A Deal with the Enemy by Jessica Ennis

A Deal with the Enemy by Jessica Ennis
Publisher: Prizm Books
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (17 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

All-American Brenden has a crush on the weird boy at school. Brenden’s best friend Alex is also gay, so that’s not the problem. The problem is that Alex hates Brenden’s crush with a fiery passion. Can he prove to Brenden that he’s a good enough friend to support Brenden no matter what? The price may be more than he or Brenden are willing to pay, though, when Brenden’s crush stumbles upon their deadly secret and nearly dies in the process.

Best friends don’t always agree on everything. Sometimes being a good friend means figuring how to respond to choices you may not necessarily agree with.

What initially piqued my interest about the personalities of Brenden, Alex, and Alan in particular is how each one of them responds to changes in their environments. No one is ever too old to be curious about his or her environment, but how each reacts to new experiences says a lot about the kind of person they are as individuals.

This story includes a fairly large cast of characters for something this length. I had trouble remembering who was who as I read, especially since some individuals are interchangeably referred to by their first and last names. Once or twice I mixed up the backgrounds of key characters which made things even more confusing. I ended up making a list of characters and reading through the story more than once. Both of these tactics helped me figure out what was really going on, but it would have been a more enjoyable read had the author focused on a smaller group of students.

There were some pacing issues at the beginning that were almost entirely caused by the inclusion of more characters than could easily be accommodated by a tale of this size. More time than usual was spent introducing everyone, and while I would have preferred the discovery to happen sooner once the plot does reach that point it is well worth the extra wait.

It’s difficult to discuss the second half of the plot without inadvertently giving away spoilers, but sufficed to say what happens to Brenden and his friends quickly reinvigorated my interest in their fates after a slow beginning. If I could rate this section on its own it would earn a much higher rating than the one given to the entire book. The pacing picks up nicely and much of the time spent on explaining the relationships among and between certain characters earlier on makes much more sense.

A Deal with the Enemy is a good choice for anyone who likes to see how classic sci-fi/fantasy and romance tropes are expressed when the two genres are mixed together.

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