The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel
“After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.
This year, it is my turn.
My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.
But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.
Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…”
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I have been excited for this book ever since I read the synopsis pre-release.
Then when it was released, I read a preview on it from Amazon and I fell in love with it more. In fact, after reading the preview I ran around my apartment for a solid five minutes shrieking and jumping up and down… with my roommate watching me. Why? BECAUSE JUST THAT PREVIEW WAS SO FREAKING GOOD!
So now, I’ve read it and honestly? It wasn’t what I expected, it was more. The truth behind it is that this story was roughly about Ivy’s hope to fulfill her family’s desire to get power. Most of the story revolved around Ivy and Bishop’s blossoming relationship and Ivy’s personal growth. Because truly, both of them blossomed, and as a reader you got to see it happening.
I really appreciated how realistic her experience seemed in regards to living with her new husband, Bishop. As a final-semester University student (HOLLA 2015 GRADS) I’m no stranger to roommates (I’ve actually had 7), and let me tell you that my experience of getting to know them were all VERY similar to Ivy’s experience with Bishop. Except they were all girls… so really.. Can you imagine just marrying a stranger and being forced to live with them immediately? It would be EXACTLY how Engel described: awkward, unsettling, and life-changing
However, that’s not the biggest characteristic of this book, abuse is.
Truth be told I read this book twice because I just had to read more of Engel’s amazing writing style. So the second time I read this book I noticed a lot of things I didn’t really see before. With that being said, I recommend reading this book twice . I’m sure you all know, but there are two types of abuse: physical and mental. Mental is just as damaging as physical, and you shouldn’t believe anything less. In fact, I actually think that mental is almost worse than physical just because of how slithering it can be, how invisible from the outside it is (unless you’re hearing it), and just how permanent its effects can be. My first time reading the book, I didn’t really pick up on the abuse (aside from the obvious physical abuse situation). However, the second time around, it was so disgustingly obvious.
Ivy’s entire life was based on the mental abuse from both her father and sister, Callie. Her father was influencing her to want revenge for the Lattimer’s killing her mother and to regain their family’s right to hold power over the town. Her sister was manipulating her to fulfill the familial goal – basing all interactions with a hidden meaning and any exchanges with a goal. So it comes as no surprise that Ivy’s initial demeanor towards Bishop and the Lattimer’s was wholly based on the mental abuse she experienced from her family. And the biggest problem was that Ivy didn’t know because her father made sure to exclude her and Callie from any outside influences: home schooling, lessons with hidden intentions, no childhood friends, etc. Isn’t that so fucked?
Throughout the book when you see Ivy and Bishop’s relationship blossoming you are also witnessing Ivy grow. Ivy becomes so self-aware by the end of the book and she ultimately chooses love because of it. She chooses to do what she thinks is right and at the same time protects all those that she loves, regardless of their intentions . To me, this is a major contradiction to so many YA novels, because Ivy realizes that Bishop was merely helping her discover herself, not saving her (which is SO typical in a YA: boy saves girl, they fall in love). Ivy learned peace and love and all that other cheesy stuff because she was with someone who loved and accepted her for who she was. Which is why I think this book deserves its 5/5 stars, because her growth was so remarkable.
I am TOO excited for #2’s release later this year (it’s already released!!), and I’m actually tapping my foot writing this so I can go see what else Engel has written.