ARC Review: ICONS by Margaret Stohl

ARC Review: ICONS by Margaret Stohl
Icons #1

Written by: Margaret Stohl
Published by: Little, Brown
Release date: May 7th, 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Source: Giveaway
Format: select

"Your heart beats only with their permission."

Everything changed on The Day. The day the windows shattered. The day the power stopped. The day Dol's family dropped dead. The day Earth lost a war it didn't know it was fighting.

Since then, Dol has lived a simple life in the countryside -- safe from the shadow of the Icon and its terrifying power. Hiding from the one truth she can't avoid.

She's different. She survived. Why?

When Dol and her best friend, Ro, are captured and taken to the Embassy, off the coast of the sprawling metropolis once known as the City of Angels, they find only more questions. While Ro and fellow hostage Tima rage against their captors, Dol finds herself drawn to Lucas, the Ambassador's privileged son. But the four teens are more alike than they might think, and the timing of their meeting isn't a coincidence. It's a conspiracy.

Within the Icon's reach, Dol, Ro, Tima, and Lucas discover that their uncontrollable emotions -- which they've always thought to be their greatest weaknesses -- may actually be their greatest strengths.

Bestselling author Margaret Stohl delivers the first book in a heart-pounding series set in a haunting new world where four teens must piece together the mysteries of their pasts -- in order to save the future.

My Thoughts

I was so excited when I won an ARC of this book. First, the cover – my ARC has the beautiful original pink cover, which I originally fell in love when when I first heard about the book. And that summary had me completely hooked. I was positive this book would be amazing. Positive.

And it would’ve been… if the book had actually been able to pull off what the summary implies.

To be fair, the first few sentences of the summary are dead-on. The book opens with the deaths of Dol’s parents when she was a baby. They randomly drop dead along with millions of other people, when the Icons activated and sent out an energy pulse that could knock out other sources of power and kill (almost) everyone it touched. She’s found by the Padre, who took her and another survivor, Ro, to a mission in the countryside, where she grows up hiding from the fact that she survived while millions of others died.

However, after that things really go downhill. From the summary, I was expecting some pretty good world-building. I wanted to know what was up with these Icon things, what the world was like after the aliens killed a huge portion of the population, why these kids would be held hostage, and why their emotions were so important – and the major problem I had with Icons is how all of those things are resolved (or not).

The worldbuilding is a constant influx of vague references and Dol’s memories (also vague). It took most of the first 2/3rds of the book to gain any understanding as to what the Icons were and who the Lords (the aliens) were, where they came from, why they’re there, and just what the big deal was in the first place. And even after that, having finished the book, I still only have a vague idea about any of those things. (Are we sensing a pattern? Everything is vague.) I actually would have really appreciated a “world-history” info-dump early in the book, so I could actually understand half the things that were going on. As it was, the vague references were confusing and annoying and left me feeling like I was missing something.

This vagueness extends to pretty much everything in the book – descriptions of action scenes (so confusing and under-described they were left void of excitement), the characters themselves (who seemed to keep secrets for no reason other than to further the plot/suspense/my annoyance), as well as the actual physical descriptions of things. For example: For a book called Icons, I expected to be able to picture an Icon pretty well by the end of it. But… nope. Still not clear on that.

The summary also talks about these four kids being held hostage. Which they were… except when they weren’t. When Ro and Dol are originally taken to the Embassy, it really seemed like they were prisoners. Their doors were locked and I guess they were handcuffed at some point. …Except then they’re allowed to leave their rooms. Or when the doors are locked again, they could open them super easily and no one ever did anything about it. Suddenly it was totally normal for them to leave their rooms and find the cafeteria when they were hungry. I don’t know, that whole situation constantly confused me.

The vagueness infiltrated the narration, as well. The book is told from Dol’s perspective, in first person, so I expected to learn a lot about her and be able to – if not relate, then at least sympathize with her and her situation. The thing was, yes, Dol was always very emotional and sad and scared – but I never found myself feeling sympathetic toward her. I never really fully grasped what was going on in her head half the time, like why she’d get so emotional all of a sudden. I get that it’s part of her character as one of the Icon Children (their emotions are somehow heightened, I guess? Maybe? Sometimes?), but she ended up feeling whiny a lot of the time, and it got annoying fast.

I also had a hard time understanding any of the relationships. First there was Dol and Ro – I was 100% sure that they were a couple until Dol explicitly states that they aren’t – which happens fairly late in the beginning chapters of the book. Even after that, their relationship was weird for two 16/17-yr-olds. If Dol hadn’t said flat out that they weren’t together, I would still be convinced otherwise, even after having finished the book.

Then there were Tima and Lucas, the two other “hostages” at the Embassy. Tima was crazy – she literally tries to get Ro and Dol killed soon after they arrive at the Embassy… and then a few chapters later she’s confiding in Dol, they’re all BFFs, and she wants to work with them to help them destroy the Icons. There was no explanation or reasoning behind her sudden change of heart.

Lucas… Oh gosh, what on earth can I say about Lucas. His decisions never made sense, whether he was deciding to work with Dol, not work with her, help her again, betray her, risk his life for her… He was all over the map, with little to no reason why, except to either help Dol when she needed it, or add conflict when she didn’t. And don’t even get me started on Lucas as a love-interest. Why did Dol keep saying she was attracted to him? Did she ever even express real feelings toward him? Where was the chemistry?? As was so common throughout the book, the answer to all these questions is: I have no idea.

Also, for a book about an alien invasion (at least I think that’s what it is), it was surprisingly short on… well. Aliens.

I’m sorry, Icons – I wanted to love you, I really did. But congrats – you get my first 1-star rating. =/

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