Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Obsidian is one of a slew of young adult paranormal romances that were published in the aftermath of the runaway success of Twilight. The plot, therefore, will sound familiar, though some of the details are different: a teenage girl, Katy Swartz, moves to a small town in West Virginia with her widowed mother to make a new start. Katy is a 4.0 GPA student and book review blogger who’s never caused her family trouble and considers herself a reserved and practical girl. Trying to meet new friends, she drops by the house next door and is confronted with a naked, well-muscled chest attached to an unbelievably handsome but annoyed boy her age, Daemon Black, with eyes “so green and brilliant they couldn’t be real” and “full, kissable lips.” He is also highly irritable (just because she knocked on his door?) and insulting, but why should rudeness and a condescending attitude block the course of true love if it’s a hot guy with piercing green eyes and kissable lips?
Daemon’s sister Dee (also gorgeous) befriends Katy, but there are some strange things about Katy’s neighbors besides their unbelievable hotness and their eerie green eyes: the locals don’t trust “them” for unspecified reasons; Daemon and Katy go swimming in a mountain lake and he disappears underwater for ten minutes, then tells her she was imagining things. There are instant storm clouds and blinding flashes of light when unexplainable events occur. Katy gets brutally attacked by someone trying to find “them” and then her wounds heal incredibly quickly when Daemon arrives on the scene. So what are Daemon and Dee, exactly? The truth finally comes out halfway through Obsidian ― and no, they’re not vampires ― but finally Katy understands a little bit more about the struggles Daemon and his people are dealing with, and the enemies that are pursuing them.
But this mystery is secondary to Daemon and Katy’s love/hate relationship. Daemon blows hot and cold, talking sexy to Katy one minute and behaving like a complete jerk the next minute. He insults her, flirts, smirks, chases her and then tells her to go away, and humiliates her in front of others. And it happens over, and over. He adamantly tries to undermine his sister’s friendship with Katy ― even his sister calls him “a dick,” but she excuses him because he’s just overprotective and “wasn’t always like that.” Somehow Daemon and Katy avoid kissing until near the end of the book, but then they have a heavy, pull-the-clothing-off make-out session.
In many ways Obsidian is comparable to Twilight; it has a similar plotline and many of the same weaknesses, with a main character who repeatedly makes foolish choices, an improbably hot love super-powered interest who is trying to push her away “for her own good,” and one-dimensional enemies who are evil personified. But I can’t even recommend this book even as brain candy because the main characters’ relationship is so messed up (yes, worse than Bella’s and Edward’s). Daemon is all alpha and protective and, yes, conflicted, but mostly he is rude and condescending toward Katy. Why are we training young girls to think that being treated like crap is a romantic thing?
Other problems include paper-thin world-building: we spend an inordinate amount of time with Katy navel-gazing, examining her conflicted feelings about Daemon, and very little time learning about Daemon’s people and their society. It’s very odd how they’ve almost seamlessly adopted human culture, and they have a completely implausible set-up with the U.S. Department of Defense, which is aware of this group and their ability to masquerade as humans, but just turns them loose on society with no apparent oversight, testing, etc.
The DOD thinks we’re harmless freaks. As long as we follow their rules, they give us money, our homes, and leave us alone.
I recommend Obsidian only for readers who adored Twilight and want more of the same, and don’t have issues with love interests acting like total jerks as long as they’re good-looking. The ending is slightly redemptive, but it’s also a cliffhanger ending, so it’s clear there will be more of Katy’s and Daemon’s conflicted relationship to come. But I won’t be reading about it.