Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley
Summary (from Goodreads):
DOMINO: A runaway with blood on her hands.
CAIN: A silent boy about to explode.
MADAM KARINA: A woman who demands obedience.
WILSON: The one who will destroy them all.
When Madam Karina discovers Domino in an alleyway, she offers her a position inside her home for entertainers in secluded West Texas. Left with few alternatives and an agenda of her own, Domino accepts. It isn’t long before she is fighting her way up the ranks to gain the madam’s approval. But after suffering weeks of bullying and unearthing the madam’s secrets, Domino decides to leave. It’ll be harder than she thinks, though, because the madam doesn’t like to lose inventory. But then, Madam Karina doesn’t know about the person living inside Domino’s mind.
Madam Karina doesn’t know about Wilson.
What I Liked:
I haven't read a ton of YA psychological thrillers, mostly because they freak me out. Michelle Hodkin's Mara Dyer books left me reeling. Vicarious by Paula Stokes is another great psychological thriller, and I think you can consider A World Without You by Beth Revis one too. Violet Grenade was an intriguing, nail-biting, shocking novel that I couldn't put down.
Domino is a runaway who has been living in an abandoned house with a boy named Dizzy, who has been a friend and companion to her. After years of living with her mother/her mother's insanity, Domino got away. But when Dizzy is arrested for shoplifting, Domino is alone. Until a woman makes her deal: come live with her in her home for burgeoning entertainers, and Domino can work for money to do what she would like. But when Domino gets to this home in West Texas, she realizes that this home isn't really home, and she can't really leave. She earns close to no money, she has no power, and she has nowhere to go. All she can do is try to work her way up the ranks of the flowers, from a bottom feeder to the coveted Violet spot, the best of entertainers. Domino isn't afraid of this strange place, because she has something no one else has - Wilson.
You can probably already tell where this is going: Madam Karina's home for burgeoning entertainers has all kinds of entertainment going on... and Domino has split-personality disorder. I'll talk about both of those.
Starting with Domino! Her split-personality is never named in terms of a medical condition - probably because this book is written in first-person, and it's not like Domino has been diagnosed by medical professionals. She developed the second personality (Wilson) when she wasn't strong enough to handle what her mother was making her do. Her mother made her do The Thing for years, and Wilson grew stronger for years. And since you're probably wondering what The Thing is - no, the mother wasn't pimping out Domino. Domino is a virgin.
Domino hides behind a think wall and tries not to let anyone in, or the past out. She has Wilson, and she had Dizzy, and things were fine until Dizzy gets arrested. Making the decision to take up Madam Karina on the offer and leave Detroit for West Texas is both stupid and smart, irrational and incredibly brave. Surviving for as long as she did in Madam Karina's house took strength, strength that wasn't just Wilson's, but was Domino's alone. Which is confusing in a way, because Domino and Wilson are the same person. But not really. Split-personality, remember?
So, Madam Karina's house. Madam Karina finds Domino and asks her to come to this home of burgeoning artists, because Madam Karina sees Domino's graffiti art on a structure. Domino is an excellent graffiti artist. At the home, Domino starts at the bottom, simply interacting and talking with visitors. The next level has her doing the same, but a little more interaction. The next level has her interacting with customers like one would in a nightclub - dancing with them. The next level has Domino allowing them to touch her - brushes on the arm, waist, hair. The next level? Domino isn't prepared for that level. You can probably guess - it's my exact first thought when this home of burgeoning entertainers appeared in the story. The next/top level is entertaining guests in terms of sex. Which broke my heart because this sort of thing happens all the time, with young girls.
Domino didn't intend to want to climb ranks, but she quickly figures out that she can make more money in the higher ranks, and she can possibly have more freedom and be safer in a high rank. She and her friend Poppet start climbing the ranks rapidly, which is unusual. Other girls notice, and hate them for it. Domino and Poppet have to live through a lot of petty and sometimes dangerous tricks and behaviors from the other girls.
I liked Domino, and I liked Wilson. Wilson has his own temper and flair and attitude (which is weird, I know), and he is extremely protective of Domino. Domino doesn't like to let Wilson take over, and she lets it happen rarely. It's frightening, what happens when Wilson is around.
Cain is easily just as important a character as Domino. He is huge, built like a boxer and a football player, and he doesn't say much. A wealth of pain and suffering appears in his eyes, in his demeanor, in his gait, and his story is a tough one for Domino to nail down. He is a hard young man with a harsh past, but he's a good person who takes too much crap from the girls at the home. Cain is probably my favorite character, because of how good of a person he is, despite everything that has happened to him, and everything he had to do. Sort of like Domino.
Yes, there is a budding romance between Cain and Domino. They grow to care for each other, which is lovely to watch, considering how guarded both of them are. They are great together, with both of them being brutally honest and blunt with each other. They understand each other, and they have a great connection. They share some pretty intense moments!
This book had me on edge! Domino made me nervous, as did Wilson, but so did Madam Karina, her lackeys (Mr. Hodge and Eric), and the other girls at the home. Domino didn't trust anyone, not even Poppet and Cain (until after a while). Everyone in the home freaked me out a little, especially with all of the emotional manipulation happening. I shuddered a lot, while reading this book. I'm glad the author didn't have Domino cross a certain line, like she was going to.
One thing that really had me hooked was the slow pace of the informational reveals. We don't get all of the information at once. We don't find out immediately about what Domino's mother had Domino do, or where Domino's father went, or what awful thing Cain did in his past, or what is really going in Madam Karina's house, or what the top-level girls really do. Everything is revealed gradually, but not so slowly that you're bored or lose interest.
Overall, this book both freaked me out a little and had me entranced. There was no way I was going to stop reading, until the very end. This book has a very fair and neat ending, one that I'm glad happened the way it did.
What I Did Not Like:
Perhaps I wanted to see a little more acknowledgement in terms of Domino's disorder. Obviously, since this book was written in Domino's first-person POV, Domino isn't going to walk around knowing she has split-personality disorder (because she doesn't know that that's what it is). She knows that Wilson exists because she couldn't handle the bad things that she was seeing and had to do, years ago. I still would have liked for her condition to be acknowledged in medical terms, and for the resolution of her disorder to be a little less yay-I'm-cured-now.
Would I Recommend It:
If you like psychological thrillers, I highly recommend this book. I haven't read enough to say that I'm a super fan, but I enjoy one every now and then. This book was pretty incredible and has me arm covered in goosebumps, so I'd say it's a good psychological thriller to try. Scott is a very experienced YA author who has tried many different genres, and I think she did a great job with this genre.
4 stars. Dare I say that this is Scott's best novel? I've read her Dante Walker trilogy, and her Fire & Flood duology, and Salt & Stone. I think this is her best book! Less silly and humorous like her previous books (I loved the silliness and humor though), and more intense and mysterious (with a slight dose of humor every now and then, especially from Wilson). Plus, who could resist that gorgeous cover?
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