The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel
Dates Read: April 17 – April 22, 2017
Print Length: 336 pages
Series/Standalone: Book one of The Book of Ivy duology
Publication Date: November 4, 2014
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
“We’re not in this to win a few battles. We’re in it to win the war.”
There are some who say, “If you’ve read one YA book, you’ve read ’em all.” Despite myself, I can’t help but say I agree. But the thing is, sometimes it works.
The Book of Ivy follows our heroine Ivy Westfall in the not-so-distant future. After nuclear war destroys most of the Earth, a small faction arises with two distinct sides: the Lattimers and the Westfalls. After the Lattimers defeat the Westfalls and take power, they establish a new regime and new rules. One of which being teenage boys and girls from the losing side must marry teenage girls and boys from the winning side. On wedding day, Ivy—granddaughter to the original Westfall—must marry Bishop Lattimer—grandson to the original Lattimer. Her plan? Marry him. Then kill him.
“[T]here is a difference between letting someone die and being the one who pulls the trigger.”
A nuclear war destroys the Earth? Check one for unoriginality. People forced to marry, forced relationships, forced marriages? Check two for unoriginality.
I’m going to say this because even though it may be considered a spoiler, if you’ve read any YA book (or watched literally any movie or have consumed any media in this century), you know what’s going to happen: Ivy’s not going to kill Bishop. She’s going to fall in love with him.
Check three for unoriginality.
“I think that sometimes things aren’t as simple as our fathers want us to believe.”
And yet… I loved this book.
Perhaps, friends, we see the same recycled stories because… we like them.
I knew as soon as I read the back of the book how things would play out. I was right for the most part. And yet, I ate up every last bit of it.
It was fast-paced—meaning a quick read, not necessarily a ton of action—with no wasted scenes, pointless conversations, or meaningless frivolity. Ivy’s growth as she realizes that things—and people—are not always as they seem is believable and, more importantly (to me, anyway), not dragged out. She’s torn between her family, people you’re supposed to be loyal to because of blood, and making her own choices, developing her own thoughts. There were no huge surprises, but sometimes I’m okay with that.
“Anything worth fighting for… worth having… is difficult. There are always going to be casualties of war.”
Ivy makes a sympathetic heroine. She never does anything outrageously offensive, but her big act of heroism in the novel’s climax, in my opinion, is bogged down by the fact that it’s so entirely unnecessary. Her leading man, Bishop Lattimer, ticks off every box on my list. I’ve mentioned before, and I’ll say it again: I have no interest in bad boys. They are occasionally done well, but more often than not, I want the good, honest, sweet guy to root for, and Bishop Lattimer fits that bill perfectly.
Unfortunately, a few other characters—namely Ivy’s sister and father—fall a little bit flat. Since we don’t have a way to get to know them, they just seem like typical, villainous caricatures.
Overall, I was able to look past the flaws because it did what any good book should: it kept me interested. I wanted to know what was going to happen. I kept pulling out my phone when I had a few seconds to read another page or two. The Book of Ivy doesn’t do anything dystopian books before it haven’t, but it gets the job done as a fun, fast-paced YA read.
“Love isn’t something you can legislate. Love is more than charts and graphs and matching interests. Love is messy and complicated and it is a mistake to deny its random magic.”
tl;dr — Not a whole lot of originality, but if you like this formula, The Book of Ivy is a fun and fast-paced dystopian.