Title: The Deceivers (Vale Hall #1)
Author: Kristen Simmons
Genre: YA Contemporary
Release Date: February 5th 2019 from Tor Teen
Format: Kindle ARC
Goodreads Synopsis: Pretty Little Liars meets Ocean’s 11 in this intrigue-filled contemporary drama from acclaimed author Kristen Simmons.
Welcome to Vale Hall, the school for aspiring con artists.
When Brynn Hilder is recruited to Vale, it seems like the elite academy is her chance to start over, away from her mom’s loser boyfriend and her rundown neighborhood. But she soon learns that Vale chooses students not so much for their scholastic talent as for their extracurricular activities, such as her time spent conning rich North Shore kids out of their extravagant allowances.
At first, Brynn jumps at the chance to help the school in its mission to rid the city of corrupt officials–because what could be better than giving entitled jerks what they deserve? But that’s before she meets her mark–a senator’s son–and before she discovers the school’s headmaster has secrets he’ll stop at nothing to protect. As the lines between right and wrong blur, Brynn begins to realize she’s in way over head.
*I received an E-ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for a blog tour. But my review is after the blog tour. All thoughts and opinions are my own and no quotations will be used.*
I first heard about this book when Kristen first announced it with the cover on her Instagram. When I heard that it was a twist on Norse characters like Odin and his Valkyries but in a contemporary setting, I was very interested to see how it would play out. Then, a new blog tour organization was doing blog tour sign ups for this book and I jumped on board to get the chance to read this book. So overall, it was entertaining for me but it did miss the mark and I didn’t love it like I thought I would. Here’s the breakdown:
My first favorite thing about this book was the mission that Brynn gets involved in. She unknowingly falls into an initiation thing to get into Vale Hall by going to a huge party that a senator’s son is throwing and whoever gets his number (basically gets a date), then the winner gets into Vale Hall. Brynn manages to pull this off and after she gets into Vale Hall, she’s tasked with getting more involved with this senator’s son. The way she handles the psychology and manipulation is very interesting and I like seeing the way she thinks and tries to stay in control. Of course, things do get more complicated and I liked how quickly things spiraled and how thrilling and secretive the mission got throughout the book.
The next thing I liked was the half half of the book. It really got dark and kinda twisty as the plot started unraveling. While I did call a thing or two, I wasn’t mad at all. I liked seeing how Brynn tried to handle all the twisty secrets and agendas from people. The last half was actually very interesting with getting more characters developed, diving into a bit of darker themes and making you not quite sure who to trust. This last half felt like the type movie to try and get out of the situation alive and trying to uncover dangerous secrets. It was a good time and it was a solid ending to this first book.
The last thing that I liked were Brynn and Caleb. Their romance was adorable and I definitely picked up on their chemistry, which is something I don’t say often. I liked their banter and their attraction but also nervousness to admit their feelings for each other. Brynn was someone who wanted out of her bad situation, but uses her manipulation skills well due to her background. She has good intentions and wants to protect those that she cares about and wasn’t afraid to get things done. Caleb has a bit more mystery to him, but he’s half Japanese and one who has been at Vale Hall for a long time. I liked the balance between his genuine personality and the mystery of his complete background as well. Both of them were great together and they played off of each other very well.
But my major con was the pacing. The first half of this book was very rough for me. While we do need to build the Vale Hall school grounds and what the school was like, things definitely felt underwhelming and repetitive. It felt like the same thing was happening with the schooling stuff and not enough major cons. Things were even slow with Brynn getting more info on her major mission and her mom’s terrible boyfriend, which I expected to be more exciting.
The next con for me were the cons themselves. These kids are obviously master liars, slip of hands and manipulators and you can tell how talented they are with how they get information and even mess with Brynn at times. But the actual times they go out to do cons were silly to me. Things seemed way too easy and I never felt like they stretched their talents like they could. They were too simple, like cheating people out of their money and it wasn’t interesting to me at all. These easy cons made the plot underwhelming for a good chunk of the book.
The final con for me might be a personal preference, but I think that things ended way too easily? I feel like that things started getting dangerous and dark at the end, where there wasn’t enough of consequences. I think that things wrapped up way too nicely and while this is the first in a series, things were handed too easily to the characters. I would figure that the adults that were bad guys would’ve been a little bit smarter, since they’ve been more involved in doing shady things. I never like when things end too wrapped up with not much struggle or consequences. I expected things to be a bit more messy but that didn’t happen. The adults weren’t as threatening as they could’ve been, since they dealt with some pretty dangerous people.
Overall: I liked the idea of this book and I can tell that the author had a lot of fun writing this story. I liked the overall plot idea, the romance, the main character was likable and the half half was much more fast paced and entertaining. While I think the cons could’ve been better and things could’ve been a bit more messy and hard, it was a good book overall. I’m not sure if I’ll read the rest of the series, but I am excited to try other books by her.
Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Have you read her other works and if so, what have you read and what other books by her would you recommend?