I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
So just a couple weeks ago, I read book one in this series, THE SIX TRAIN TO WISCONSIN, and I absolutely loved it. I was excited to get into the next book and see how things started to resolve and grow and change. Heintz had done such a good job of creating believable characters that I knew had such potential, it felt like nothing could possibly go wrong.
And yet, somehow it did, and all the cards in the castle came tumbling down. There are going to be some spoilers (mild ones) in the below review, so if you don’t want to get ruined, the short form is: I have never felt so betrayed by a book in my life, I have lost almost all interest in the characters, and the only thing that saves this from a worse star count is that Heintz is still a very talented author. 3 stars.
For the rest of you? We jump below.
At the end of the first book, Kai and Oliver’s marriage was on the rocks. She’d gone through hell and back, not to mention the chaos that ensued from Oliver’s past coming out in force and her seeing how much he hadn’t said…and it ended with them uncertain of the future. Cool! I like seeing normal strife. It’s too easy for authors to wrap up all the loose ends just for a happy ending, when there wouldn’t necessarily be one there. Kudos. Now book two can work on that!
…Except it doesn’t.
This entire book is a series of stupid choices and grave mistakes and two people claiming to want one thing and doing everything in their power to deny it from happening. Kai is furious with how Oliver and Mickey are acting toward each other–but sees no problem with doing precisely the same (without the history behind it) with Alex. Oliver is expected to stop, but it doesn’t matter what she does, because she’s become “excused” from it since Oliver already did it. Meanwhile, Oliver spends literally the entire book desperate to win back his wife, but refuses to do the one solitary thing that he knows will actually help. Then when Kai leaves, his instinct isn’t “well it’s make or break now; this is really the time when I need to prove that I can do it”–it’s to say “welp, doesn’t really matter now does it” and waltz right back to Mickey.
Don’t get me started on the trifecta that is Caleb, Mickey, and Alex. Caleb irked me in Oliver’s chapters in the last book–I’m outright done with him in this one. He’s selfish and smarmy, and actively antagonizes pretty much anyone who isn’t Kai. Alex talks a good game but doesn’t actually stand up to his words, allowing himself to be led on with Kai and betray his old friend. And Mickey, working under the logic that old friends get to be around forever no matter what (since we see how well her brother does with that), is no damn better. She knows full well that she’s destroying everything, and relishes the fact that she is–and then of course, like the lovely “friend” that she is, is waiting for when Oliver falls back to her…as he always seems to do.
What started as a group of sympathetic characters working through issues has become a cluster**** of nightmares, populated by people I no longer care about. Kai gets about half of a pass because she’s apparently being pseudo-manipulated by the “darkness” Nathan left in her at the end of the first book. But by the end, she’s presented with the chance to go back to normal, and instead decides that a vengeful goddess who’s hurt everyone around her is the better person to be. Her estranged husband whines about wanting her back but won’t actually work to get her back, and everyone around them isn’t helping. At this point, the only character I like is Lukas, because he’s not wrapped up in this nightmare. The introduction of Stellan and that sideline seems tacked on and superfluous. We don’t need another antagonist; the book’s full of them already.
From what I’ve gathered from Heintz talking about the series, there’s probably a book three somewhere in the pipeline. And I understand that things need to get darker before they get better; that’s how these things work. But when you’re using a book 2 as a build-up to book 3, you need to keep your readers invested in what they saw in the beginning. You need to make sure we still believe in the end goal. Making stupid decisions and going the wrong way is how people work…but there has to be some forward motion. Someone has to be trying. And right now, despite all Oliver’s words to the contrary, no one is trying to save this relationship. They all seem actively willing to sabotage it because they’re being petty and childish.
As I said above, what saves this book from a worse rating is that Heintz is a very talented author. She’s evocative and descriptive, and I can see and feel all the angst and chaos happening. It’s a very real experience, and I could still feel that heaviness following me after I set the book down. (Not always helpful, but powerful.) She’s got the talent to write some massively moving things…I just wonder what she’s trying to make us feel. I doubt it’s hatred of every character in the book.
If and when book three comes out, it’s going to be a long and hard decision on whether or not I read it. I’d like to see it all end happily after everything. I’m just not sure the characters deserve it at this point.
Rating: *** (Worth a Look)