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Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Synopsis: Nikki’s life is far from perfect, but at least she has Dee. Her friends tell her that Dee is no good, but Nikki can’t imagine herself without him. He’s hot, he’s dangerous, he has her initials tattooed over his heart, and she loves him more than anything. There’s nothing Nikki wouldn’t do for Dee. Absolutely nothing.

So when Dee pulls Nikki into a crime—a crime that ends in murder—Nikki tells herself that it’s all for true love. Nothing can break them apart. Not the police. Not the arrest that lands Nikki in jail. Not even the investigators who want her to testify against him.
But what if Dee had motives that Nikki knew nothing about? Nikki’s love for Dee is supposed to be unconditional…but even true love has a limit. And Nikki just might have reached hers.
Review: Matter of factly, somberly, subtly (no sudden rise of dramatic words here to try to make a point that is already made by the situation alone), and so richly researched that it makes you wonder what author Terra Elan McVoy must have felt during that work, Criminal reminds young adult readers that there will be personal hells of one’s own making, hopefully metaphorical prisons that we find ourselves in, having to hit bottom before we can sort ourselves out and start anew. McVoy chooses a physical prison in a story about Nikki, underage for beer but a little younger than Dee, her almost 21-year-old boyfriend, for whom she would do anything. To her, it’s out of passionate, unyielding, the world-knows-nothing-else love, but it’s actually because her life has been so bad, abused by a drug-addicted mother and raised by a grandmother who was good only as far as goodness can go when life has been broken so many times over. Nikki was raised by her grandmother when Cherry, her mother, went deep into her addiction, but then she died and that was the end of that hope.

Nikki doesn’t know where life can go, that it possibly can get better. Her best friend Bird, who she lives with, could be the way for her to see that, but all she wants is Dee.

Forget that she aided him in a horrific crime in which he shot and killed a deputy.

Forget that Bird told her long before that that Dee was bad news. She still brought him to Bird’s house, in front of Bird’s little daughter, disrupting her life, ignoring her moral reactions. Bird remained quiet, but she knew it was bad.

But, love conquers all.

This is tense, pit-of-your-stomach writing, a gradual dread that grows colder, hoping for a better life for Nikki, somehow, some way, but expecting the worst because she stupidly shrugged off Bird’s reactions, the only one that could help her. Love can make you blind, and sometimes it ruins lives, even those like Nikki’s that look ruined enough from the outset. McVoy also goes deep into the legal process, which looks just as bad for Nikki, triggering her to do a lot of thinking while she waits and waits and waits. You’ll be thinking about this novel for a while after because McVoy seems like a journalist just there to get it all down, to observe a lot of this, but never to judge. She has done great service to whatever inspired her to write Criminal, and all those who helped her along the way. Nikki is an example of what not to do in one’s own life, not to get that caught up in love when it becomes dangerous, but also an example of hope, that we can eventually see, that we can improve, can do better with our lives, even if it takes the worst to light the way. Read it and understand.

Review by: Rory

Rating: 4/5 DIAMONDS
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