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Book Review: Tarnished by Kate Jarvik Birch

Tarnished by Kate Jarvik Birch

Title: Tarnished

Author: Kate Jarvik Birch

Series: Perfected #2

Genre: Teen Fiction

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Ella was genetically engineered to be the perfect pet—graceful, demure…and kept. In a daring move, she escaped her captivity and took refuge in Canada. But while she can think and act as she pleases, the life of a liberated pet is just as confining as the Congressman’s gilded cage. Her escape triggered a backlash, and now no one’s safe, least of all the other pets. But she’s trapped, unable to get back to Penn—the boy she loves—or help the girls who need her. Back in the United States, pets are turning up dead. With help from a very unexpected source, Ella slips deep into the dangerous black market, posing as a tarnished pet available to buy or sell. If she’s lucky, she’ll be able to rescue Penn and expose the truth about the breeding program. If she fails, Ella will pay not only with her life, but the lives of everyone she’s tried to save…

The Review:

If you haven’t heard my constant ravings about Perfected over the last year, I’ll sum them up: I fricken loved it. It presented the disturbing concept of human “pets” in a way that acknowledged the darker connotations without dwelling on them, therefore allowing the story to focus on the sweet love story. Tarnished is where all of that darkness and grit comes to the forefront, and it was every bit as compelling as it was heart-wrenching.

I really feel as though this is where the story needed to go. Perfected felt innocent because the main character, Ella, was innocent. One of the things I love about this author is her ability to totally immerse you in the character’s point of view. In Perfected, Ella had quite a sheltered view of the world. In Tarnished, any delusions of safety and security Ella may have had are completely stripped away as she faces the harsh (and disturbing) realities of how human pets are treated in the real world. It showcased an excellent growth of character, which is easily my favorite elements to this book. Ella had to come to terms with the darker nature of humanity, and it was inspiring to watch her convictions and sense of self grow throughout the book. Like the love story, it felt organic, and that’s another part of why I love these books so much. There are so many subtleties adding up to profound moments that you almost don’t see them coming.

While Perfected spoke to my heart, Tarnished spoke to my mind. I hope the third book will tie together the best of both. The only thing I didn’t get out of this novel was a clear motive for Missy, a fellow pet who offers to help Ella at what I’d call extreme sacrifice to herself. I kept waiting for her motives to be revealed, good or bad, but was perplexed to note it wasn’t addressed anywhere throughout the entire book. That alone kept me from fully getting behind that part of the plot as plausible and also kept me from really immersing myself in the story. All I’m saying is, some sort of hint or minor indication early on would have gone a long way. Other than that, everything else about this book was superb!

As you can see, I am a huge fan of this series and recommended most often to YA readers who loved Destefano’s Chemical Garden Trilogy and Oliver’s Delirium Trilogy – both of which I thought were beautifully written and evoking stories. If you’re in the market for a teen read without all the fluff, Perfected is the series for you. I definitely limit myself to recommending it to older teens and adults due to the darker subject matter, even though it’s all handled tastefully.

I’d like to thank Entangled Publishing, LLC, Kate Jarvik Birch, and NetGalley for the chance to read and review a reviewer copy of Tarnished.

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by Niki Hawkes

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