Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tour: Review: The Hit List by Nikki Urang (+giveaway)

I'm super excited to be a part of this tour! If you don't already know, I love, love, love dance-related books. :) But also, as a note, I'm still on hiatus, as I'm right in the heart of college applications time. *pulls out hair* I'll be back soon; I just couldn't pass up this opportunity!

The Hit List by Nikki Urang
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Release Date: November 11th, 2014
The Los Angeles Conservatory for the Arts is supposed to be a new beginning for Sadie Bryant. Moving across the country is exactly what she needs to escape the gossip surrounding her injury, the devastating betrayal of her ex-partner, and to rebuild her career as a solo dancer.

When the school announces that the annual Fall Showcase, a performance that secures a spot studying in London, will now require each dancer to have a partner, Sadie’s fresh start is a nightmare. Now she has to dance with Luke Morrison, the school womanizer with a big ego. Sadie doesn’t know how to trust Luke enough to dance with him after her last partner left her broken, but Luke is determined to change that.

Then, The Hit List comes out. A game of sexual conquest where guys get points for all the girls they hook up with—and it seems like every guy at the school is playing.

The girl worth the most points? Sadie.
Disclaimer: I received an eARC from the publisher in order to take part in the tour. This did not affect my review in any way.

As mentioned above, I live for dance-related books. I never tire of them, and they just fill me with joy. Thus, I knew I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take part in this blog tour despite my busy November schedule. I don't regret it one bit!

The book was different than I had first imagined it but not necessarily in a bad thing. The character and emotional arcs in The Hit List are what make the book stand out. It was a bit overwhelming at times, seeing how stubborn both Sadie and Luke could be. But at the end, it was my absolute favorite aspect. It was probably the most unexpected part for me, but I'm so glad the book addressed the ways in which loss and betrayal affect us in the case of Sadie and how we can all change and become better people as was the case with both Sadie and Luke. The book is so heart-wrenching because you see Sadie hurting, and it's so easy to empathize with her. Even Luke, who's issues we also get a look at, goes through such a big change in the story. We get to see their struggle, each of them, and we also see them come out of that struggle, and that's so powerful.

Given this is in large part an "issues" book, there were times when I just got so annoyed at both Sadie and Luke for just being so stupid. I mean, I know I can't really judge because who knows what I'd be like in that situation, but there were times when I wanted to smack some sense into them. For instance, with Sadie, although I definitely connected with her struggle and could find pieces of my struggle within her, there were times when I just wanted to yell at her to see the bigger picture and to get over it. Yeah, that's far easier said than done. I know. But she's just so stubborn! I understand her pushing people away and not letting anyone in. Heck, I do that all the time. And yeah, I'm sure it's frustrating, but gahh! I wanted to pull out my hair sometimes! And Luke! He made me even more frustrated because Sadie is right, he leads her on and is cold to her and flirting with another girl the next minute. I get that he is dealing with his own issues, but how stupid can you honestly be?

But moving on, I greatly enjoyed the friendships brought up in the book. The relationship between Brielle and Sadie is an interesting one. They're roommates, and Brielle helps Sadie so much more than I think Sadie realizes. She's almost always there for her, and while it doesn't excuse her of the big twist/reveal at the end of the book, she has shown Sadie that she won't just go away either. But at the same time, I often got the feeling that they were really distant. There was so much more potential to expand on their friendship, but I feel like we honestly barely even got to know Brielle. It was the same with Adam. He helped her so much, and she does recognize that, but they never really seem to hang out otherwise (same with Brielle). They certainly don't have to be with each other all the time, and I know the book has other focuses, but I was under the impression that there would be a large focus on friendships, particularly given the circumstances in the book. This sort of leads me to another point, which is that there are many great characters in the book, but we barely get to know any of them. I think Sadie and Luke are complex and explored beyond my expectations (in a good way!), but what about everyone else? They felt a bit flat to me, as if they just moved the plot along at times.

Then, there's The Hit List itself, of course. I think the premise is so interesting and such a new idea. I haven't read a book like this before, and it sets up so many perfectly tense scenes. I definitely feel the same way Sadie does about the Hit List, but I can't deny it's ingenuity as part of the central plot. You don't know who to trust, and you keep questioning Luke's real motives and intentions. It bothered me that the biggest issue about the game wasn't really addressed--the fact that they're objectifying women and making them pieces in a game where they have so little control. Yeah, some girls like the attention, but I think it's horribly sexist and just gahh! I want to smack some sense into the girls that think it's flattering or fun! And the guys who play the game are even worse! It's so ridiculous, and I certainly hope nothing like this ever happens in real life. Give women some fricking respect, will you?! (And please note that this is in no way a reflection of the author. She obviously wouldn't support this.) But I really can't deny that it's a good way to focus the plot on something other than the character arcs.

And of course, I have to bring up the dancing! There were far fewer dance scenes in the book than I was expecting, given the setting and characters in the book. I don't think it necessarily detracted from the book, but I was certainly looking for a bit more. As students in a dance conservatory, I thought a lot more of the book would be spent exploring Sadie's relationship with dance. Not that there was any implication that that would be the case, but I digress. I believe it worked because of the strong plot and the emotion involved in the story, but yeah. Another minor, minor issue on this front is that I'm really confused as to whether the school is primarily classical or contemporary. I went in thinking it'd mostly be contemporary, but it was honestly hard to tell. It seemed as though the dances were contemporary, but her classes seemed to be classical. Of course I know they do have to have some classical, traditional ballet/pointe classes, but I know that my modern/contemporary class isn't like my ballet/pointe class, and it just seemed like they were always in their ballet/pointe class. Maybe I got the wrong impression, but yeah.

Lastly, as an overall look at the plot and the book, I have to say that as many flaws as I found in the book, I loved it so much. The pacing was overall really well done, and I was so sucked in. I couldn't stop reading, and there was something just so addicting about the story. I absolutely loved the progression of Sadie and Luke's relationship, especially juxtaposed against Sadie's reflections on her relationship with Patrick. I was rooting for Sadie and Luke all along, and ahhh, they just make my heart so happy. They both overcome SO much and become such different people but in a way that allows them to still be genuinely themselves. The suspense and tension are just right, and I think you definitely hate the characters you're supposed to. The character-driven plot made up for many of the flaws because it was just so well-written and explored. The character growth and development were just so superb. I could read this book over and over again, and I was so upset when I got to the last sentence. I just wanted more, more, more! ;) This is another dance-related book that I love!

About the Author:
Nikki fell in love with books at a young age and looked forward to reading a book with her mom before bed every night. It was only a matter of time until her love of reading turned into a love of putting those words onto the page. Now, her days are spent helping those overcoming opiate addiction and her nights are spent writing. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and two stubborn cats.

Ends 11/15

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