Monday, August 21, 2017

Book Review: Bitten

Before I dive into this review I need to give a heads up: there will be SPOILERS below. I'm giving this one a low star rating and I feel I need to pull example from the text to fully explain why. This is not a book I would recommend to anyone, but I also find myself having a complicated relationship with it, and I do plan to continue on with this series. Read at your own risk.

I get that this is an adult book and that a lot of adult paranormal romance tends to follow the same trends of alpha male romance. I also get that this is kinda a Twilight era book and that means that the kind of romances people reading this genre liked reading about are a bit different than they are today. HOWEVER that doesn't excuse the problematic relationship in this novel. Now, before I go all in depth here, let me tell you that it isn't as problematic as it could be. I think it gets as close to rape/rape play as a book like this can get without crossing the line. However, it doesn't cross that line, and there are a lot of points where, before anything happens, the characters will make sure the other is okay with it (to a degree; there are several moments where Clayton will tell Elena "just say no and I'll stop). Still, it's an uncomfortable relationship from both ends. Neither seems to be healthy for the other and if people I knew were in a relationship like this I would be seriously concerned. First off is the fact that Clay is the one who bit Elena and turned her into a werewolf. He took advantage of her, did this completely of his own volition (I don't care if he said he lost control; in the flashback scene it seems very much like he was a willing participant and she was an innocent victim here), and that made her mistrust him because of all the lies he had built up. And I totally get that! But he doesn't seem to. Even throughout the book she keeps reminding herself that she can't trust him after he did this to her, yet she always goes back to him. In fact, she has sex with him repeatedly even though she's in a relationship with a really good guy who would be (and is) heartbroken when he finds out. The first time she has sex with Clay (which is a really gross and rather disturbing scene if I'm being honest; more details in a moment) she leaves not feeling guilty. She even says that she should feel guilty but doesn't. While the next day that does change, a bit, and she promises herself never to cheat on Philip again, it only takes another opportunity for her to forget her guilt and sleep with Clay. Which continues throughout the whole novel. While I understand that she wasn't in love with Philip the way she felt about Clay it was still wrong that she did this, especially because she has full intention to go back and live with Philip and never tell him any of this happened. Specifically she mentions how it felt like a safety net that no matter what happens she could always go back to Stonehaven and have Clay waiting for her (because, NOPE, Clay will never move on from her for some reason, which is also super unhealthy for a relationship!). It's the first sex scene that really tipped me off to how problematic they really are together.
"Hold still," Clay said from behind me. "I'm helping."
"Helping? Helping what?"
I tries to pull my arms down, but he held them tight. Something soft slipped around my wrists. A sapling swayed overhead. Then Clay let go. I jerked my arms but only moved a couple of inches before the cloth around my wrists snapped tight. Once I was secured, he walked around and knelt over me, obviously far too pleased with what he was seeing.
"This isn't funny," I said. "Untie me. Now."
Still grinning he took hold of the top of my T-shirt and ripped it down the middle. Then he undid my bra.
And then a little further down the page (page 110 to be exact)...
"Is that better?" he whispered. "Since you can't fight me, you can't be expected to stop me. It's out of your control."
I had to reread this scene a few times before I determined it wasn't rape. She did, kinda, get into this position willingly, and when she goes outside with him, she's pretty certain of what's going to happen and totally fine with it. And he does tell her that if she wants him to stop he will stop, but she tells him to continue because she's enjoying their sex. But that doesn't mean this whole exchange isn't creepy as hell! Like, I was just blown away by how weird it all was. It does end up being consensual, but it toes the line so closely that I still worry about it. And on top of all this weirdness about their relationship, there wasn't even any romantic tension. They were impossible to ship and while their ending up together was supposed to seem romantic and as if they'll heal each other, I was just left thinking it was meh.

Another huge problem I had was the lack of women... in this series called Women of the Otherworld. I get that Elena is the only female werewolf (and, okay, it kinda makes sense in this world, but still) but she's still surrounded by only male characters. The only two other female characters who we're introduced to are Philip's mother and sister, and they're both busy planning a wedding shower or baby shower or something. They hold nearly no substance and have no role in the story except to help decorate it. They're barely characters. I was so let down because I was hoping for a lot more girl power in this book. I also took a lot of issue with Elena's characterization. In general I disliked her character (I thought she was a rather naive/dumb character and that she didn't grow at all) and I thought that her personal history was over done and not well thought out. We find out early on that as a child her parents died, and she was bounced around from foster home to foster home where she not only suffered PTSD that no one treated (but has somehow gotten better?) but that she was sexually abused and raped by many men. It's a heavy subject but isn't given the proper weight it deserves. Also, while she claims it affects her even in her present, I'm not shown anything on the page to really demonstrate this. It's very sad that it happened to her, but I couldn't sum up any emotion for this character. The "moral arc" of her story, too, bothered me. She's desperate to fit in as a human, and she sees this fitting in as being demure, always polite, the traditional woman role: never arguing, or losing her temper (or even getting mad and having a temper). It's ridiculous that she sees this as human. And she sees being angry and harder to control, and just generally having a will of her own, as the wolf in her, which makes her a monster. But in the end she realizes, it's okay to get mad sometimes. SOMETIMES. No, Elena, it's okay to be a person all the time. If you're an angry person that's okay. If you don't always do what you're told that's okay. I don't get the message that the book tried to impress where it's okay to sometimes not be what society tells you to be, but most of the time try to live with what the boundaries and expectations are. What???

The writing itself wasn't much to enjoy, which is a shame because I've read more of Armstrong's writing and I thought it was quite good. Maybe because it's a debut, or maybe because I was already having so many problems with it, but the writing did nothing to impress me. There was also little consistency with time (and when the sun rose or set; like events would happen in the middle of the night but then they'd get home and it would be like noon without ever saying that much time had passed; twelve hours is a lot of time to pass without noticing or mentioning something) or much of a grasp of the way a space worked on the page. There's one scene in the end where a character is holding a gun against someone, but is also holding Elena in his arms and keeping her trapped there. What? How does this work? At all? Do you not need to arms to both hold a gun and be threatening with it, and also two hands to hold someone's arms back? Also, the gun does just disappear in this scene, and the plot just keeps trucking.

Because the writing was poor I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters and an even harder time caring about the ones who died. No one is really fleshed out and they all just have basic roles to play if they aren't a main character. Besides Elena no one has any drive of their own, really, and they just do whatever is expected of them like NPCs in a game. Of all the side characters I will give some props to Jeremy for at least being interesting and not problematic but actually a good guy who does feel stress.

It may be surprising with all my complaints that I plan on continuing and finishing this series. For one, not every book is about Elena and Clay and I'm hoping that I'll find I like other characters more. For another, it felt like a very familiar book. I used to read a lot of paranormal romance and returning to the genre wasn't unlike getting under a warm blanket. Don't expect to see any more reviews for these books until I finish the series (or maybe at the halfway point as well, we'll see) when I do a series wrap up review because, as you can tell, they're kind of a waste of time to put too much energy into. However, they're quick guilty pleasure books and I haven't had one of those in a long time.


  1. I've kinda become a Kelley Armstrong fan although I haven't read any of this series. Was this her first book? I've been reading her City of the Lost books so I guess I don't know her paranormal stuff very well, but that relationship does sound problematic! I remember watching the first few episodes of the Bitten show and I thought their relationship was weird even there, so I probably wouldn't be crazy about this one. I was wondering why she gave Clay the time of day too lol. Anyway nice review.

    1. I'm pretty sure this was her debut. I've read some of her newer books as well and they're not like this at all. I was thinking of watching the show for a while but I'm definitely not going to now, especially if her and Clay's relationship is weird there, too. Thank you!


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