As I Descended (Release Day/ARC Review)

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As I Descended

Author: Robin Talley
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: September 6, 2016

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.

Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.

Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.

But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.

Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.

But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.

From acclaimed author Robin Talley comes a Shakespeare-inspired story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair.

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My thoughts: 

I imagine this review is going to be fairly short. This was easily in my top five most anticipated books of 2016. As such, I read it months ago pretty much as soon as it was mine…and then just kept putting off reviewing it. For no reason beyond the fact that I’ve become an incredibly lazy reviewer. I didn’t want to let this one pass by completely, though, because people should definitely know about this one. 
What I loved about this book:
  • It is a Macbeth retelling with a lesbian couple in the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. 
  • It is a Macbeth retelling with a lesbian couple in the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. 
  • It takes place in a boarding school, which is my all-time favorite setting for books.
  • Not only are “the Macbeths” a lesbian couple, one is Hispanic and the other is physically disabled. 
  • It is seriously eerie. If you are familiar with Macbeth (and I’m going to assume that you are), you know that ghosts abound in the play. They are prevalent in As I Descended, too, and I was legit freaked out by parts of the story.
  • The sense of dread starts at the beginning of the book and doesn’t let up.
  • The “descent” of both Maria (Macbeth) and Lily (Lady M) are realistic. 
  • I didn’t really like either of the girls, but I was rooting for them regardless. 
  • I seriously love that cover. 
I love Shakespearean retellings. I just love Shakespeare, period. What I really enjoyed about this retelling is that it didn’t cling too tightly to the original play, but the dread you feel while reading the story is the same as the one you get when reading (or seeing) the play. I loved the idea of setting the story at a boarding school–a place where racism and classism can run rampant. I loved that what Maria wanted wasn’t the “kingdom”, but the top spot in school which would give her a real chance at going to university with Lily. I loved how absolutely creepy this story was and that I can remember the feeling I felt even though I read this months ago. 
There are things I didn’t love. I thought the second half started to drag a bit after a fast-paced start that I immediately fell into, and I wasn’t crazy about the ending. Both of those are very small complaints, though, and as I type this months after reading it, the good things are definitely the ones that are standing out to me. 

True story: I truly remember staying up until midnight reading this book one night and then waking up at 1am because I could have sworn–sworn–that somebody was whispering in my ear. This story really messed with my mind. I’m not easily spooked, either. I often watch scary movies alone because my husband doesn’t like them. 

There are a lot of people this book would appeal to: Shakespeare nuts, those seeking true diversity in their stories, those looking for the perfectly eerie fall read. 

Definitely recommend. 
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