Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy

This review was originally published on July 12, 2013 at SheReads.org, where I’m the YA Reviewer. 

This book was not what I expected. I knew it would be dark. I knew the content would be difficult to read. I knew these things. I wasn’t prepared, though, for what it was.
So why would I recommend it here, on She Reads? Because it is incredibly well written and fascinating. It’s a bit like a train wreck, where you can see that things just are not good and you feel like you shouldn’t even be there, observing, and yet you can’t quite turn away from it.
Criminal is the story of Nikki, a troubled teenage girl who is hopelessly in love with Dee, a guy who oozes bad news. Nikki doesn’t have any real family to step in and show her that he’s scum and she deserves better, and she is so caught up in Dee that even warnings from Bird, her friend and the closest thing she has to caring family, fall on deaf ears.
The story is interesting as we pick it up right after something awful has happened – a crime which Nikki was unknowingly drug into by Dee – and we see bits and pieces unfold as we learn the truth of the whole story right along with Nikki. There were times when I literally wanted to reach into the book and shake some sense into her. There were times when I didn’t even want to keep going, but I couldn’t stop, either… the train wreck phenomenon.
If you’ve ever wondered how a person can get so wrapped up in a horrible romantic relationship, or how a teenage girl can be so wrapped up in herself that she doesn’t even realize what she does to other people she cares about, this book will give you something to think about. In fact, it’s something for all of us to think about. You don’t have to be an accidental accomplice to a murder in order to see how Nikki’s cycle in the book plays out in our lives – something happens, we hit rock bottom, we realize a need for change, and we set about making things right.
By the end of the book, I was hopeful for Nikki, which is why I can recommend Criminal. If it weren’t for the hope that McVoy weaves into her ending, the book would be completely disturbing and depressing. As it is, though, it’s an interesting journey through crime, the criminal justice system, and one character’s sincere effort to grow up and have a positive future.
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