Title: Hunting Lila
Author: Sarah Alderson
Rating: 3/5 Stars
I’ll admit it – I wound up liking Hunting Lila against my better judgment. Alderson’s novel is one filled with heart-pounding action, creativity, vibrant characters, plot twists, a thrilling pace, and a plot that nicely holds the whole story together, yet I could not bring myself to love it. While I admired the originality behind the story and can’t wait to see what will happen in the sequel, my issues with the main character wound up trumping over most of the positives, leaving me unable to give this novel the 4 or 5 Stars it deserves for every other aspect of it.
When Lila nearly gets mugged on the streets of
London and winds up using her special abilities to move objects to keep herself alive, she knows she a lot more dangerous than she thought. Thus, Lila moves to California to live with her older brother, Jack, and best friend, Alex, who she’s been massively crushing on for seventeen years. Little does Lila know though, that she may have gone from the frying pan, straight into the fire. Jack and Alex are Marines and are currently handling a dangerous case – one that has to do with the murder and death of Lila’s mother. Lila soon realizes however, just how life-threatening her brother’s job can be and the next life on the line just might be hers.
I’ll cut straight to the chase – I couldn’t stand Lila. Even from the first page of the novel, I felt like smacking her. I know. I usually don’t judge characters by my initial impressions of them and while I did grow to grudgingly have some respect for Lila, I still found that she annoyed me to no extent. Why? Alex. For a little more than the first half of the novel, the only thing on Lila’s mind is Alex, the guy she’s had a crush on since she was five years old. If we’re not getting long and detailed descriptions of his killer good looks, we’re being treated to what Lila wishes would happen between them, her insecurities over him having a girlfriend, and her jealousy crises. In fact, Lila is so obsessed with Alex that she worries about leaving California since she doesn’t think she can bear living far away from him and is constantly coming up with ways to fall into him or injure herself so that she has an excuse to touch him and vice versa. As the reader, Lila’s narration simply began to get too annoying. While she did occasionally think about more pressing issues such as the fact that her mother’s murderers were on the loose or that she had an ability she couldn’t control, her thoughts mostly revolved around Alex.
Unfortunately, I really do know girls like Lila, so I’m not saying her response isn’t unrealistic, but I think it is unrealistic for a seventeen-year-old girl who hasn’t seen her crush for nearly three years to still have such intense feelings for him. In my experience, teenage girls tend to move on within three years and even if they don’t, even if by some chance they do harbor long-lasting feelings for the same guy, I think their emotions would run a little deeper than Lila’s do.
I’m a sucker for best friend romances, but the one between Lila and Alex felt artificial at best. Alex winds up falling in love with Lila the day she gets back from
London – or, in other words, three years after he last saw or was in any type of contact with her. I don’t know about you, but to me that was a huge red flag waving, “love-at-first-sight, not realistic, insta-love!” Not only that, but he’s only in love with her for a matter of days before he’s telling her brother to “deal” with their “love.” Essentially, Alex was willing to potentially jeopardize his friendship with his best friend for a girl he was only in love with for days. I’m not saying Alex shouldn’t have fought for the right to date Lila – by all means, he should. But to do that at a time when lives were in danger and when he had only recently realized his affection for Lila? I think not.
Furthermore, another issue that really grated on me was Lila’s relationship with her brother Jack. While it is evident that they aren’t very close, although Jack loves and cares for her dearly, I thought that Lila brushed aside her brother for Alex more than was strictly necessary or normal. First of all, it should be established that I think of Lila’s affections for Alex as being an obsessive school-girl crush. I don’t really think she loves Alex or vice versa and if they do, it’s the type of love teenagers tell each other is “forever” and isn’t. So, with that being said, I found it extremely odd and shocking really that Lila was always more concerned about Alex than Jack. I understand that the love between a sibling and the “love of your life” is obviously very different, but shouldn’t Lila at least be equally worried about her brother? I mean, he is risking his life for her! Hell, if Christian Bale were the love of my life and my brother’s life was in danger I’d run after my brother first and then check up on Christian Bale! Well, that and Christian Bale can take care of himself with the Batman alter-ego and what-not, but still.
In addition to that, I simply felt as if the bonds between these three were so weak. Lila, Jack, and Alex are supposed to have grown up together. Usually, this creates some kind of connection, but all I got was that Alex and Jack were best friends, Alex and Lila were supposedly in love, and Lila supposedly cared for her older brother. So, while I was told all of this in the novel, I was never really shown it. In fact, there were little to no actions that really convinced me that Alex and Lila loved each other. Cared? Yes. Loved? Give me a break. So, while I inherently knew that these three were close, I never really saw them interact much as a trio and never felt a bond or connection to any of them – not even to Lila, the narrator. I was concerned about Lila’s death, but only because if she died I wouldn’t know what happened next, so I hardly think that counts.
All those qualms aside, I still somehow liked this book. I know – shocking! Hunting Lila is written with a strangely addictive quality in mind. It’s extremely hard to put down, fast-paced, and you constantly want to know what’s going to happen next. Furthermore, I loved the creativity of the plot idea and the multiple plot twists that were thrown into the end really sealed the deal for me on this novel. Plus, the secondary characters beyond Lila, Alex, and Jack were rather likeable and I loved the crew of characters introduced to us within the last 15-20% of this story.
Overall, Hunting Lila was a quick and original novel that I just couldn’t put down. While I had a plethora of qualms with its protagonist, the romance, and the main characters, I loved the plot, pacing, and cast of secondary characters that graced this story. I really hope Lila matures up, realizes the seriousness of some of the situations she’s in, and becomes more kick-ass in the sequel because if one thing is certain it is that I will definitely be reading it!