Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins

4 07 2012

For about two years I was a member of a writing site called Inkpop. The website was run by HarperCollins publishers. This was a website for teen writers where teens could submit their stories (novels, short stories, poetry, whatever they had written) and have other teens critique them as well as connect with their friends on the forums. Part of the high appeal for Inkpop – and one of the reasons that it was so popular – was that at the end of every month, the most popular projects on the website would be reviewed by HarperCollins editors. There was a chance of being published by HarperCollins.

Sadly, the site is now defunct – it was sold to Figment, another writing website for teens.

However, from the website two stories were published. The first was The Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon (published last October) and the second was this book, Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins.  Because I had read Sweet Evil under its original nane, Angel Prophecy, and because I had enjoyed it, I was eager to read the newly edited and finished book.

Anna is a good girl. She knows it, everyone knows it. She refuses to drink or smoke and never gets in trouble. People constantly make fun of her for it, but Anna is proud of herself and doesn’t care. One night she goes to a rock concert with her friend Jay, to see one of his favorite bands perform a show. There she meets the lead singer, Kaidan Rowe – a self-professed “bad boy” – and starts to get a little attracted. At a party later, she gets herself into a mess and Kaidan is there to help her.

He tells her the truth about herself – she is the daughter of a guardian angel and a demon. The demons all have different traits: vanity, lust, etc. Anna’s trait is that she has issues with drugs and alcohol, from her father, and Kaidan’s is lust. As Anna learns more about her powers, she decides that she wants to track down her demon daddy. So Kaidan and Anna set off on a cross-country road trip, learning more about themselves both romantically and personally, and learning more about their futures.

Frankly, I disliked this book. I really, really, disliked it. I wanted to like it because of my biases – I had read the book before it was published and enjoyed it, it was from a writing website that I knew. While I could judge this book simply off of my biases, I won’t.

The main storyline isn’t that bad. It’s based off quite a few tropes – the classic road trip, finding out that you’re _____ creature, falling in love with the “bad boy”. If I were to judge the book on its plot alone, I would have said that I really enjoyed the book. The plot is strong and interesting; there are some twists but nothing is predictable or implausible; and it was a good read.

Similarly, the writing was strong and sounded like a teen voice.

So why did I really dislike this book?

I disliked this book not because of something that I would normally cite in an review – plot, writing, characters – but because of one thing: the abundant amount of slut-shaming.

First, quickly, a definition of slut shaming taken from Urban Dictionary:

An unfortunate phenomenon in which people degrade or mock a woman because she enjoys having sex, has sex a lot, or may even just be rumored to participate in sexual activity.

This is, as the definition says, a very unfortunate phenomenon. The topic of sex and slut-shaming is covered very nicely in Not That Kind of Girl, by Siobhan Vivian. If you are looking for good discussions of sex and women’s roles and sexuality, read Vivian’s very smart book. I would not recommend Sweet Evil as a book with good discussions of sex, women’s roles, and sexuality.

There is a lot of slut shaming in this book.

Anna makes many comments about girls being sluts and whores, comments often on their large “well-endowed” breasts and bodies, and basically judges all of them.

There is also a lot of very uncomfortable discussion of women’s virginity in this book. Kaidan’s trait is lust and he has sex with a lot of women. Like I mentioned before, this book is not very sex-positive. There are statements that women’s virginities aren’t important and need to be taken, and that they need to have sex, and if they don’t they are “babies”.

There is also an uncomfortable discussion on abortion, when one of the minor main characters, a friend of Anna’s, reveals that she has had an abortion and feels ashamed that she has had one. The issue with the scene wasn’t the topic but more the opinions being expressed; to me it felt like the opinions shown were the author’s personal opinions.

These are just three of many long examples on my list. I could go on forever about the many instances of slut-shaming that occur in the book but the above three are the most prominent that I saw.

Because of the excessive amount of slut-shaming, I found it hard to read and enjoy this book and disliked it.

However, fans of stories about angels such as Immortal City and Devine Intervention may enjoy the book more, as well as people interested in the concepts of “bad boys” and romance, as well as fans of panorama romance. I can see Sweet Evil having wide appeal, as it touches on many popular themes in the YA genre – romance, paranormal creatures, smoldering love interests – and has a pretty striking cover.

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