My whole world changed when I stepped inside the academy. Nothing is right about this place or the other students in it. Here I am, a mere mortal among gods…or monsters. I still can’t decide which of these warring factions I belong to, if I belong at all. I only know the one thing that unites them is their hatred of me.
Then there’s Jaxon Vega. A vampire with deadly secrets who hasn’t felt anything for a hundred years. But there’s something about him that calls to me, something broken in him that somehow fits with what’s broken in me.
Which could spell death for us all.
Because Jaxon walled himself off for a reason. And now someone wants to wake a sleeping monster, and I’m wondering if I was brought here intentionally—as the bait.
Read: November 2021
Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5
Warning: This review contains spoilers!
I fully expected this book to be a complete trainwreck before I even began reading it. I mean, when the inspiration for a book is so obviously Twilight you can determine that fact from the cover, that’s exactly what you should expect.
At least in this, Tracy Wolff didn’t disappoint. I anticipated trash, and trash I received.
After the horrific deaths of her parents in a tragic car accident, Grace moves to Alaska to reside with her cousin Macy and her uncle Finn, the latter of whom is the headmaster of the boarding school Grace will attend. As Grace’s new guardian, Finn intends to keep his niece safe. So of course he doesn’t tell her that his boarding school is actually a haven for powerful supernatural entities: He just tosses her into her dorm with Macy and acts like her life isn’t in danger – you know, like any responsible parental figure would do. The powerful inhabitants of the school literally have the maturity of teenagers and some of them are just plain assholes who get their jollies from trying to toss the unwitting human girl out into the Alaskan snow in her pajamas; the school is divided into tense
cliques gangs factions that clash frequently and sometimes violently. But sure, Grace is so much safer in the dark, right? It’s been more than a month since I read this book, but I’m pretty sure Macy and Finn don’t crack and fess up to Grace until about halfway through, which is entirely too long to actively obfuscate the truth about present perils from anybody.
Since Crave was published fifteen years after the release of Twilight, I at the very least hoped that Jaxon wouldn’t be a bunting of red flags like Edward was. But Jaxon is a big ol’ sack of dicks. Wolff attempts to write him as charmingly mysterious, but Jaxon only achieves half of that. Sorry, it’s not charming to creep up on a girl you don’t know, invade her personal space, and then drop cryptic messages about the world she’s not supposed to know shit about in such a manner that it appears you’re randomly mansplaining chess. Nor is it endearing to send a girl you met two days prior an entire fucking breakfast buffet via room service. Insisting on walking said girl to all of her classes? No fucking thanks. And frequently breaking shit speaks to problematic anger issues. Somehow, though, Grace doesn’t seem too bothered by that stuff. After watching him beat, strangle, and drink the blood of another student, Grace decides that she thinks he’s “responsible.” I’m sorry, what? I don’t care if there are bizarre interspecies politics at play here – that excessive, aggressive behavior reeks of violent tendencies. Here’s the nice little cherry garnish on top: Jaxon mocks the headmaster about fucking the headmaster’s niece for no reason whatsoever other than to be like “What’s up, I’m a douchecanoe and I have sex and I am master of this high school kingdom.”
But surely, you say, the plot must offer some redemption. I hate to disappoint, but Grace and Jaxon’s romance is the main plot, and with a love interest like Jaxon, there’s not much to root for. The subplot of Lia attempting to resurrect Hudson from the dead is infinitely more interesting conceptually, but it’s underbaked and feeble. Wolff really missed an opportunity by sidelining this grieving Lia/Hudson resurrection arc in favor of a handful of days of Jaxon and Grace’s bland romance. Wolff doesn’t exert much effort in worldbuilding either. Sure, we get to hear a bit about vampires and how they’re born and how old and powerful they are and blah blah blah, but what about the witches/warlocks, shapeshifters, and dragons? Information on these other superhumans is minimal: Wolff provides just enough to skate by, but it’s just not enough to be truly in-depth or fascinating.
It’s not that Crave has no improvements over Twilight. Wolff makes a concerted effort to acknowledge the impacts of her parents’ deaths and the move to Alaska have had on Grace’s mental health. Plus, Grace (sort of sometimes) asserts herself in her relationship with Jaxon. Granted, she has to push back against Jaxon more than she should (because he’s a pushy asshole) and she clearly isn’t in the headspace to understand that Jaxon is unstable, but it’s an upgrade from Twilight’s plot of “Bella wants to change for a man who totally doesn’t respect her agency.” And oh my god, don’t get me started on Macy, because I could ramble about what a gem she is all day long. Aside from lying to Grace about the reality of her situation, Macy is a pretty damn supportive cousin who goes out of her way to make Grace feel more welcome at this alien school. Instead of just doing that out of obligation, Macy is actually trying to – and succeeding in – forging a friendship with Grace because she genuinely wants to. In the end, simply being better than Twilight is such a low bar that clearing it really doesn’t mean much, and just as Alice couldn’t singlehandedly save Twilight no matter how lovable she was, Macy can’t singlehandedly save Crave.