Essenced (The Division Chronicles: Book One) by Connie L. Smith
(Summary taken from amazon.com) "Years ago, demons were forced out of the earth’s realm by a band of supernatural fighters, banished from the place and its people in the aftermath of a horrific war. It should’ve ended there – would’ve – if not for the final demon’s claw snagging on the open portal. What felt like victory became only a reprieve, the winning warriors understanding that the tear would spread, and the demons eventually would escape exile. It was only a matter of time, and a need for future defense – a question of genetics and essences, magic and power. Now, centuries later, a new army must bind together – one of teenagers with inhuman potentials and abilities… AJ went to bed Sunday night an average teenage girl, clumsy and athletically lacking. So when she wakes up Monday morning with super-strength, she does what any rational person would do: She goes into denial. When a smoking hot guy in a suit shows up, rambling about the end of the war and demons spilling through some kind of rift, she refuses to listen, telling herself he’s insane. Except weird things just won’t quit happening, and the guy keeps popping up in her life, trying to explain the changes suddenly happening within her. Is she crazy, or is this guy… not so crazy after all?"
It took me probably three days of picking this book up, putting it down, picking it up, and putting it down, to finally get passed the first page. I didn't really get it at first. I had to keep rereading. Blah....but I pushed through those first few pages....and as soon as it got to A.J. I couldn't put it down. I couldn't figure that first part out, but once I got to A.J. I read it in a few days. She is such a good character. She's strong, willful, angry, sweet, smart, not-so-smart, whiny, needy, tough, you know, everything a 16 year-old girl is. I loved the part about her smashing her alarm clock! It hooked me for sure. I thought Julius was a fun character as well. Even though I knew what he was there to do, he still kind of creeped me out at first, but then he turned into a pretty good guy. I felt bad for A.J. and the other essenced; it would be extremely difficult to do what they did. I wish she could have given her sister a little more info. (like telling her she had a very important mission to go on), but I guess she couldn't. Once they got to the training center there were a bunch of great characters. I loved Ray-Ray especially. I thought all the different characters were very creative and fun. I liked learning about all the different abilities and magic powers. The first 50% of the book is written about A.J., and then all of a sudden, at about half-way through the book, it splits off into the different viewpoints, and I didn't love that. I thought it made it a little choppy and took away some of the flow. I liked watching the characters grow into their abilities. I liked that they were stronger and better than they thought they were. I think that goes for all of us most of the time; we are stronger and better than we give ourselves credit for. I liked that they had to work hard too. They didn't just wake up with magic powers and become heroes instantly, they had to work really hard for it. I liked that a lot. Most successes and talents don't come that easy, we need to put effort into them in order to achieve them. I also liked that they needed to learn to work together, as a team. There were several grammatical errors in this book, but they weren't bad enough to hinder my reading. It ended abruptly, but that is why I had the second book all lined up and ready to go.
I'm having a difficult time rating this one. There isn't any language, and no "intimacy." Yes, there is definitely some tension between A.J. and Julius, and maybe an almost-kiss or two, but that's it. There is some minor violence as they prepare for the upcoming war. So, you'd think it would be good for the 5th/6th grade crowd and up, but no, I don't think so. There are a couple of things that I haven't encountered in young adult or middle grade books before, so I'm not quite sure. One of the characters becomes a VERY heavy smoker. He wears 5 nicotine patches on each arm, chews the nicotine gum, and still needs to smoke. I'm sorry if I offend anyone, but that is just disgusting, and I do not think it is appropriate for the middle grade kids for sure. I really don't think it's okay for the YA crowd either. The only thing it has going for it is that he knows it is gross and so does everyone else around him. They don't make it seem like a healthy or good thing to do. He doesn't want to do it, but is compelled by the changes from the magic. The other thing is that these kids are between the ages of 16 and 19. The legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21. One of the kids goes out (which is a whole different story that didn't make sense to me at all....how did he get out and why did no one know he was gone??) and steals a lot of beer. Then, the leaders of each group proceed to get completely drunk and wasted. There are pages and pages devoted to what they said when they were drunk, what they sang, how they acted, how much they drank, etc. That is not okay for anyone under 21 for sure. Now, they did get in a lot of trouble and paid for it the next day, with hangovers, angry angels, and extra training sessions. It was also not made out to be a good thing. However, do I want my teenager reading about that? Ummmm.....no. So, what to do, what to do??? I guess I'll put it at 18 and let parents make the choice. I know my sensitivity level to drugs and alcohol may be higher than other people's. It's too bad, because I think my 12 and 10 year-old boys would really like the story. Other than those two things I really enjoyed this book, and have already started the second book.
Rating: R (No language, no "intimacy," and only minor violence, but one character is a HUGE smoker and a bunch of 16-19 year-olds get very drunk at a late night party.)
Recommendation: 18 and up. This one is going to need to be a parents' decision. Those things may not bother you at all, in which case you'd probably feel comfortable letting a younger teenager read it.
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Note**As of when I posted this, this book is free on amazon!