I saw an instagram post soliciting bloggers to read an ARC of "Exist." The book would be free in exchange for an honest review. Here are my honest thoughts.
Summary: Ember is a psionic, or a person who is more than human. She has powers that allow her to read minds and feel/broadcast emotions. When her soulmate breaks her heart, she disappears. Although she is no longer visible, the Shadows are able to find her, and Ember must run for her life before they take her over. As she searches New York City for others like her, she comes to terms with her powers and a legacy she didn't know she had.
My Thoughts: I think Daniels has several good ideas throughout Exist. Psychics + love stories + epic battles are a sure-fire recipe for an entertaining book.
However, I feel that Daniels put a lot of plot into her story without truly exploring any of the details for very long. "Exist" almost feels like a summary an entire series instead of a standalone novel. I want to read the story of Ember's past: Ember grew up an orphan, raised by a government agency. What happened to her while she was there? The reader is told that she escaped the agency and I'd love to read about her daring and probably brutal escape. Shortly after her escape she met the love of her life, Aden, and it was a love like no other. Tell me more...was she able to instantly trust him, or was it a long process for her, seeing as she hadn't ever loved or trusted before. (Or had she?)
Ember's life changes after her breakup with Aden. She disappears for goodness sake! I'd like to read more about why this happened---was it just because the breakup left her feeling insignificant or is there something deeper? After the breakup, Ember takes off to hide from the Shadows chasing her. This could be a tale on its own. How does she get to NYC? Does she meet anyone or learn anything on the way? I'd love to see this story end with the epic first showdown with the shadows.
Finally Ember learns about the guild, her past, and the expectations her new society has for her.. This is a great opportunity to go into detail about the different kinds of psionic powers. Let's see them in action. Ember suddenly goes from shy girlie girl to warrior, without much in between. I want to see her transformation!
There is so much unexplored potential in this book - I'd like to read more than what there is.
I'd also like to see Daniels take the time to polish her work. There were some errors that could be fixed that I personally found distracting, and think others would as well: the dialogue formatting was inconsistent, making it hard to tell who was speaking. There were some situations where spell check chose the wrong word (ie her instead of he). And towards the end of the story some of the sentences changed tense in the middle of the line.
Finally, I'm the type of reader that is frustrated by being told instead of shown. I had a hard time connecting to Ember because of this. I felt like she endured crazy, intense, interesting transformations but instead of seeing them unfold, I was just told they happened. The only times I felt like I got to see what the characters were thinking were through massive chunks of monologue that seemed to go on for longer than was needed to get the point across. But then again, I'm older than the target audience so it could only be a matter of taste.
Overall I think this is a decent first attempt at a young adult novel. I like the plot lines and appreciate the creativity and effort that went into the story. It feels like a first draft to me, rather than a second draft or ARC ready copy. I hope Daniels finds a professional editor who can help her break the story down and refine her ideas.
Rating: "Exist" has a Mocking Jay meets New Moon vibe that I think the young adult audience will enjoy once the book has been polished and reworked.
Reviewed By: Tami
Note: Although I received an Advanced Reader Copy of "Exist" for free, all thoughts and opinions are my own.