Five Stars to THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE by Sarah Harian

THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE – Book 1 in the Chaos Theory series
By Sarah Harian
Release Date – March 18th, 2014

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Amazon / B&N

Description:

 Evalyn Ibarra never expected to be an accused killer and experimental prison test subject. A year ago, she was a normal college student. Now she’s been sentenced to a month in the compass room—an advanced prison obstacle course designed by the government to execute justice.

If she survives, the world will know she’s innocent.

Locked up with nine notorious and potentially psychotic criminals, Evalyn must fight the prison and dismantle her past to stay alive. But the system prized for accuracy appears to be killing at random.

She doesn’t plan on making friends.

She doesn’t plan on falling in love, either.

Sarah Harian’s debut THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE, the first in her Chaos Theory series, is proof to me of several things. Proof that it’s still possible to have an original slant on a dystopian world. Proof that you can have characters who’ve done terrible things and keep them likable—proof that characters who’ve done terrible things are way more interesting than characters who haven’t. Proof that a book can be a blood-splattered, unflinching, sexy rollercoaster ride and still explore human nature in the kind of thought-provoking way that my English professors were always sure that blood-splattered, unflinching, sexy rollercoaster rides of books couldn’t.

THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE is the story of Evalyn Ibarra, the most notorious in a group of young criminals serving out a month-long sentence in the Compass Room, a technologically-advanced prison that weeds out the truly guilty from the innocent. Survivors are vindicated, but survivors are few. I won’t spoil too much, because the mechanics of the Compass Room are terrifying, fascinating, and a treat to discover for yourself, but I will say that we learn a lot about the sometimes-gritty, sometimes-hideous, and sometimes-understandable crimes of its inmates.

Evalyn’s crime was so devastating that the entire country knows her name—and hates it. But we begin to wonder about the true nature of Evalyn’s guilt as we’re taken through flashbacks that explore her old life, a stark contrast to her shattered universe today. How could someone with so much love for her (adorable!) baby brother, someone who we can’t help rooting for from the beginning, be capable of such a crime? Harian finally delivers the truth with the punch and unwavering confidence that marks every word she writes.

And the other characters. Oh my God.

“In prison, alliances are created so inmates can watch each other’s backs for potential attackers. But I don’t know what an alliance here means.”

It turns out that the alliances that form in the Compass Room mean survival, but not in the way we expect. Ensemble casts tend to be tricky, but Harian fleshes out each of her characters with vivid detail—Valerie, somehow simultaneously terrifying, hilarious, and lovable; Jace, who kept stabbing my heart; and Tanner, with his Dahmer glasses, the kid of the family. WICKED is a survival story first and foremost, and if you’re looking for those kinds of desperate heart-pounding thrills you won’t be disappointed (oh you will definitely not be disappointed), but it’s also a story about the friendships that broken people form in the most unlikely place. The progress of their friendship was a bright spot, bringing laughs in the middle of all the darkness. And CASEY. I love when the romantic lead gets a solid dose of character development, and the book is worth reading just to see Casey change and come to terms with his past and what he’s done.

Obviously, it’s worth reading for a lot of other reasons as well.

THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE is an unstoppable force of nature that you want to get swept up by. I read the whole book in five hours, stopping only to be grossed out by the fact that my hands were literally sweating from all the tension. (I also may or may not have applauded when one of the deliciously-written horrible side characters got killed off. Sweaty applause.) I can’t wait to see the splash this book makes, and I will be counting down the days until the next book is released.

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