The 52ND by Dela
I received a copy of The 52ND from the author for an honest review.
After disastrous events in the days of the Aztecs and Mayans, the gods and the beings of the underworld came to a truce: Every 52 years, 52 humans would be sacrificed to the underworld, and a family of Watchers would be there to ensure this happened as it should. But there’s also a prophecy that states one of the sacrifices, a 52nd, will end this once and for all.
Lucas Castillo and his family are the Watchers: immortal beings from the time of the curse, designated to spend their years protecting the balance between the gods and the underworld.
Zara is a typical college freshman, but ever since she met the Castillo family at the bowling alley where she worked, things haven’t been the same.
Basically, The 52ND is Twilight but with Aztec immortals rather than vampires.
Lucas and Zara have this tug of war relationship, constantly going back and forth from love to hate. One moment they can’t stand one another and rush to be rid of them, the next they can’t fathom life without them. Yawn.
Not only that, but there are other striking similarities to a certain sparkly vampire: Lucas is super fast with incredible hearing, has never been in love despite being 500 years old (though he HAS at least had sex), he’s incredibly attractive and can glamour people into falling in love with him, and he’s overprotective and has stalker tendencies. Not creepy I’m-going-to-watch-you-while-you-sleep stalker, but pretty darn close.
In his defense, only part of that was his uncontrollable desire for her; the rest was because of PLOT!
The major plot of the story is that Zara is being hunted by the Executioners – the slaves of the Underworld – who want to kill her, the final sacrifice. Lucas, however, believes she is the “chosen one” and wants to save her because of the Cosmos.
Things I liked:
The culture and history were very exciting and completely different from anything else I’ve read. I loved reading about the Aztecs and Mayans and their traditions and myths, and only wished there’d been more of that in the book. This heritage and diversity was probably my absolute favorite thing about The 52ND.
I also really liked the Castillos. Much like I loved the Cullens in Twilight, the Castillos were pretty awesome. Lucas is moody and overprotective, but he’s got a fight in him that Edward didn’t, which I appreciated. Dylan, Gabriella, Valentina, and Andres were what I needed out of this immortal family though: tough, funny, and tight knit.
Zara is your typical YA female protagonist. She’s well-liked but “hard to crack” emotionally (i.e. all the boys are in love with her but she doesn’t know it/they’re too scared to admit it), and she’s a bit wishy-washy, but she’s strong-willed and able, for the most part, to take care of herself (except that time she got super needy and was afraid to drive).
Things that need work:
My biggest problem with the plot was just that while it appeared pretty early on, it disappeared for 200 pages in the middle. Seriously. This book is 463 pages, and a good majority of it is Zara going to school, figuring out how she feels about Lucas, and then there’s some weird training sequence that’s kind of cool but then abruptly ends. I didn’t feel the threat of the Executioners enough – they showed up maybe twice in three months and both times it didn’t seem that difficult for her to get away. It just felt like the author was biding her time until the “magic day” when everything was supposed to happen, and I felt the long stretch of those months.
The plot showed back up toward the end, with a racing section, but for all that build up, I would’ve liked to see that stretched out longer.
There’s also the matter of Zara’s virginity being crucial to the plot of the Underworld, yet no one ever thinks to just get rid of that problem? Even if it’s something Zara’s not willing to do, it at least needs to be addressed.
As for the writing… it needs work. There are sloppy transitions all over the place, missing information, and weird sentence structure. There are times when it feels like there were sentences taken out in editing, but the surrounding sentences didn’t change to accommodate that missing line. Sometimes Lucas seems to know things without Zara telling him, or he’ll react to something she didn’t say, and there are inconsistencies and weird quirks regarding Zara and her maturity. She’s supposed to be in college, yet school sounds awfully like high school, and she doesn’t act like she has the independence a college student – regardless of whether they’re living at home or not – should have. There are also split perspectives but only rarely do we leave Zara’s. And the dialogue feels stilted and unnatural.
My last complaint is the forced love triangle at the end, setting up a potential sequel. It felt forced and out of nowhere between two characters I never really felt the chemistry between. Not every teen romance needs a love triangle.
I really loved the concept and the exciting rushes of the plot, and think that Dela has a lot of potential as an author if she cleans up her writing and embraces her unique ideas rather than just catering to the overused tropes so prevalent in YA.