Book Discussion/Review: Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst

Saturday, September 14, 2013
Title: Conjured
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Genre: young adult, supernatural, horror
Series: N/A
Pages: 368
Published: September 3 2013
Source: publishers via NetGalley

Eve has a new home, a new face, and a new name—but no memories of her past. She’s been told that she's in a witness protection program. That she escaped a dangerous magic-wielding serial killer who still hunts her. The only thing she knows for sure is that there is something horrifying in her memories the people hiding her want to access—and there is nothing they won’t say—or do—to her to get her to remember.

At night she dreams of a tattered carnival tent and buttons being sewn into her skin. But during the day, she shelves books at the local library, trying to not let anyone know that she can do things—things like change the color of her eyes or walk through walls. When she does use her strange powers, she blacks out and is drawn into terrifying visions, returning to find that days or weeks have passed—and she’s lost all short-term memories. Eve must find out who and what she really is before the killer finds her—but the truth may be more dangerous than anyone could have ever imagined.

This review is going to be a little different. Usually about now, I'd launch into a multi-paragraph review about what I liked and what didn't work for me, but my good friend Lyn from Great Imaginations read Conjured around the same time as I did, and she had a brilliant idea -- a discussion post about the book. Her thoughts are in red, and mine are in blue. It's lengthy, and a tad spoilery, but those are marked.

Jessie:  Basically, I liked it, but thought it fell short on almost anything that was promised in the blurb. Or just watered down.

 Lyn:  First, you said the POV was off - I agree.  I really threw me off.
Jessie YES.
 Lyn:  That was a major hit point, I admit.
Jessie The POV switches, while they could have illustrated a subtle point, were too many and way overdone.

Lyn:  I see that it was an "artistic" decision, but I think it would have worked if it was a whole chapter instead of up and switching - it was slightly fumbled.

Jessie Exactly. I agree. I am not a fan of switching back and forth (pick one and stick with it!) but I could see it working better in that way.

Lyn:  Character-wise - what did you think of Eve?

Jessie She was, forgive me, too wooden. She had some potential, but she didn't really come alive for me.
(THE PUNS. I cannot stop them.)
(highlight to see my spoilery hilariousness)

Lyn:  (You're just so damn punny....I see what you did there!)
Jessie:  I didn't find much life in any of the characters, though. They were flat, for me. How did you like them?

 Lyn:  Yes! Her background explained her odd behavior, but I think it went on for too long.  It was frustrating to read for such a long time without any real emotions.
 Jessie Yes. The reveal was too little too late to save her character.
Lyn:  Yes, Zach was annoying, and I liked Aidan.  My favorite character was Malcolm.  Everyone else -Topher (dick), Nicky (bitch), Aidan (creepy) were just....I never felt comfortable with the cast.I think that was the main concern - I still felt anxious in the end.
Jessie Malcolm was the one redeeming character, I agree. I hate hate hated the other teens. Too little development.  
I also hate when the antagonist is largely missing for 90% of the novel. When he/they show up, I got more involved, but the flashbacks lacked tension for me.

Lyn:  They honestly freaked me out more than the killer.  They acted weird as hell.  I think there was some potential to save the storyline, but it just didn't happen.
It would have been awesome if the revelation would have happened sooner and more time was spent at the carnival.  Maybe some more shows or traveling.  That would have been awesome

Jessie YES. That is the book I want to read.
Less kissing in libraries, more of that.
Also, like you said, more gore.
Lyn:  LOL! I agree.  I wish I would have known the main squeeze a little better before the insta-love rolled in.

Jessie You tell me there is a magical serial killer, SHOW ME A MAGICAL SERIAL KILLER, DAMNIT.  

Lyn:  The flashbacks did creep me out as well.  It was what kept me going.I gave this book four stars, and I see that you gave it three stars.  I think I should point out that I rated it high because the book made me feel, even if it was a high level of discomfort and creepiness.  I think it needed a lot of work.

Jessie Gah, the instalove was a sticking point for me. I liked Zach alright, but he was so BLAND.

Lyn:  He was.  There was one huge quality that was focused upon, and then the rest of his development just went out the window - "Here is a quirk, so that's good enough.  Now kiss."

Jessie My three is a high three. I found the last part to be extremely creepy, and thus, full of awesome.
You nailed it, about Zach. Quirk(s) does not a character make.

Lyn:  The last part was super creepy.  I wish that it hadn't ended so soon.  There was a great opportunity to make the last of the book a bigger BAM! and make the first part a little more worthwhile.

Jessie:  Agreed. More time expanding on the big conflict and less buildup would have made for a far more satisfying read.
Lyn:  There seems to be a rash of "manic pixie" characters.  It is like a cake-only diet.  Cake is awesome, but too much will make your limbs fall off and your pancreas shut down. 

Jessie:  Ahahaha, Lyn, I love your brain.

How did you feel about the magic? I thought it was creative, honestly. Different from other YA supernatural stories and I greatly appreciated that.

Lyn:  Let me see if I can get this down in words - It was beautiful and I understood it at the end, but it just didn't seem to have a formula, and felt slightly deux ex machina. I never understood why it worked or failed when it did.

Jessie That.... is entirely valid. I hadn't even thought about it. I just liked the dolls as storage containers, etc. and that too much turned Eve human. But your point is spot on.

Lyn:  It was high on the creative factor - it had the courage to step outside of the realm and go for something new and fresh (I'll even turn a blind eye to the insta-love) 
I did like the reasoning behind Eve's existence.  That was flat out awesome, and very macabre.
Jessie I am down with the macabre. I think a lot of books forget in in favor of sheer shock and gore, but Durst achieved a nice balance. I could've done with more gore, but the macabre-ness of it was perfection.

Lyn:  Kudos to the entire horror-type feel without venturing into flat out grossness.  I am happy that it wasn't shock fiction - I feel cheated when gore is used just for the shock factor.

Jessie Yes - that's a lot of the problem with horror and why I avoid most of it.
I've read several of Durst's books and she strikes me as a fairly good writer. Strong ideas, but some missteps in execution.

Lyn:  I agree: I have read two books prior to this one, Vessel and Ice, and her imagination is outstanding and beautiful, but there always feels like something is missing.

Jessie I read Vessel and Drink, Slay, Love (which was hilarious) and most of her characters read cold to me. DSL is acceptable because it's about a killer vampire (healed by a unicorn stabbing, no less) but there needs to be more for flesh and blood people.She has quite the imagination -- did you read this book was inspired by her nightmares? I imagine her brain is a scary place.

Lyn:  Vessel is my favorite book by her, and, yes, sometimes the characters seem to fall to the wayside for the sake of the story.
I saw that at the end - this book gave me nightmares as well.  So I can totally buy that story.

Jessie:  Agree wholeheartedly about exchanging characters for plot.
Conjured wasn't all I had hoped it would be, but I will still definitely seek out books from SBD.
Lyn:  I second that motion!
Jessie And if that's how I feel at the end, I have to admit that Conjured wasn't a perfect read, but it was good enough and original enough to keep me motivated to read it all the way through.

Lyn:  It would make an awesome movie - just putting that out there.

Jessie YES. A terrifying movie, but awesome.

Lyn:  Wholeheartedly agreed!

Jessie gave it: 3.25/5
Lyn gave it: 4/5


  1. I've said it on Great Imaginations, and I'll say it here again: I loved reading this conversation. It cracked me up! Vessel has been on my to-watch list for a while, but reviews about this one seem to be a bit mixed. However, I can't deny that this has made me very curious.

  2. Yah! We're going to have to join forces more often!


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