Escape from Eden by Elisa Nader
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller
Publisher: Merit Press (Adams Media)
Source: Review Copy for Tour
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Since the age of ten, Mia has lived under the iron fist of the fundamentalist preacher who lured her mother away to join his fanatical family of followers. In Edenton, a supposed “Garden of Eden” deep in the South American jungle, everyone follows the Reverend’s strict but arbitrary rules—even the mandate of whom they can marry. Now sixteen, Mia dreams of slipping away from the armed guards who keep the faithful in, and the curious out. When the rebellious and sexy Gabriel, a new boy, arrives with his family, Mia sees a chance to escape.
But the scandalous secrets the two discover beyond the compound’s façade are more shocking than anything they ever imagined. While Gabriel has his own terrible secrets, he and Mia bond together, more than friends and freedom fighters. But is there time to think of each other as they race to stop the Reverend’s paranoid plan to free his flock from the corrupt world? Can two teenagers crush a criminal mastermind? And who will die in the fight to save the ones they love from a madman who’s only concerned about his own secrets?
I don't know what I was expecting when I started Escape from Eden. Maybe I was thinking there would be more straight action and less "heavy" plot elements; maybe I just wasn't really thinking when I read the synopsis. All I know is I got a lot more than I was planning for.
What does that mean? Basically, this book was intense. Sometimes in a way that was tough to continue reading. Not to say it wasn't a good book or didn't keep me enthralled, because it did. Rather that the secrets Mia and Gabriel uncover about Edenton are disturbing and terrifying. The depth of the brainwashing of other characters is, in many ways, nauseating. But, all of this combined into a well-crafted story that ratcheted up the sympathy for and emotional connection with the characters quickly. In that way, it was incredibly well done.
Our main character Mia was a fantastic example of a YA protag. While she wasn't necessarily anything special or destined to save the human race (don't get me wrong, I love those kind of books too!), she was capable of great bravery and perseverance to protect those she cared about. This is a girl who accomplished everything throughout the book by nothing more than her own determination, while still being a pretty believable 16-year-old. It made her extremely likable and relateable to me, and she served as a great guide through the story.
On the flip side, Gabriel managed to remain pretty aloof and mysterious as far as his true intentions. With a cocky smile, pretty face, and a more-than-healthy dose of bravado, I started feeling the tingles as soon as Mia did (which was pretty early). His obviously dark past and the small glimpses past the front he puts up really left me wondering what he was actually up to for a lot of the book. It was as obvious that he cared about Mia as it was that she cared about him, but he kept denying it. Which left me wondering why. I really just wanted him to be a good guy, because goodness knows, both he and Mia could use something good in their lives.
Which is why I needed a happy ending for this book. I could not have handled anything else. And while there's still a lot of mystery surrounding what will happen next, they got it. It was like being in a straight nosedive of emotion and then, just before you go splat, arching up and just getting to soar. Or maybe the emotional roller coaster that was this book left me melodramatic. Entirely possible.
Overall, Escape from Eden was thrilling, full of drama and intrigue. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in those kinds of stories. With that said, there is some pretty mature content (although it's not explicit) in what these characters went through and never knew they were living in. A violent religious extremists are just downright terrifying. But, if you can handle the stressful content, seriously give it a go!
Hi. I’m Elisa. I like cheese and reading and TV show marathons. Writing is scary, but not as scary as, say, Civil War amputations. I’m an Aquarius. Uh… let’s see… I’m not very good at writing my own biography. Or autobiography. I guess this is reading more like a slightly incoherent personal ad.