ARC Review – These Vengeful Hearts by Katherine Laurin

I am SO excited to be part of the blog tour for the recently release YA novel These Vengeful Hearts! It’s like Pretty Little Liars with a dash of Mean Girls and I was INTO this premise. And I wasn’t disappointed!

In These Vengeful Hearts, Ember Williams has one goal in her high school career – get recruited into the Red Court and then dismantle it from within. The Red Court is a secret society of girls at Heller High who get things done – they take down people who deserve it, they rig elections, and they clean up messes. But they were also responsible for paralyzing Ember’s older sister, April, and the revenge that has burned in Ember’s heart since that day isn’t going away. It starts out according to plan – Ember gets recruited. She gets her first job and is successful. She is made a full member of the Court.

And then things start to get tricky.

Ember didn’t get recruited for no reason – she’s a sophomore who is already the captain of the debate team, and she maintains a very meaningful relationship with her best friend Gideon, along with running track. So now she’s trying to balance all of that with her family and her Red Court responsibilities, and she’s starting to run on fumes. And that’s before Chase becomes part of the story.

You know, Chase Merriman? The uber popular guy who is her academic rival and suddenly has taken an interest in her? Nothing to see here!

As Ember watches her original motivation for joining the Red Court start to drift away, she realizes she needs to focus. Find the Queen of Hearts. Dismantle the Red Court from within. Those were always the plans. Is she going to be able to succeed, or will she become a casualty of the Court, just like her sister?

3 Things I Loved

  1. The premise. This was one of the first books in a long time that really made me want to dive back into YA after a pretty long hiatus. I’ve always loved a really good YA set in a high school where the school is almost like it’s own character. Another GREAT example is See All the Stars by Kit Frick. This felt very similar, and I really loved what it was trying to do!
  2. Ember’s relationships. I didn’t always love Ember by herself as a character, although she was very relatable to a teenaged version of myself. But I loved how much she loved her people – her mom and her dad and especially her sister. And Gideon. She wants to protect them, which is how she finds herself in most of the situations in the book, honestly. But it was heartwarming to see a high school character care so deeply about her family and her best friend.
  3. Chase. What an ADORABLE love interest. More guys like Chase, less guys like… well, most guys in high school dramas.

Dislikes/Problematic Content

There wasn’t a lot that was overtly problematic in this book, honestly. Gideon is gay and out with a love interest of color, but the rest of the book is very white and heteronormative. The story is FILLED with really strong young women, though, which I loved. What I didn’t love? How devious they all are. Maybe that’s more true to life than I like to admit, but some of the characters worried me when I thought about the kind of futures they might have. Remember how when Pretty Little Liars flashed forward, none of those girls knew how to be normal? The girls in this book will end up like that. They’ve been working in the shadows throughout high school and won’t be able to function like regular people once they leave. And while the story was very entertaining and engrossing (I was definitely having secret society dreams while reading it), I’m not sure it’s a great message on the whole to share with impressionable young adults.

Content warnings for acts of vengeance against people who maybe didn’t deserve it, and hearing about a really horrible spinal cord injury that resulted in partial paralysis. Those are oddly specific, I know.


A reminder of the rating scale:

  • Red = DNF, I hated everything
  • Orange = Ugh, no thank you
  • Yellow = I mean, I’ve read worse, but there were problems
  • Green = This was good! 
  • Blue = Oh my gosh, I loved this book!
  • Purple = This is the unicorn of books and I will be rereading it until the binding falls apart and EVERYONE should be reading it!

I really enjoyed diving into the world of Heller High, honestly. But I also really enjoyed torturing myself with PLL for SEVEN YEARS. So anyway, lol, I’m giving These Vengeful Hearts a GREEN rating. It was really good, but I worried about the futures of some of the characters.

Thank you to the publisher and to NetGalley for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. And an extra thank you to the publisher, Inkyard Press, for inviting me to be a part of this lovely blog tour!

Happy reading!

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