YA Review: Dirty Blood by Heather Hildenbrand

Posted December 1, 2012 by Sophia Rose in Reviews / 2 Comments

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YA Review: Dirty Blood by Heather Hildenbrand
Dirty Blood

One StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

Series: #1 Dirty Blood Series
Genres: YA Urban Fantasy
Released on April 2, 2011
Pages: 294
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Some books I have read are a piece of cake to write up a review for and then there are others that leave me wondering what words I can use to express how I feel about them.  Usually, this happens when I’m undecided whether I like a book or not and that is the case with this one.  I liked several things about the story, but then there is one glaring thing that I didn’t like.

Tara Godwin is having a bad night.  First, her boyfriend is late picking her up for a date which seems to be the case of recent weeks for their dates and she was already considering breaking things off with him.  Now she does break it off because he is focused on his future football career to the exclusion of other things.  Then after she sends him off and leaves herself with no ride home, she cuts through a dark alley to a nearby bus stop.  This brings her face to face with a creature from legend that is set to kill her.  Amazingly, Tara is able to defend herself against a werewolf and take it down.  A mysterious boy appears seeming to know what is going on and he is able to help her and get her home.

From that point on, Tara finds herself discovering that there is a whole new aspect to the world she lives in.  Werewolves are real, some want to hurt humans, and there is a group of humans called Hunters with extraordinary abilities whose purpose is to defend the humans against the threatening werewolves.  Not only does Tara learn about this secret struggle between these two groups, she learns of The Cause, a group made up of both werewolves and Hunters who fight to get the two sides to live in peace.  She also starts learning her own life has been built on secrets when the war comes close to home stripping away all the comfortable lies and lies meant to keep her safe.

Tara is forced to juggle her old former ‘normal’ life including school and friends with this new hidden life with the Cause group she is learning from and hopes to help someday when her training is complete.  Enemies close in and danger is nearby at every turn, but the mysterious guy, Wes, from the first night turns out to be someone she learns to trust and love though he tends to try to protect her by keeping info from her and not getting involved with her.  Not that his decision to remain distant works out so well because Tara is a danger magnet and Wes really cares for her so he struggles to not be with her.

In the end, many secrets are revealed and a last minute betrayal almost costs several lives.  The book ends on a tentative note leaving things wide open for the change that is coming for Tara.

The plot and world building were pretty good.  I like this take on werewolves and this new creation of people called Hunters.  I’m always one for intrigue and second-guessing characters and what’s really going on so I enjoyed that aspect.  I found the shifts between the ordinary world of school and friends and then the time spend avoiding killer wolves and meeting with The Cause members an interesting contrast.

The majority of the characters around Tara like her school friends and members of the Cause, the enemies at school and enemy werewolf were generally good additions.  I really appreciated the character of Wes.  That poor guy lived his life constantly walking a tightrope and I don’t just mean because of who and what he is.  He had to do it a lot with Tara.  He tried to be her friend, to protect her and do the decent thing which often meant cutting himself off from her to do his duty.  His alpha gave him orders that prevented him from saying and doing what he would like and then he chose to respect Tara’s mother’s wishes and all he gets for his trouble is an angry, pouting and hurt Tara.

That leads me to what I didn’t enjoy about this book- namely Tara.   Yeah and that’s a real problem because the story is told first person from Tara’s point of view meaning- Tara is the book in certain ways.  Some might call her gutsy, brave and put upon- to each their own.  I found her arrogant, willful, and selfish much of the time.

It’s slightly acceptable for a three year old to think the world revolves around them.  In an eighteen year old?  Not so much.  There are so many times in this book beginning with the first scene where I just want to hand her the Too Stupid to Live award- get rid of your ride and refuse to call your mom to give you one because you don’t want to deal with her (legitimate) questions of why you don’t have ride and then you head down a dark alley at night.  Really?  Then refuse to receive freely given and freely offered training and help when you know almost every werewolf will be gunning for you.  Why?  Slip away from your protectors not once, but a few times because you ‘need some space’ which usually forces others to endanger themselves to rescue you.

Added to this behavior, there is the way she responds to everyone around her- instant anger and sometimes show of temper if there is not full and instant disclosure or someone tries to tell her she’s not ready for something- you know, like taking on the werewolf race?

She jumps all over poor Wes constantly.  He tells her he’s been ordered to obey his alpha and the other leaders to withhold information and he tells her this much at great risk to himself for disobeying.  Is she mad at those who ordered it?  Uh-uh, she’s mad at the messenger, Wes.  When she tells him she’s done with him, I breathed a huge sigh of relief for the guy, but naturally he didn’t see it as such a good thing.

Then her whole attitude with her mother- yeah, don’t get me going on that.  I’m not real fond of a trend in YA books where the parents and authority figures are made out to be bumbling idiots or ignorant next to their ‘brilliant’ children (not that all adults are the most mature founts of wisdom out there, but generally they can be given credit for knowing a little more about how the world works).

Now, I’m going to be fair and say that I do not think it is wrong of her to want to know what’s going on and feel that she should be put in the information loop.  I also think some hurt feelings might be in order when she discovers how much of her life was a lie.  I’d feel off kilter too.  My issue is how she goes about it with the pushy attitude without any respect for others or without the need to think through the why of things in the process.  I’ll also go so far as to say that there were times when she had her good moments.  The way she handled things in that final climatic battle made me really root for her and see that there is potential for her growing up in the next book.

The book is devoid of foul language and sex, but the violence is moderate.

In the end, I found that I could set aside what I didn’t like about Tara so that I could enjoy other aspects of the book.  I think this book would appeal to many teens and teens at heart with its characters, danger, intrigue, light romance and paranormal elements.

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

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8 years ago

Agreed! I was not a fan of Tara. Especially when she kept running off alone.

Sophia Rose
8 years ago
Reply to  Krista

Thanks for adding your thoughts, Krista!