By Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki.
318 pages (kindle edition)
From the back cover:
Fifty years ago The Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society. To punish the guilty, he created the Hole, a place where sinners are branded according to their sins. Sinners are forced to live a less than human existence in deplorable conditions, under the watchful eye of guards who are ready to kill anyone who steps out of line. Now, LUST wraps around my neck like thick, blue fingers, threatening to choke the life out of me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit, and the Hole is my new home. Constant darkness. Brutal and savage violence. Excruciating pain. Every day is a fight for survival. But I won’t let them win. I will not die in the Hole. I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter. My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.
A brief summary:
Lexi is the wrongly accused young girl who wishes that she was brave enough to take her own life so that she would not have to endure the hell which is the Hole. Cole suffers with his own conflicting emotions over his growing feelings for Lexi, the sinner he has been assigned to protect and Sutton is the caring doctor trapped in a world where he cannot save all of his patients as sinners do not warrant the same standard of treatment as everyone else.
Lexi may be innocent but no-one cares, she was accused and branded therefore she is the whore that her blue brand proclaims her to be. To fall in love with Cole would be a death sentence for them both, they try to fight their feelings for each other but ultimately fail. As Sutton notices their developing relationship he decides to send Lexi away to the brother she believes to be dead. Believing that Lexi will be safer with Keegan, Cole agrees to let her go. When they find Keegan, Cole realises that he is a leader of the resistance; the rebel group trying to bring down the Commander’s reign over the Hole.
Keegan asks Lexi to train with him and become part of the resistance, wanting to impress her brother as well as get justice for the other innocents such as her and Alyssa, the young girl Lexi befriended in the hospital who died of an incurable disease, she agrees. Cole does not want Lexi to fight, but he loves her and will not take her freedom of choice away from her. Their fight for freedom has begun, but it will not be as easy as their plans make it seem.
Branded is a wonderfully original story, beautifully crafted. The characters are not only likeable but realistic. I love that Lexi is not the overly brave heroine often present in today’s YA fiction; she is a normal girl, scared of death and also of living in the hell that she has come to know as life. I like how Cole struggles with doing what he believes to be right; loving Lexi and joining the resistance and what he has been taught to believe is right; that orders should always be followed and that sinners are second-class beings. I ship Colexi so much!!! The characters are not one-dimensional, they are interesting and have depth, as does the world in which they live. There is a resistance but they do not bring down the oppressive power straight away and without casualties, it is realistic and this is what I love about the writing in Branded.
Having followed the authors on Instagram and Twitter I know how much they value their fans and how much they love the world that they have created. Their passion comes through in their writing and makes it an easy, enjoyable read. I cannot wait for the next novel in the Sinners series, the twist at the end of Branded has had me desperate for more since I closed the book (figuratively speaking, I read it on kindle!).
I would recommend this to fans of The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings, Divergent by Veronica Roth and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. It’s a great YA, dystopian novel, a perfect weekend read.