivy is a dystopian novel that takes place in the future after the United States has been destroyed by a nuclear war. Most people were completely wiped out and there was only a small population left. These people came together to establish a new “nation” but there were two rival sides: the Westfalls and the Lattimers. The Lattimers won and now, fifty years later, peace and control is maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group.
The story follows Ivy Westfall, who is forced to marry Bishop Lattimer at the age of sixteen. What nobody outside of Ivy’s family knows however, is that Ivy is on a mission to kill Bishop in order to restore the Westfall family to power.
My feelings for this book are bit all over the place so let’s break it down, shall we?
The world building is definitely the weakest part of the novel. It was meager at best. We got practically no explanations for what happened to the world. Although politics are the central issue in the novel, they were very simplified and not exploited. Having said that though, I was surprised by how little I actually cared about the lack of world building. This is very unusual for me, as I am world building freak; it’s part of why I love fantasy so much. Somehow, I found myself enjoying the story and not dwelling too much on the fact that nothing was really explained.
I mostly really enjoyed the main characters, even though I did have a few problems with both of them.
Ivy was a very relatable and likeable protagonist. She is very compassionate and outspoken yet also impulsive which gets her into trouble. At times I did find Ivy a tad annoying, simply because she kept repeating the same thoughts over and over again in her head and her impulsiveness seemed quite reckless. Her character development was very typical for a dystopian: girl starts questioning and reevaluating her beliefs and realizes that some of the things she’s been taught her entire life are in fact incorrect or exaggerated. In that, she appeared a little indecisive and there were times where I just wanted to shake her. However, considering the fact that she was only sixteen and had been sheltered her entire life, she was a very realistic character and I found myself rooting for her. I could really feel how torn she was between the loyalty to her family and her budding feelings towards Bishop.
In my opinion (and I’m sure some of you will agree with me) there is a big difference between the bookish boyfriends we love to swoon over in our favorite books and the ones we would actually like to date in real life. Many brooding, dark bad boys might be amazing to read about, but if they were real I would probably steer clear. Bishop, however, is the opposite. He is literally the PERFECT guy in every way, everything anyone could ever want in a boyfriend. He is very kind and handsome, trusting and considerate, intelligent and selfless.
“I want to be someone strong and brave enough to make hard choices. But I want to be fair and loving enough to make the right ones.”
And that’s where the problem lies: as much as I loved Bishop, I don’t like characters that don’t have flaws. Not just out of principle, but because they are kind of…bland, dull. He was adorable but not interesting.
Plot & Romance:
The book of Ivy is essentially a love story. Yes, there are political and ideological elements involved but at its core it’s a novel about two star-crossed lovers. The plot wasn’t particularly thrilling but it did keep my attention throughout and the ending was very unexpected. I’m definitely curious to know what happens in the second installment since it’s going to have a very different premise than the first one!
I really enjoyed the romance, it was very cute and there was no insta-love or love triangle. Hallelujah! Some readers might consider their relationship too sweet (I sure thought I would) but honestly, I found myself completely engaged. The one thing I didn’t like was a certain cliché towards the end (I’m not going to spoil), which made me question what exactly Bishop saw in Ivy.
Themes & Writing:
This book does attempt to make people think. It asks some difficult questions with no right or wrong answers. Which side should Ivy chose? What is the morally correct thing to do? Can there be a positive outcome?
I also appreciated that the novel explored sexism and the role of women in society.
“I’m not sure how we got to this place, where a girl’s only value is in what kind of marriage she has, how capable she is of keeping a man happy.”
It’s still an issue and an important thing to talk about.
The writing was very simple yet gripping and fluid. Nothing special but definitely serviceable.
I really enjoyed The Book of Ivy but it didn’t blow me away. It’s not a very original story, nothing I haven’t read before, however, the execution is well done and it was a very quick and engaging read. I recommend it if you like dystopians with a heavy emphasis on romance. I will be picking up book two.
Hi there! I'm Chantal, a 19-year-old book lover from Switzerland. Books are my primary escape from the real world and I don't know what I would do without them. When I'm not reading, I'm probably studying, dancing or listening to music. Visit me on Goodreads.
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