Wednesday, September 3, 2014

{Review} Handpicked by Dani Oden

Handpicked by Dani Oden

Published: August 4th, 2014 by Dani Oden
Series: The Pledged #1
Source: Netgalley (in exchange for an honest review)
Genera: New Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 216

College freshman Jill Holloway takes one look at the stuck-up girls going through sorority rush and nearly returns her borrowed dress and heels. Against her best judgment, she ends up falling for the prestige and parties, and snagging a bid from a top house. After moving in, she quickly grows skeptical of her too-perfect sorority sisters. She tries to ask questions, though no one will take time from their busy social calendar to give her any real answers. 

Jill wastes no time digging for everything she’s not supposed to find, and soon comes face-to-face with a big and bloody secret hidden in her sorority’s basement. She knows she’s in over her head, but taking off so soon would raise the perfectly-plucked eyebrows of her suspicious new sisters. She’s stuck until she can make a smooth exit. 

But the closer she gets to leaving, the more it becomes clear that it won’t be as simple as she hoped. A tempting fraternity guy, a best friend who needs her, and new details about what has really been happening in the basement have her questioning what her next move should be, and whether or not it’ll be worth the risks.


When I read the synopsis of this book, I instantly wanted to read it.  I have never pledged or been a part of a sorority before, but I have always been interested in movies and TV shows about them.  I felt like this book had a lot going for it: mystery, romance, thriller, and horror.  However, I felt like a lot of it was not well done and a lot of this book needs to be revised to fix the underdeveloped characters, plot holes, and writing style.

The writing in this book was defiantly below average.  I had a hard time staying captivated in certain scenes because the writing was either confusing or the dialogue came off a cheesy and unrealistic.  I constantly had to re-read certain paragraphs because of mistakes with grammar and the fact that I thought the author had contradicted herself from earlier parts in the book.  Looking back, I am not 100% sure if it was Oden’s bad writing that made me confused and think that facts were off or if there were actual contradictions within the book.  I also had a hard time with all the swearing that was just thrown into the book.  I do not hate swearing in a book, but at times it felt like it was just thrown in and distracted me from what I was reading.  Also, there seemed to be a lot of swearing at the beginning of the book, like way more than myself or any of my college friends have ever done, and then it just kind of stopped about halfway through the book.  I totally understand that someone may swear in normal conversations with friends and I know swear words would be shooting out of my mouth if I was in some of the situations these girls were in, but I think about half of the swearing should have been cut and/or placed in better more appropriate situations.

I also thought that the characters needed a lot more development.  I did like Jill as the main character, but she felt so cookie-cutter.  Readers did not get to see any flaws she had (other than lack of judgment when finding incriminating evidence) or see her character grow at all throughout the process.  I wish Oden would have included more about her problems she was facing with starting a new college or something along those lines instead of just solely focusing on the sorority.  I did like the friendship between Jill, Lindy, and Hannah and liked experiencing the new pledging process with them.  However, Lindy’s and Hannah’s characters were also horribly underdeveloped.  There is nothing included about their lives outside of the sorority, their past, or how they are adjusting to college life.  I also wish there would have been expansion of the other girls at the sorority.  I feel like the impact of the mystery would have felt a lot more pertinent if the characters would have been developed better.  In my opinion, none of the characters had good development or growth.

I absolutely loved the plot of this book!  I was so hoping it would be like a B horror film, but in book form and it somewhat satisfied my expectations.  I loved the mystery surrounding the “object” found and the suspense of trying to find out what was going on.  I did feel like there were several plot holes while reading this book and it left me with questions.  It seemed like Oden would mention something and then just leave off and never mention it again.  Like why was Lindy upset about joining IB?  And where the heck did Hannah go?  I was expecting some sort of explanation as to what happened to her in the epilogue, but it does not even touch on the subject.  It was like they were all BFF’s and then Hannah left and was completely cut out of the rest of the book.

I will say that I was somewhat surprised about how the book ended.  I was not trying particularly hard to determine who was behind all of the things that were taking place within the sorority because I just wanted to enjoy the book without over thinking who it could be.  Initially I thought this book was going to take a different direction, but I was not particularly disappointed in how it ended.  I just wish the ending did not feel so rushed and Oden would have taken the time to tie up all loose ends.  The ending also felt a little underwhelming and not as climactic as I would have wanted.    

I think the main thing that I liked, which surprised me, was the romance.  I really liked the relationship between Jill and Tad.  Although Tad’s character was underdeveloped, just like the rest of the characters, I thought he was sweet and charming.  I did wish that there would have been a little more depth to their relationship, but I did like that they were not in love at the end of the book seeing as the book takes place over a very short amount of time.  The book seemed to end right when I wanted to see more about their relationship, but I do understand that the focus of this book was not on the romance.  However, in an author interview with The Review List, Oden said that there will be a second book and it will still focus on Jill.  I am super excited to see more of Tad and really curious about what the plot for the next book will revolve around.

When going into this book, I knew it was purely for fun and I was not expecting some deep psychological thriller, which I think allowed me to enjoy it more.  From the above, you would think that I did not enjoy this book, but I did.  It was defiantly not even close to any of my favorite books and I would probably never read it again, but I did really enjoy what if offered.  I do plan on continuing on with this series and am curious to see what direction it goes.  Overall, I think this book would be great for any readers who want a mystery read or readers who are new to New Adult books.


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