Book Review & Guest Post — The Wicked We Have Done by Sarah Harian

Book Review & Guest Post — The Wicked We Have Done by Sarah Harian
Book Review & Guest Post — The Wicked We Have Done by Sarah HarianThe Wicked We Have Done by Sarah Harian
Series: Chaos Theory #1
Published by Intermix, Penguin
Publication date: March 18, 2014
Genres: Dystopian Romance, New Adult
272 pages
Format: eARC

Evalyn Ibarra never expected to be an accused killer and experimental prison test subject. A year ago, she was a normal college student. Now she’s been sentenced to a month in the compass room—an advanced prison obstacle course designed by the government to execute justice.

If she survives, the world will know she’s innocent.

Locked up with nine notorious and potentially psychotic criminals, Evalyn must fight the prison and dismantle her past to stay alive. But the system prized for accuracy appears to be killing at random.

She doesn’t plan on making friends.

She doesn’t plan on falling in love, either.

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The Wicked We Have Done has been on my radar ever since I saw that the author, Sarah Harian, mentioned that it was inspired by the TV show LOST. Color me interested.  If you didn’t know, I am and will forever be a huge fan of that TV show. The characters are unforgettable and all of them are incredibly flawed.  Similarly, the characters Harian created in her debut novel are equally (if not more) flawed.  All of them are convicted criminals.  The Wicked We Have Done is an action-packed thrill ride with twists and turns on every page, leaving the reader guessing at what happens next.

Check out Sarah’s Interview & Guest Post on how LOST inspired this novel below!

The story is told through Evalyn Ibarra’s point-of-view. On the outside, she seems like your normal college-aged girl.  But everyone in America knows who she is and what she did.  Evalyn was a participant in a mass-murder school shooting, leaving fifty-six dead and a lot of blood on her hands.  Her sentence, however, is not what you think.

Set in America at some point in the future, you learn that the government has a new way to punish criminals.  A way that will separate those criminals who are truly wicked at their core.  With incredible advancements in technology, the government has created an elaborate simulation system called Compass Rooms.  Convicts have a choice to either go through with their sentence and face life in prison or the death penalty or go to the Compass Rooms for the thirty days.  The catch?  Well, out of the ten people that are place in a Compass Room, on average 2.5 survive.  Not great odds.

“The only thing I do know about the Compass Room is that this test is supposed to see who you truly are, despite your research. Despite good acting or the lies you tell yourself.”

Our heroine, Evalyn, is America’s favorite person to hate. She’s a terrorist.  A murderer.  Everyone wants to see her burn in hell.  And she knows it. She chose to forego her prison sentence and face possible death in the CR.  Along with ten other participants, she gets an implant put into brain that will monitor her hormones and emotions.  Using these levels, the CR’s algorithms will determine her fate, will determine if she truly good or truly bad.

“Even they they committed crimes, I am the queen of darkness. They have nothing to worry about. If I’m really evil, the CR will make sure that by day two, my heart isn’t beating.”

On her way to meet her fate, Evalyn meets the other nine who will join her in the CR simulation.  Four other girls and five guys.  Some of them did unimaginable things.  Salem raped several women; Erity was convicted of murdering four women whom she used as human sacrifices in black magic; Gordon was the crazed psychopath who kidnapped and drugged several people.

All ten of them were placed in the CR — a place in the middle of nowhere amidst a thick overgrown forest with only the bare essentials.  The Compass Room picks them off one by one, making its mathematically calculated decision.  But is the CR making the right choice?  Is it executing the right people?

What I really liked about this novel was that none of the characters were perfect.  At first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to even like them. I mean, they’re all seemingly terrible people who did horrible things.  At least, that’s what you’re led to believe.  However, throughout the novel , Harian delves deeper into the characters’ pasts.  Everything that you learn in the beginning is not as it seems.  Everything isn’t black and white.  Right or wrong.

Evalyn is a strong heroine.  She went into the Compass Room prepared to die and to accept her fate. Portrayed as this ruthless killer, Evalyn isn’t like that at all in the Compass Room.  In the middle of death and sorrow, she is the strong force the binds the group together, coming up with a plan and a way to make things better.  Throughout the novel, Evalyn’s backstory is revealed through a set of flashbacks.  Harian slowly and methodically reveals the events leading up to her heinous crime.  What is revealed is incredibly sad and not at all what I was expecting.

The hero in the novel is Casey Hargove, a man who buried his father alive.  Casey and Evalyn don’t exactly get along at first, but tragedy and trials bring them together.  As each of them are tested, they help each other through the simulation, creating a strong bond of love and trust.

“Casey needs order and control and for things to exist only with meaning. He is the antithesis of chaos. He is the opposite of everything that destroyed my life.”

While some scenes had me turning the pages, there were moments that I felt dragged.  I was hoping for deep discussion between the characters about morality and good versus evil.  Instead, much of what determined “good” and “evil” was whether the person was justified in committing their crime. Additionally, I had a hard time fully connecting to Casey and Evalyn’s romantic relationship; I wanted more development there.  I didn’t feel the chemistry between the two of them.

Overall, I liked the story.  The writing was solid and the concept was intriguing. I really enjoyed the main group of characters (Jace, Valerie, Tanner, Evalyn and Casey), which is a hard feat to do considering all of them are potentially unlikable.  Like in LOST, the characters had to bond together and work together to survive and make it out alive.

2 stars

* I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review


Interview with Sarah

Megan:  Hi Sarah! Thank you so much for stopping by Reading Books Like a Boss!

Sarah:  Thanks for having me!

Megan: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Sarah:  Hmmm… I can sing pretty well. I haven’t in public or in front of an audience in a really long time, so a lot of people have no idea that I can. Mostly it’s just a car/shower hobby now. 

Megan:  You and me both! I sing my little heart out in the shower and in the car. I’ve gotten some weird stares driving down the highway.  Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Sarah:  Video games. I love a good action-adventure or MMO. I have to ban myself from all video and computer games when I have a deadline, because I’ll start playing and then twelve hours later have no idea what happened to my day. It’s pretty bad.

Megan: If you had to pick one book guy character to go on a date with, who would it be and why?

Sarah:  Just one!? Probably Cricket from Lola and the Boy Next Door. I am such a sucker for good, sweet guys. He’s adorable, awkward, brilliant, and stylish. I rarely swoon, but my high school self would have probably passed out just by exchanging hellos with him.

Megan:  Oh my crap!  I love Cricket Bell.  Girrrl, the scene at the end of the book kills me!  Do you listen to music while you write for inspiration? If so, name some songs or musicians.

Sarah:  I can’t listen to anything with lyrics when writing because I get distracted easily, so I end up listening to composers of the movie/trailer variety. There are many artists that I love, but a few of my favorites are Two Steps From Hell, Steve Jablonsky, James Newton Howard, Audiomachine, Michael Giacchino, and John Murphy.

Megan:  Do you have any book recommendations?

Sarah:  Winterkill by Kate A. Boorman and 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen are releasing later this year.  Be on the lookout.  They’re both amazing.

Megan:  I’ve had my eye on 17 First Kisses! Thank you for the recommendations!  I’ll have to check out Winterkill.  What can you tell us about A Vault of Sins (Chaos Theory #2)?

Sarah:  A Vault of Sins is all about hard choices. Every single choice that Evalyn must make ends up hurting someone she cares about. It’s also about alliances and overcoming self-pity.

Rapid Fire Questions

Jack or Sawyer?

Wine or Beer?

Salty or Sweet?
Both. Chocolate covered pretzels for the win.

Dream Vacation Destination?

Favorite book character ever?
Todd from The Knife of Never Letting Go


How LOST inspired The Wicked We Have Done
by Sarah Harian

I was halfway through high school when LOST premiered on ABC. LOST is a brilliant SF/F, edge-of-your-seat-scary, and manages to flawlessly weave in several different character backstories into a mind-screw of a plot. It’s complicated. It’s confusing. It’s totally epic.

The one thing I love about LOST the most is the aspect of characters coming face-to-face with their personal demons. Kate must choose to help kill or save the marshal who has been tracking her down. Hurley encounters the cursed numbers he used to win the lottery. Sayid must unearth his buried skill of torture for the sake of his fellow survivors. Locke and Sawyer must choose whether or not to inflict their revenge upon their magically-appearing nemesis.

While some of these resurfacing demons are figurative, many are literal. Like when Jack’s father breaks from his coffin and walks about the island. The island takes on a life of its own in order to haunt the characters.

While The Wicked We Have Done isn’t as mystical or as heavily-laden with symbolism as LOST, I wanted to do something similar. I wanted to trap a group of characters in a volatile wilderness environment to face their demons.

Another thing about LOST that inspired me was the aspect of camaraderie—that people stuck together in the wild, people who wouldn’t be caught dead with each other back in society, can form alliances, friendships, and romances. Many of the characters in both LOST and The Wicked We Have Done are arguably bad people, and the bonds they create with others prove that they are multifaceted.

And then there are the flashbacks. LOST reveals a piece of a character backstory with each new episode. This is a lot easier to do with film verses written media because of the way that visual storytelling works. With visual guidance, flashbacks are a lot less confusing. Luckily for me, I decided to write in first person, so Evalyn is the only character with flashbacks. As tension within the Compass Room increases and the stakes rise, each bit of flashback reveals a little more about the months leading up to her crime.

I think LOST will continue to inspire me for the remainder of the Chaos Theory series, and possibly the rest of my writing career.


Review & Guest Post — The Wicked We Have Done

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