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Review: You Don't Know My Name - Kristen Orlando


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You Don't Know My Name by Kristen Orlando
Series: The Black Angel Chronicles #1
My rating: {★★☆☆☆}

YA Contemporary Thriller
Published January 10th 2017 by Swoon Reads

Source: Borrowed
Fighter. Faker. Student. Spy.

Seventeen-year-old Reagan Elizabeth Hillis is used to changing identities overnight, lying to every friend she’s ever had, and pushing away anyone who gets too close. Trained in mortal combat and weaponry her entire life, Reagan is expected to follow in her parents’ footsteps and join the ranks of the most powerful top-secret agency in the world, the Black Angels. Falling in love with the boy next door was never part of the plan. Now Reagan must decide: Will she use her incredible talents and lead the dangerous life she was born into, or throw it all away to follow her heart and embrace the normal life she’s always wanted? And does she even have a choice?
I buddy read this book with my amazing #squad - Amy from A Magical World of Words and Uma from Books.Bags.Burgers. Although it wasn't a fantastic read for any of us I always enjoy chatting to these ladies and buddy reads are a really great way to connect and see a book from a different angle. Please have a look at Amy's review here and Uma's review here if you get the chance!

Unfortunately this book and I just didn't get along. I normally avoid YA contemporary books, and this book reminded me why. I felt like I needed to be an extremely young YA reader to have fully enjoyed this book, but even then I'm not sure I would have been able to truly enjoy this book.

I found it so difficult to suspend my disbelief, and I would like to think that even a very young version of myself would have picked up on the plot holes. You cannot tell me that in such an elite organisation the ideas and mental stability of a barely trained sixteen year old are going to be THAT much better than those of seasoned agents? Not to mention the fact that they let another completely untrained unproven teenage boy on a secret undercover mission but not to worry - he'd been brought up by a 'high ranking military father' and had been trained his entire life to enter the military.

Unfortunately the writing was also a little formative and the author did a lot of telling rather than showing - just because the narrative was written in first person didn't mean that the main character had to spell everything out for the reader - often actions are more powerful and meaningful as a reader and I found myself just wishing it didn't have to be so broken down and made so plain.

There's obviously been some research done and the action scenes seemed to flow well and believably but I also feel as though the author picked up on some buzz words and used them too often - for example Krav Maga - it was mentioned by my count 8 times in 288 pages which is on average once every 36 pages... I don't think it was necessary to throw that around quite that much. I get it - they did a lot of special ops training. Maybe instead of saying:

I’ve watched my parents shoot and practice Krav Maga, jujitsu, and Muay Thai for years. But I’ve never actually seen them use their skills.

She could have just said -

I've watched my parents train for years but I’ve never actually seen them use their skills.

The romance for me was completely unnecessary and seemed to be in the book just for the sake of having a romance and some teenage conflict. It was non critical, often angsty and annoying and I couldn't get behind it. I wasn't even sure where the romance stood by the end of the book.

The characters were also very flat for me - Reagan being the only one that was given any sort of development. While Reagan was saying or thinking one thing, the actions and dialogues of the characters in the book just weren't represented well and I often felt like I couldn't believe that the characters would act that way. In particular Reagan's father was AWFUL and I just couldn't reconcile the man that Reagan had told us about with the man who would do this:
Dad jumps up from the couch, his arm outstretched, his finger pointed at me, shaking. “ Don’t you dare talk to me like that. I’m absolutely done with this shit, Reagan.” Dad grabs his gun off the couch and turns to Mom. “You deal with her.”
There were however some redeeming points, for example the pace of the last half of the book really picked up and was easier to read and I appreciated that we were getting more action out of what was a totally plot-driven novel.

Reagan also had a nice relationship with her mother and as a mother myself there were some scenes in the book that definitely tugged on some heartstrings, especially when Reagan faced her mother and spoke about the life that she had been forced to live.

I felt like the premise was a great one and that this book could have been excellent. It isn't exactly a new story, but it had all the potential to be brilliant. Unfortunately I found this predictable, stale and contrived with bad dialogue, plot holes and extremely unbelievable situations.