A toxic romance, lack of admirable characters, and a convoluted plot are only a few reasons why this book should be avoided.
Title: Unblemished (The Unblemished Trilogy, Book One)
Author: Sara Ella
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Age: It’s supposedly written for YA, but all ages should avoid it.
Eliyana can’t bear to look at her own reflection. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world exists where her blemish could become her strength?
Eliyana is used to the shadows. With a birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. That is, until Joshua hops a fence and changes her perspective. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her like he does: normal. Maybe even beautiful. Because of Joshua, Eliyana finally begins to believe she could be loved.
But one night her mother doesn’t come home, and that’s when everything gets weird. Now Joshua is her new, and rather reluctant, legal Guardian. Add a hooded stalker and a Central Park battle to the mix and you’ve gone from weird to otherworldly.
Eliyana soon finds herself in a world much larger and more complicated than she’s ever known. A world enslaved by a powerful and vile man. And Eliyana holds the answer to defeating him. How can an ordinary girl, a blemished girl, become a savior when she can’t even save herself?
Toxic and an allergy to conjunctions
I picked this book up about six or seven years ago, drawn in by the cover. I didn’t make it past the first two pages due to a gut warning. The book was promptly returned to the library. I should have left it there for good, but I decided a few days ago to check it out again and ensure I didn’t give it the wrong rating based off a six-year-old memory.
Unfortunately, this book is the epitome of trashy YA, minus the explicit sex scenes.
There were a variety of settings, from New York to different worlds. It became confusing over time.
The typical plot you find in most YA books. Emotionally-inept/emotionally-constipated Teen has hidden powers/heritage that have been hidden from them since their birth until Specified Date. Teen must then save the world or an alternate world. Teen is loved by two of the opposite sex and a love triangle ensues.
Usually there’s at least one character I end up liking. Regrettably, I disliked all of them.
El was whiny and immature. I admire her love, loyalty, and dedication to and for her mom, though.
Joshua was a complex individual. The best of the three, which isn’t saying much.
Ky is a semi-cretin. And a creep. It seems he’s the fave of fangirls, but I didn’t see it.
No faith to speak of unless I missed something. This really disappointed me because this book is produced by a Christian publisher.
What I Liked/Was Okay With:
The cover is gorgeous. Absolutely stunning.
In the front of the book, Ms. Ella has a dedication to her mom, who died. Despite the issues with the writing style, Ms. Ella somehow expertly conveyed her pain, and El’s pain, and makes the reader experience it. This book feels like it’s an homage to Ms. Ella’s mother, and that mourning and loss is so tenderly conveyed.
What I Disliked:
Honestly, I skipped huge portions of this book just so I could reach the end. There are, of course, things about every book that are subjective. I will begin with those.
I rarely harp on authors’ writing styles because that is subjected and what I dislike another reader will like. In most cases, it’s merely person preference (or personal unpreference). I also always say writing rules should be taken with a grain of salt. They are guidelines only.
El’s thoughts were not italicized as they should be. Whether that’s the author’s or editor’s fault, I don’t know. But it was jarring.
I can only describe the writing style as amateurish and mediocre at best. There were some funny things, of course, like El not wanting to smell like a hobbit (now that I think about it, the hobbits probably didn’t smell the best during their journey). We’re always told, never showed. There was a serious allergy to conjunctions (and, or, but), and the writing is extremely stiff, stilted, and disjointed. It’s annoying. We’re told the sounds, not hearing them via El’s awareness of her surroundings.
Starbucks, just another block away.
Mom gasps, covers her mouth with a trembling hand.
She straightens, tightens the tie on her robe.
And then there’re the noises. If El’s walking down the stairs, it’s basically, “I descend the stairs. Creak. Groan.”
The writing style needs a lot of refinement. Every author has their own style. I get that. It makes us unique with our different voices. But this is not a style that works in the least.
The plot, also, both dragged and plodded, and it was confusing to boot. Granted, I did skip some chunks, but it was because I just couldn’t get into it. At all. It was so boring and dull.
Those are the subjectives. If nothing else was wrong with the book, I’d just give it a three star and toddle on. But there are some pretty serious issues that I can’t ignore.
Maybe I missed something, but it was presented like El and Joshua slept in the same home alone. Together. Without a chaperone. Yeah, I know, he’s her guardian, but there are obviously romantic feelings at play and there are only, what, four?, years separating them. That’s inappropriate at best.
El. Is so. Immature. Honestly, this book reminded me of why I dislike most YAs. Immature characters meant to save the world, but they can’t even generate a rational, mature thought. I understand she just lost her mom. That grief is indescribable. She’s going to be a bit out of it. But she doesn’t think. And she’s petty and jealous.
Case in point: El’s jealous that Joshua has other friends. (Quote:) “Friends who aren’t me. Friends who probably include girls.”
And she’s just a snot (which reveals the liberal bent in this book): she basically calls people idiots because they don’t know she doesn’t eat meat. Then she eats pepperoni. Then she’s a snob again when she smells bacon. (Is bacon good for you? Absolutely not. But there’s nothing wrong with eating it in moderation.)
And that brings up the clubbing scenes. El is 17, okay? She and friend go clubbing. She’s underaged. Apparently that doesn’t matter. While El doesn’t drink, she’s surrounded by alcohol, and it’s suggested that…other activities are in the making. E.g., her friend goes home with a guy. (Hint: they’re not married.)
El is told, “Your rack is your best feature, El. Flaunt it.”
Excuse me, how is that appropriate for a YA book touted as Christian and published by Thomas Nelson?????
Not at all.
There are other issues along the same line. El engages in close dancing with a guy she literally just met. Hands-on-his-shoulders and his-hands-on-her-hips type of stuff. Appropriate? I think not.
El then is willing to go on a ride with the guy she literally just met. Honestly, the wheel was spinning but the hamster was dead.
There’s a girl that’s pretty much naked (90% in El’s estimation). Ky has no qualms looking at her.
El notes that, one time when she wakes up in an unknown location, a soft, green robe covered her ‘naked body’. TMI. Really.
Then there’s the love triangle. With the way Joshua’s and Ky’s breaths are always in her ear and yada yada and El’s reaction to it, it’s far too sensual.
This is one of the things that really gets me. El purportedly “loves” both of Joshua and Ky. And she alternates drooling over them. Come on, YA authors. Quit writing “heroines” that are so weak-willed and weak-minded that they’re indecisive ninnies.
A movie is mentioned by name, a movie that includes sexual innuendos, and I quote from Plugged In, “A half-dozen s-words. One use of the euphemism “frikken.” Other blemishes include “h—,” “a–,” and British crudities “b-llocks” and “bloody.” God’s name is misused almost 20 times; Jesus’ once.”
Yep. Sounds like a movie that should be mentioned. In a book published by a Christian publisher. For YA.
This book contains toxic romance. Joshua is a jerk to El, but she “still loves him”. Then both he and Ky lie to her (for a range of reasons) and she “still loves them”. The girl’s an emotional wreck and is setting herself up for abuse.
Unblemished has a gorgeous cover and touches on mourning a loved one, but that’s where its positive qualities end. As a YA book, the Amazon page for Unblemished says it is written for those 13+. I shudder to think about anyone near that age reading this.
This book illustrates and proponents toxic romance, includes sensuality, a myriad of confusing plots and semi-plots, poor writing, and no faith. There is not one character who would make a good role-model, and as it is with most YA books, an abundance of lying occurs. But don’t worry. It’s for the best.
We need stories with clean, honorable romance, admirable heroes and heroines, and edifying plot lines, which is not what this book provides.
I really would have liked to see the Gospel presented. Instead of El finding her strength (what little she did find) in her identity from the world’s eyes, I would have loved it if she recognized her need for a Savior, became a child of God, and realized her worth and value are undeniable because she is created in the image of God. Not because she’s someone special in some mirror kingdom.
To conclude this lengthy review, Unblemished is not a book I recommend to anyone.