Title: Tainted Energy
Author: Lynn Vroman
For seventeen-year-old Lena, living in the trailer park with the rest of town’s throwaways isn’t exactly paradise. Dealing with a drunken father who can’t keep his fists to himself doesn’t help matters either. The only good thing in her life, other than track, is the mysterious man who visits her dreams, promising to find her.
When a chair burns her arms, Lena chalks it up to stress-induced crazy. Yet as bizarre incidents escalate, even being crazy can’t explain it all away… until one day dream guy does find her.
Tarek lost Lena seventeen years ago after she was accused of treason and marked Tainted. He finally discovers her reborn on Earth into a life of suffering as punishment for her crime. However, someone else has already found her… and wants her dead. Willing to sacrifice everything, he fights to keep her safe so she can live the only life she’s ever known—even if that life doesn’t include him.
Very rarely do I ever give a book a solid five stars – but this one just took me in and I couldn’t help but love it. With very believable characters, fantastic world-building, and beautiful imagery Tainted Energy takes the reader for an amazing ride. A world as intricate and complex as this one usually results in a longer read, but as I read it, it felt more like I was watching a movie. I won’t say the pacing was quick, because the writer definitely took her time to guide the reader through this new world, but it didn’t feel like anything was drawn out or over-explained.
By far, my favorite part of the book is the protagonist, Lena. It’s very easy to immediately sympathize with her, given her home life and how hard she’s working to better her situation. Since her parts of the book are written in the first person, there’s an immediate connection to her. She reads like a very real teenager, despite the unreal circumstances in which she finds herself. My favorite part about her is that she’s flawed – she hates her situation, gets angry, has breakdowns – but she’s never melodramatic, and she grows from the events around her. Despite the supernatural and fantastical things that happen to her, she remains grounded – keeps her regular life as her priority, especially her relationship with her mother. It’d be easy for someone to throw their life away and get swept up in the workings of other dimensions, but she never even comes close to that, despite how awful her life is. In the end, she comes out a better person because of her ability to remain grounded – a testament to great character development. The rest of the characters are also amazing – the writer manages to create believable people, even with characters who don’t get much time dedicated to them. Each and every character has something to offer, and after Lena, it’s actually quite difficult to pick a favorite. Thanks to some point of view changes throughout the story, we also get insight into Tarek. I won’t go into his character too much here to avoid spoilers, but I really enjoyed when the perspective changed to him. If perspective change is something that throws you from a story, don’t let that stop you from giving this one a chance! The story is still 90% told from Lena’s POV.
The other main reason I’d suggest picking up the book is definitely the world-building. The writer weaves the intricacies of the world in a way that both keeps the reader guessing but doesn’t frustrate. While I read it, Lena’s confusion and questions mirrored my own, only deepening my connection with her as a protagonist. She uses simple, yet beautiful language to describe impossible landscapes. There were points throughout the story reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland – fantastically beautiful but just as dangerous. One world in particular really stood out to me – Arcus, a place where squids inhabit trees. Every minute spent there was accompanied with beautiful description of Lena’s surroundings. I never got tired of reading about it, despite my preference for brevity.
All in all, Tainted Energy was a fantastic read that definitely left me wanting more! Despite having crazy settings where squids live in trees, it’s impossible not to wonder if other dimensions like that exist after reading it. Lena and the other characters felt like old friends by the time I was done reading the book and read the teaser chapter for book two. I really look forward to seeing them again in the sequel!