***This ARC was provided by BHC Press in exchange for an honest review***
Key Descriptors: YA, YA romance, fantasy, self-insert romance
Premise: Ella, daughter of multimillionaire hotel-owning parents, meets a mysterious boy and immediately falls in love. Mysterious Boy keeps making excuses not to be with her, thus making her love him even more. You see, Ella is supposed to be on a ~life path~ that doesn’t include Mysterious Boy.
Review: WARNING: This book was a real trip. Long rant-review incoming.
This is actually the worst book I’ve ever read. Literally, the worst book. I’ve read and enjoyed some trash in my time, but the only reason I kept going with The Path Keeper was to see just how far this train wreck could take me. This book is essentially what you’d get if you took Twilight, removed everything about it that was even remotely interesting, and THEN you added in a dose of super fun sexual assault and a variety of other utterly tasteless spices to the whole hot mess. Almost every decision Bella, whoops, I mean ELLA, made me want to (╯°□°）╯︵ 📘 The Path Keeper out the window.
The first portion of this review will contain only the most minor of spoilers, none of which will reveal the over-arching plot or any of the big “reveals,” for you poor souls who are still thinking about reading this book. Spoilers will, however, abound in the second half for anyone who’d like to experience The Path Keeper in full without actually having to subject yourselves to reading it.
This book is aggressively mediocre and bland right up until it turns into a hot mess trying to deal with extremely sensitive topics (suicide, sexual abuse, etc) in utterly tone-deaf ways. Then it becomes mediocre and bland again for the ending. The premise isn’t even touched on in the first half of the book – there’s supposed to be some sort of time mythology going on in the background, hinted at by some WWII scenes that feel shoe-horned int, but the first 44% of the book doesn’t explain any portion of the premise at all.
At least in Twilight, Bella is smart enough to very quickly realize something is up with Edward. She recognizes that he’s strange and odd right away. Ella is pretty much just utterly oblivious to anything supernatural happening. She’s supposed to be in college – you’d think she’d have just a tab bit more awareness. Ella continuously makes utterly stupid decisions throughout the whole of The Path Keeper.
In the latter half of the book, once the plot actually starts happening, things do actually start to pick up! Unfortunately, every plot point is completely based on Ella doing yet MORE stupid things! If you don’t like topics such as girls committing suicide over boys, sexual assault, et cetera, you really shouldn’t read this book. Ella gets either full-on or almost sexually assaulted around three different times, but it somehow “okay” because Mysterious Time Boy comes to the rescue! It’s romantic, mmmmkay.
There was just nothing good or interesting about any of Ella’s actions, and Mysterious Time Boy is a bit of a White Savior pedantic asshole throughout the whole book. He’s incredibly creepy. A la Twilight, we even get a “he watches her when she sleeps but it’s cute and sweet” scene!
Finally, for an ostensibly YA novel…. the sex scenes are awfully explicit. I sure wouldn’t be handing this to someone in the 12-15 age bracket. Close to 18, sure, but not before then.
All right, major spoiler time. I’m basically going to go through the entire book here, so only join me if you’re in it for the popcorn.
Stupid scene #1: LET’S BUY SOME FRIENDS!
Ella is famous as hell, apparently. Because in this alternate reality, people care about the daughters of hotel millionaires and she has the paparazzi breathing down her neck. NO ONE CARES ABOUT HOTELS IN REAL LIFE. Sure, if they were actors/actresses, but they aren’t! Anyway, Ella goes to some random cafe, and two girls recognize her because she’s sooooooo famous. Ella proceeds to use all of her money and influence to buy them as friends, because why not? They’re going to go to some fancy exclusive club called the Indigo where some other rich guy named Josh is throwing a party!
Stupid scene #2: THE PARTY.
Yay! We made it to The Party. The party primarily is a set up for Ella to make more stupid decisions later. Rich guy Josh comes over to the table where Ella and her two new paid-off lackeys are sitting. Josh is swooning all over Ella, since apparently even though Ella doesn’t think she’s pretty, rich guy Josh does. Unfortunately, he’s a presumptuous asshole about the whole thing. Ella exchanges, oh, three or four sentences with the guy. Take note: three or four sentences. That’s it. Ella skedaddles off to the bar to get a drink. What do you know! Mysterious Time Boy is here! She falls all over him and basically begs him to have sex with her. Oh, the romance.
Stupid scene #3: THE OTHER PARTY
Ella’s parents are going to some other party a few days later. Ella has still only known Mysterious Time Boy for around a week at this point. At the party, her parents introduce her to some stereotypical Nice Guy who’s speaking in that faux Victorian English that is the Nice Guy stereotype. The logical reaction here would be to excuse yourself and quietly inform the bartender that the Nice Guy was bothering you – or simply avoid him or tell him to lay off directly. Easy! Unfortunately, that’s far too easy for Ella. Ella notices Rich Guy Josh is here at the party too! Obviously, the BEST way to get Nice Guy to leave her alone is to lie, saying she has a boyfriend, and to go over and make out with Josh, let him blatantly feel her up in front of all the party-goers, and generally put on a show for the whole room. Because gotta add some veracity to that boyfriend lie, amirite? Remember: ELLA HAS ONLY SPOKEN WITH JOSH FOR A TOTAL OF FIVE MINUTES PRIOR TO THIS SCENE. What the actual fuck is wrong with you, Ella?
“No, he’s still looking,” she said. “I think we need to crank it up a notch.”
NO YOU DON’T, ELLA, YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW HIM.
“I can see why everyone says you’re a great actor. That was a convincing performance.”
“I wasn’t acting,” he said. “I’ve wanted to kiss you for a long time.”
WTF JOSH, YOU’VE ONLY EXCHANGED THREE SENTENCES WITH HER.
Stupid scene #4: THE BUS
Ella is riding on the bus, as you do. Josh also gets on the bus, and he’s pissed off because she doesn’t want to go on a date with him. So he tries to sexually assault her. Yay! Mysterious Time Boy saves Ella. Everything is okay again!
Stupid scene #5: ZOMG he’s actually a
Halfway through the book, Mysterious Time Boy reveals that he’s actually been an angel all along! An actual angel with wings and shit! Ella has been reincarnated hundreds of times throughout history, and he’s been looking after her this whole time. So he’s basically thousands of years old and Ella is around 19, which obviously isn’t something that should get in the way of their romance at all. He’s loved her SO MUCH forever.
But oh no! Angel Boy reveals that the other angels will be angry at him for interfering! Ella’s true destiny is to be with Josh, the boy who tried to fucking sexually assault her on the bus! What the actual fuck is wrong with this book.
Stupid scene #6: YAY MORE SEXUAL ASSAULT
So it turns out Ella’s stepbrother, Sebastian, has been raping her and sexually abusing her all along. Sebastian comes home unexpectedly while Angel Boy is around, tries to rape her again, but then Angel Boy uses the Force to choke him and beats him up. And everything is okay again, and Ella has exactly zero sexual hang ups from this abuse, so they have sex like ten times that night. Then the angels forcibly call him back and he tells her good bye and leaves her, ostensibly forever.
Stupid scene #6: THE LAST PARTY
One more party! This is another one with her parents. Sebastian threatens to rape her again and tries to blackmail her by saying he filmed her having sex with Angel Boy the other night. Ella actually makes a good decision for once, and goes to tell her parents about what’s going on! They believe her, which is great. Unfortunatelly, Ella follow this up with a characteristic stupid decision: since Angel Boy got called back by the angels, she decides the only way to be reunited with him is to jump off the 97th floor of the building they’re in and kill herself. We also learn that Ella’s mom had to watch her own mother kill herself too, in addition to now watching her daughter die! PS she’s only known Angel Boy for about three weeks now.
Okay, we’re going to wrap this up here. Angel boy obviously saves her. They go to visit Ella’s real dad. Angel Boy turns out to be a special Angel Boy who is ~secretly~ an archangel, unknown even to him. Also Angel Boy is a pedantic fuck who explains her could have stepped in way earlier when Ella was getting raped and shit, but oh, it’s CHARACTER BUILDING and it’s the LIFE SHE CHOSE and her LIFE PATH. Anyway, then the angels come and Angel Boy reveals the big major archangel Michael is actually his father. Then in a twist Angel Boy kills himself instead of his father which is implied will turn him human or something. It was all bland and stupid.
Thank you all for joining me in this utter train wreck of a YA romance and have a lovely day.