Egalley, 270 pages
September 13, 2011, Candlewick Press
She knows only Sam, a mysterious teenage boy. He is her sole companion; her whole life. She was born, already a teenager, lying outside a burning building in soot-stained clothes, remembering nothing, not even her name. He showed her the necklace she had on, the one that named her: Abby. Sam brought her to live in his cave-palace, where he gives her everything she needs. He loves her. He protects her from the world outside, from everyone who wants to hurt them, like the denizens of Circle Nine, Dante’s deepest circle of hell. But even in a charmed, brand-new life like Abby’s, change will come. Sam falls ill. A new girl comes to stay, and Abby begins to question Sam’s devotion. With doubt comes emotional turmoil, changes in perception, and glimpses of her past identity. In this courageous psychological thriller, Abby tells the story of living her new life and discovering her old one, while grappling with an ever-changing reality.
Source: Netgalley & Candlewick (Thank you!)
The story started out as sweet and confusing. Abby had no memory of what her life was, who she was and what her name was. She didn’t even know the mysterious boy who was with her. Everything was lost. But she woke up and her angel was in front of her, waiting for her, ready to save her from the chaos. She trusted him, even though she was wary and confused. She was lost and it would not be so hard for her to be anchored to the only person she knew: Sam. It was as if I walked into a fantasyland filled with love, hope and smiles. Sam and Abby were the sweetest couple I’ve ever encountered in YA. They even rivaled the sweetness of Sam and Grace from Shiver. I couldn’t stop smiling at their closeness. But like every relationship, this was not a perfect one. The shift from beautiful to ugly was jarring and saddening. I loved how Heltzel made me feel for the characters.
As Abby’s dreams and flickers of memory continue to invade her mind, she became more curious. Her unanswered questions only made her think more and probe more into her aching mind. Then things get more complicated when Sam came home with another girl, Amanda. She told and showed Abby things that Abby never considered. Jealous and even more baffled, Abby tried to come up with reasons behind Amanda’s actions.
Sam was a character with two sides. He was the sweet, smart and charming type who could easily make you like him. He was also the manipulative, short-tempered and cold type who could make readers hate him. I admired, hated and pitied him. Like Abby, he was also vulnerable, needing someone to hold onto, someone to stay with him. Whenever I think about this, I can’t help but feel sad for him.
The plot was smooth. Every chapter had me intrigued and hooked more than the last. I just read this in one sitting. I was that addicted to Circle Nine. The writing was amazing. Two thumbs up! It was so good that I was tempted to add around a hundred lines as quotes in Goodreads. Every line was mesmerizing, a painting of extracted beauty from Circle Nine’s world.
I was greatly intrigued with Abby’s vision and how it changed sometimes. Most of the time, she saw the world around her as completely beautiful but at other times, this ‘beauty screen’ slipped and Abby would see the world as it really was. I was convinced that something was wrong with her. Maybe she just saw what she wanted to see. It reminded me a bit of the movie Sucker Punch and how the character built a world she could escape in. It was fascinating to read about how her mind worked, no matter how silly and overly passionate her thoughts were. Her insights and observations of her world, of Circle Nine, of her relationship with Sam, and of her past had a childlike curiosity that burned so fierce it became one of the things that cracked her perfect little world. Her past and the truth were stronger than anything she had ever known before. Would the truth free her or would it bind her?
Circle Nine is an engaging, powerful and riveting psychological thriller. This extremely dark debut will shock, chill and terrify readers. I highly recommend this to readers of psychological thrillers, dark novels and twisted love stories. Don’t miss out on this one. It’s worth it.