Jessica is a girl who has nightmares. They seem entirely too real, especially when she feels the burning brand of the condemned on the back of her neck and the raised ridges where wings would be on her back. Every time she falls asleep she knows that she will take the place of someone who has died, and she hopes that the list of bad deeds that they did in their lifetime is shorter than the good. If not, she’ll be judged harshly and wake screaming. Jessica has pulled away from the world because everyone thinks she’s crazy. Branded promises to show us the truth of these nightmares and the angels that show up in them.
Unfortunately, once the boys show up in Branded, that’s all it seems to be about.
Branded is written in Jessica’s point of view. Everything that she goes through is explained rather than shown. The story follows a very point-by-point style, where Jessica over-analyzes herself, her situation, and the other people around her. Hearing her describe everything so minutely became very boring, very fast. It’s a major downfall with first-person protagonists, especially when the summary set it up as something interesting. I would like to like more young adult novels with angels in them, but so far I’ve only enjoyed the Halo series.
There are a few other characters in Branded. They are introduced and then phased out, never to be seen or heard from again, or only briefly. Jessica’s only friend, Sal, lives next door to the house that Jessica is long-term house-sitting. Sal makes Jessica feel good about herself, because it makes her feel like she’s not as weird. Sal tends to stare at things a lot and often loses track of time. The reason why Sal is so odd is because her ex-husband nearly beat her to death and she barely survived. It doesn’t really make me like Jessica.
Several other characters are introduced, but it quickly becomes apparent that the only other character we’re supposed to care about is the main “love interest.” They even ironically talk about Love At First Sight. In recent books that I’ve read, this is the most unrealistic relationship that I’ve head the misfortune to read. It started off as very unrealistic character building. Everything about Alex is “perfect,” a fact mentioned probably once every 15 touches of my finger to Kindle page. It was ridiculous. He is beautiful, yet flawed. He knows how to cook, but “haha, he doesn’t know how to do laundry!” See, he’s perfect without being perfect. There was nothing that made me like him because he didn’t have anything endearing about him. Any time there was a moment in the book that was meant to be romantic I groaned. This relationship made Branded even more boring for me. There was no mystery to it.
The weakest element of Branded was the writing. It seemed really sloppy. There are many times when the same word is repeated in the same sentence. When I do my own writing, I hate when I repeat words in the same paragraph, let alone the same sentence. I know that Keary Taylor is big on self-publishing, so she needed an editor even more to catch these repeats. Branded reminds me of things I wrote in highschool–I had a good idea, but wasn’t quite sure how to translate from my head to my paper. It’s simple and straightforward, which leads to it being pretty boring. Branded is definitely a book that I should have put down, but my hope that the mystery about Jessica’s gift / curse would resurface kept me reading. I’m disappointed that Branded became a book less about that and more about her “perfect” man and her relationship with him. The premise sounds really interesting, so I feel cheated that roughly 70% wasn’t even about it. If the romance hadn’t been the focus of the book, the ending may have been less rushed. There were chapters that didn’t even mention her problems. It’s the start of the series and I will not be continuing it.