Hardcover, 336 pages
Published January 13th 2015 by Putnam Juvenile
Format read: ARC via publisher
Avery West's newfound family can shut down Prada when they want to shop in peace, and can just as easily order a bombing when they want to start a war. Part of a powerful and dangerous secret society called the Circle, they believe Avery is the key to an ancient prophecy. Some want to use her as a pawn. Some want her dead.
To unravel the mystery putting her life in danger, Avery must follow a trail of clues from the monuments of Paris to the back alleys of Istanbul with two boys who work for the Circle—beautiful, volatile Stellan and mysterious, magnetic Jack. But as the clues expose a stunning conspiracy that might plunge the world into World War 3, she discovers that both boys are hiding secrets of their own. Now she will have to choose not only between freedom and family--but between the boy who might help her save the world, and the one she's falling in love with.
However, I ended up finishing the book with mixed feelings. While I loved a lot of Maggie's ideas and world-building, I also thought some her writing choices were very clichéd, and made what could have been an awesome book into just an okay one.
Hall introduces us to Avery West, a girl who has spent most of her life on the move. Her mother works in defense, and frequently receives "mandates" to relocate as needed. As a result, Avery has spent most of her life shying away from making friends or any permanent bonds.
But at her latest school, Avery comes into two handsome young men who tell her that her life isn't what it seems. She's actually a member of the Circle vis-a-vis her father, where twelve families have controlled the fate of the world for eons. Before Avery knows it, she's swept up into international intrigue, and adventures that span the globe.
On paper, this all sounds incredibly exciting, right?
A girl with a nomadic life and a lack of control in her life, finds out that she's part of a secret society that has controlled the destiny of the world for generations. Throw in the fact that Avery's new life comes with the power to influence politics, close down couture stores and a mystery that might prevent World War III, it's basically a win/win for any character and any reader.
While Maggie does a wonderful job of setting up Avery's immersion into her new life, including dropping hints about important events and people in Avery's life that are now clicking into place, the possibilities of the story were ultimately hindered by Maggie's writing.
Avery came off feeling slightly stereotypical, in the whole vein of the "ordinary discovers extraordinary things about herself", sort of way. A lot of what she shares with the reader felt slightly recycled - e.g. the fact that she has violet eyes and has to wear contacts to hide them - just made me think of Twilight all over again.
Outside of her development, a lot of the book's plotlines felt familiar to me as well. Avery is brought into her new world by two Stellan and Jack, a.k.a two guys who can't stand each other and have their own reasons for wanting to be near her. I could smell the potential of a love triangle coming from a mile off, along with all of the angst and drama that also made me think of Twilight again.
Though the globe hopping was awesome and will definitely motivate younger readers to seek out the places that Maggie mentions throughout the book, the writing meandered slightly, and made me slightly lose track as to what the Circle has been trying to find - which felt like it undermined the whole driving force of the story.
Bottom line: While the book was most definitely worth the read, and I'll be looking forward to recommending this book to younger readers looking for a good thriller, I ultimately felt a little let down.
On the other hand, Maggie Hall makes some writing choices that I just didn't like. The plot meanders around the midway point. She also resorts to some standard character clichés - e.g. giving her character a distinctive physical characteristic - and also falls into that often-visited rabbit hole of a potential love triangle and a forbidden romance.
I think that if I hadn't read so much YA throughout the years with similar plot points, I would find these aspects of The Conspiracy of Us to be unique and innovative. But because I have, I didn't necessarily find Maggie's ideas as exciting as they probably should have been perceived.
HOWEVER. I think that Maggie's world-building and imagination is rich, and that she has a lot of promise. I'm going to chalk this up to debut novel jitters, and I have every confidence that Maggie will continue to grow as a writer, and continue to share remarkable ideas in future tales. I'll still recommend this book for younger readers looking for an adventure series, and I'll definitely sticking around for whatever Maggie comes up with next.
About the author:
Maggie Hall indulges her obsession with distant lands and far-flung adventures as often as she can. In her past life, she was a bookstore events coordinator and marketing manager, and when she's not on the other side of the world, she lives with her husband and their cats in Albuquerque, New Mexico.