Forever BRANDED–Review and Giveaway

Branded-tour banner copyHi there and welcome to my stop on the BRANDED blog tour sponsored by YA Bound Book Tours. For other stops on the tour, click here. Today’s book is a dystopian YA adventure romance from the writing team of Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki.

branded coverSummary from Goodreads: 
Fifty years ago the Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society. He created the Hole where sinners are branded according to their sins and might survive a few years. At best.

Now LUST wraps around my neck like blue fingers strangling me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit and now the Hole is my new home.

Darkness. Death. Violence. Pain.

Now every day is a fight for survival. But I won’t die. I won’t let them win.

The Hole can’t keep me. The Hole can’t break me.
I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter.
My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.

My Review:
At first, I was thrown by the Lexi’s willingness to die–the opening scene was of her attempting suicide–but, as I got further into the story, I realized Lexi’s problem wasn’t depression. It was her unwillingness to be controlled any longer. See, ever since her father was murdered and her brother ran away, Lexi’s stepfather has been abusing her–emotionally and physically. Lexi’s mother has been checked out on drugs a long time, but she sobers up enough to catch Step-Daddy in the act of molesting Lexi–and turns her own daughter in to the Morality Guard.

With no trial and her mother’s accusation, Lexi becomes a branded Sinner and is dumped into the Hole. What is peculiar about her situation there? Lexi has a private guard. This, I couldn’t fathom for the life of me–especially as we learned more about Lexi’s real dad–and her brother Keegan. Before he died, Lexi’s dad was a champion against the brutal Commander. He wanted to restore the judicial system, instead of the “you’re accused, you’re punished” Commander’s dictum.

With her guard, Cole, Lexi’s safe in the Hole. Somewhat. Cole spends a lot of time helping Lexi dodge bullets and lecherous suitors–even his own fellow guards. Chaos reigns in the Hole, and a beauty accused of Lust is a shiny sex beacon for the riff-raff. One thing we learn quickly, loving a Sinner will get you executed, so Cole tries to maintain a professional distance from Lexi.

But, it’s so hard. Especially when the physicians find that Lexi isn’t guilty of the crime of premarital sex.

Background forces strive to keep Lexi alive. Dr. Sutton, her employer, and Cole both make choices to cover-up the budding attraction between Lexi and Cole. This romance seems ready to wither on the vine when Cole is assigned to hunt down Lexi’s long-lost brother, Keegan–a rising figure in the revolution against the Commander.

A daring escape actually leads Lexi to Keegan. And the rift between Lexi and Cole widens when Lexi decides she’s going to fight in the revolution. For her, making this decision is the first step to claiming her destiny.

In total, BRANDED dances over many themes. Child molestation, religious zealotry, suicide, rape, fighting a corrupt government, positive self-image, forgiveness, embracing forbidden love, doing the ‘right thing’ regardless of the consequences.  These are all admirable, to be sure, but I had some issues with how they translated in the book. Likewise, at times I felt the story was too centered on the “we can’t love each other or they’ll kill us” device, and would have appreciated a quicker pace. Dialogue, for me, seemed stilted and info-dumpy and at times I was irritated by the inane comments some of the characters made. I wished that Keegan had been more supportive of Lexi, and was gratified that I called the identity  of the Commander after reading the second chapter.

(A copy of this book was provided to me for the purpose of this blog tour/review.)

Interested? You can find BRANDED at Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

abi and missyAbout the Authors:
Abi and Missy met in the summer of 1999 at college orientation and have been best friends ever since. After college, they added jobs, husbands and kids to their lives, but they still found time for their friendship. Instead of hanging out on weekends, they went to dinner once a month and reviewed books. What started out as an enjoyable hobby has now become an incredible adventure. You can find Abi and Missy at their website, Goodreads, twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

***GIVEAWAY***
Click on the Rafflecopter link for your chance to win one of
20 ebooks of Branded (mobi) (Open Internationally)
or one of 5 signed print copies and picture of Cole (US only)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck, and keep reading my friends!

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