OUR CROOKED HEARTS, by Melissa Albert

I’ve kept postponing the actual writing of this review for several days before finally sitting down to do it, because even now I’m not sure whether I really enjoyed Our Crooked Hearts or not: on one side, I was curious to see where the story would lead me, on the other I had the feeling that something was missing from it – and even now I’m not completely sure about what it was.

The premise is an intriguing one: the dual-timeline tale of a mother and daughter discovering, each in her own way, the power of magic and being affected by it and the unavoidable consequences.  The opening scene, with teenage Ivy and her boyfriend almost running their car over a young naked woman coming out of the woods, is the mere introduction to a string of weird events that make Ivy question everything she knew – or thought she knew – about her mother and her own past, just as we learn through a series of flashbacks how Dana, Ivy’s mother, became enmeshed in the wielding of magic.

Dana, her best friend Fee and their new acquaintance Marion ended up playing with forces way beyond their control when delving into the secrets of an old grimoire found by Marion: their reckless pursuit of the powers gifted by the book’s spells led them to try something beyond their ability to control it, something that ended in  catastrophe and that cast a pall of danger on both of them and – years later – on Ivy herself as the teenager had to face the mysterious actions of her mother and deal with the threat posed by the spooky girl encountered in the woods.

What I really liked: the dual timeline, which juxtaposes Dana’s discovery of magic and its potential – as well as its pitfalls – with Ivy’s findings about her mother and her search for the reasons she always felt distant as a parent.  The mother/daughter relationship here suffers from the usual troubles inherent in the differences between parents and their teenaged kids, but it’s burdened by the added weight of the secrets Dana kept close to her chest and which Ivy is slowly uncovering in her quest to understand what is happening.   There are also some truly creepy moments, particularly where the remains of dead bunnies crop us as a form of dire warning, or when Ivy feels certain that someone is shadowing her steps, even turning up into her own house.

The approach of the two women to magic is also interesting, because where Ivy sees it as something wondrous, something to be explored as it leads to ever-new discoveries, Dana knows everything about its dark side and the price it exacts – particularly because she has first-hand experience of the terrible aftermath of spells getting out of hand. The way the story is told shows how the choices of the past can influence the events of the present, turning Ivy’s journey into something almost pre-ordained by her mother’s past actions.

The pacing of the plot is well done, and the story kept my attention focused from start to finish, although the downside of it is that the characters suffered a little from what I perceived as an unbalanced focus, Ivy most of all.  Which leads me to what I did not like much: as I said, characterization suffers a little in this mainly plot-driven story, and the writing often seems a little… flowery, for lack of a better word, where a more streamlined narrative might have worked better – in my opinion – to carry the tension forward. Speaking of which, the ending felt a bit like a letdown, when compared with the previous buildup, thanks to a too-quick resolution. Moreover, there was the added element of young romance – heavily hindered by the intervention of magic – that did not sit well with me, because of my aversion to YA relationships that made me look at this element as something that was pasted on, rather than naturally developed, and therefore unnecessary.

In the end, I guess that while it was easy to get through this book – if nothing else because I wanted to see how the author solved the plot – it was not the kind of story that would stick with me in a particular way. Or as they say: “it’s not you, it’s me”….

My Rating:


15 thoughts on “OUR CROOKED HEARTS, by Melissa Albert

  1. Ah, this is one I wanted to read for catch-up December. I’m not so sure now though, you’ve described a few things that make me think of some of the issues I had with her Hazelwood books. I loved the first one, but the sequel was a bit angsty, flowery, and the unwelcome romance getting into the way of the good stuff…I’m going to have to think on this 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am sorry this didn’t really work out for you! This does not sound like my kind of book, even more so because I am not a fan of dual timeline, I prefer one solid time line for my stories (even if I can make exceptions, it is not a set on stone thing, but I tend to not really like multiple time lines)!

    Liked by 1 person

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