Book Review: Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick
Last week, I mentioned Becca Fitzpatrick’s BLACK ICE in my discussion of YA lit with scenes involving alcohol and sexual violence. As promised, today I will review the book as a whole. Hold on, this is going to be a bumpy ride.
Sometimes danger is hard to see… until it’s too late.
Britt Pfeiffer has trained to backpack the Teton Range, but she isn’t prepared when her ex-boyfriend, who still haunts her every thought, wants to join her. Before Britt can explore her feelings for Calvin, an unexpected blizzard forces her to seek shelter in a remote cabin, accepting the hospitality of its two very handsome occupants—but these men are fugitives, and they take her hostage.
In exchange for her life, Britt agrees to guide the men off the mountain. As they set off, Britt knows she must stay alive long enough for Calvin to find her. The task is made even more complicated when Britt finds chilling evidence of a series of murders that have taken place there… and in uncovering this, she may become the killer’s next target.
But nothing is as it seems in the mountains, and everyone is keeping secrets, including Mason, one of her kidnappers. His kindness is confusing Britt. Is he an enemy? Or an ally?
BLACK ICE is New York Times bestselling author Becca Fitzpatrick’s riveting romantic thriller set against the treacherous backdrop of the mountains of Wyoming. Falling in love should never be this dangerous…
Black Ice is successful as a thriller, but it is deeply flawed. I know it’s not cool to compare books to Twilight in the year 2014, but Twilight is indeed an apt comparison. Not because there are vampires, Black Ice is a contemporary psychological thriller with nary a paranormal or supernatural bone in its body. I compare it to Twilight because I believe that teen readers will devour it, but apt adult readers will wince at the problematic relationships that come out of our journey through the Teton Range. I will now try to discuss this title as vaguely as possible so as not to spoil anything, but read at your own risk. Consider yourself warned.
Black Ice opens with a murder. It is one of three “accidents” that have happened in the area. These so called accidents will become an important part of our story as we fight our way to survive the elements and the strangers that we meet along the way while backpacking through the mountains. This opening prologue is an astounding piece of writing, intense and engaging in every way. It sets an atmosphere that Fitzpatrick tries to maintain throughout the course, but there are some stumbles along the way.
Britt and her best friend Korbie are about to spend their Spring Break backpacking through the Teton Range. In order to make sure the girls are safe, Korbie’s brother Calvin has been tasked with accompanying them on this journey. And, coincidentally, Calvin happens to be Britt’s ex-boyfriend. It ended messy when Calvin left for college.
When the girls almost reach their starting point, a massive snowstorm breaks out. Unable to go any further, the two girls seek out shelter in a cabin where they find Mason and Shaun, who seem like nice guys at first – there is even flirting – until they take the girls hostage and force Britt to help them hike their way to safety, leaving Korbie for dead back at the cabin.
I really enjoyed all of the survival/thriller elements of this story. It was an interesting game of cat and mouse. Friend and fellow blogger Mary Hinson had asked me to read this book because she wanted to know what I thought and I texted her about 90 pages into the book and said, this is what I think is happening, am I right? And I was. So I think that most readers will figure out a lot of the twists and turns before they happen.
In flashbacks, we learn more about Britt and Calvin’s relationship. Through them we slowly learn more about Britt and her relationship with both Korbie and Calvin. It turns out almost none of these relationships are healthy.
Later, Britt begins to develop an attraction to one of the two boys who are holding her hostage. Fitzpatrick at least has the foresight to have Britt wrestle with how problematic this attraction is and even mentions Stockholm Syndrome by name. This was the second book in a row I read where a boy took a female hostage and the girl appears to be attracted to him, so I was feeling particularly perturbed at this development. As a general rule, no matter why it turns out a guy might take you hostage, I find it to be a good rule of thumb not to become attracted to them. To me, it’s creepy not romantic, and it’s kind of a deal breaker. But the book does indeed end on what is supposed to be a swoony note involving some combination of these characters. Some readers will swoon, others will groan. Put my tally mark in the groan category.
So, as I mentioned, highly problematic relationships; Although some of the relationships are quite interesting and lead to some fascinating discussions about misogyny and its role in abusive relationships. But as I mentioned, the thriller aspect of it – the survival story – is fascinating and engaging. Britt is shown as being intelligent, cunning, and demonstrates some real growth throughout this very tense ordeal, which is a plus. In the end, she isn’t so much saved by a man as her and a man end up saving each other, also a plus. If it wasn’t for the epilogue, I would enthusiastically recommend this title. Alas, the epilogue exists and really makes me conflicted about recommending this title. But the truth is, Fitzpatrick has earned a following with the successful Hush Hush series and problematic relationships have never stopped what are basically good psychological thrillers from being wildly successful before, and it probably won’t now either. In the end, I give it 2 1/2 stars out of 5, flawed but I think teens will enjoy it.
Pair this with Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin for another intense survival thriller set in the midst of an epic snowstorm.
Coming in October 2014 from Simon & Schuster. ISBN: 9781442474260.
I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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