Title: Unnatural Deeds by Cyn Balog
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Mystery/Suspense
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
A novel of infatuation and obsession, Unnatural Deeds has an electrifying ending that readers won’t see coming.
Victoria Zell doesn’t fit in, not that she cares what anyone thinks. She and her homeschooled boyfriend, Andrew, are inseparable. All they need is each other. That is, until Zachary Zimmerman joins her homeroom. Within an hour of meeting, he convinces good-girl Vic to cut class. And she can’t get enough of that rush.
Despite Vic’s loyalty to Andrew, she finds her life slowly entwining with Z’s. Soon she’s lying to everyone she knows in an effort to unravel Z’s secrets. Except Z’s not the only one with a past. Victoria’s hiding her own secrets, secrets that will come back to haunt her…and destroy everything in her path.
Unnatural Deeds by Cyn Balog is a spellbinding young adult mystery about secrets, obsession and murder.
Victoria “Vic” Zell is a sixteen year old student at St. Ann’s who does not quite fit in with the rest of her classmates. Shy and suffering from severe anxiety, she keeps her head down and tries to stay out of the limelight. All of that changes with the arrival of new student Zachary “Z” Zimmerman who is charming, outgoing and well-liked. Before meeting Z, Vic spends all of her time outside of school with her childhood friend and boyfriend, Andrew Quinn, her agoraphobic next door neighbor. Vic is fascinated by Z and surprisingly, he seems just as enthralled by her. Her relationship with Andrew is soon tested when Z’s interest in her turns romantic and this unlikely love triangle soon takes a deadly turn.
Vic is a somewhat naive and lonely teenager whose parents are rather overprotective. She is a highly intelligent young woman but she struggles to make friends or fit in due to her somewhat debilitating anxiety disorder. She is immediately captivated by Z and while Vic is a little intimated by his good looks and self-confidence, he easily persuades her to join him on his adventures. As she begins to step out of her comfort zone, she revels in the attention she garners from both Z and her fellow students. When Z expresses an interest in her beyond friendship, she feels guilty over betraying Andrew but she basks in her newfound status as Z’s girlfriend. However, Vic’s jealousy leads to a betrayal and her love for Z then turns to obsession. As her relationships with both Z and Andrew begin to fall apart, Vic’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic leading up to the school play and the school dance.
Z is a charismatic yet quite enigmatic young man with a mysterious past. He seems to genuinely like his fellow students and he comes across as kind-hearted and compassionate. But as the story progresses, it becomes apparent that no one really knows much about him and some unsavory rumors begin to surface about him. Z can be a little manipulative when he needs something and it does not much effort on his part for Vic to fall completely under his spell. By the time she realizes Z is not the person she thought he was, Vic is completely obsessed with him.
Vic is the novel’s sole narrator and her account of events is directed to Andrew, the one person who knows and understands her best. Readers know right from the start that something awful has happened but just what that is remains unclear until the story’s shocking conclusion. Most of the chapters contain snippets of information from numerous sources including newspaper articles, police interviews, coroner’s reports and news updates. The chapters themselves detail Vic’s relationships with Z and Andrew but it soon becomes clear that Vic might not be the most reliable narrator. The slightly ominous overtones gradually become darker and stunning plot twists take the novel in a very unexpected direction.
Unnatural Deeds is an exceptionally riveting young adult mystery. Cyn Balog’s writing style is quite engaging and she easily captures the readers’ attention right from the very first chapter. Vic is a sympathetic character whose anxiety issues make it easy for her to fall under Z’s spell. Z is an intriguing character who remains unfathomable even when all of the details about him are revealed. The storyline is refreshingly unique and the mystery about what happened to whom is quite perplexing. This absolutely outstanding mystery will keep readers guessing the truth right up until the novel’s stunning conclusion.