By Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki
Branded is a book that would normally not end up on my bookshelf, however for some reason I stumbled across it and remembering I was browsing the internet incessantly when I finished looking for the release date for the next instalment. This book is intense, fast paced, captivating and it has a cliff-hanger like no other.
We are introduced to a society where citizens are punished and incarcerated based on seven deadly sins. They are forced to leave their families, with no fair trial; an accusation is all that is needed. There is no discretion used for age or crim. No matter what you will be sent to live in The Hole – Hell on Earth.
Each prisoner is sent to the Hole and branded permanently around their neck with a colour representing their crime. Whilst living in the hole each prisoner is required to live their life there till death. They are required to fend for themselves, whilst adhering to the strict regulations the Hole has. Under the oppressive hand of The Commander, those in the hole are destined to suffer and die.
The story focuses on two main characters; Lexi and Cole. Lexi is an eighteen year old girl who has been sent to the Hole for participating in premarital sex. Even though she is innocent, she is denied any other options. She is accused and sentenced to the Hole, where she meets her own personal guard Cole. Guards in the Hole are ruthless, cruel and cold-hearted; everything it appears that Cole is not. So as this young woman starts her journey with no family, so much uncertainty and a heavy heart, she manages to capture Cole’s heart. Even though any relationship between prisoner and guard is forbidden, somehow amongst all the chaos and confusion love begins to blossom.
“Even if it was only for a day, an hour, or a minute – I would risk everything just so I could be with you.”
As Cole and Lexi tread carefully to not expose their relationship, there are hundreds of other reasons as to why their everyday lives are in jeopardy. This perplexing world is explained in so much detail, sucking us into the impoverished lifestyle of the Hole. Ketner and Kalicicki’s descriptions will fill your imagination with the perfect pictures to accompany the story.
There are many other important relationships, storylines and characters that contribute to this sensational book, each having their own reason for being and tying in with the Cole and Lexi love story so perfectly. We are exposed to life changing revelations, danger, heartache and death. Reminding Cole and Lexi what their love and ultimately their survival is up against.
“If you die, I die – right? No matter what comes.”
“No matter what comes.”
With so much danger surrounding them, we follow the story, with baited breath to see what the outcome for Cole, Lexi & friends are. Will their love be exposed? Will everyone survive? Are they destined for a life in the Hole? As Branded ends, the reader is left wanting more. Ketner and Kalicicki effortlessly pull you into their dystopian world, where you will stay, way after the book is finished.
“But Lexi, we’re still not out of the woods. They’ll come after us.
“So we’ll take one day at a time, because each day is one day we didn’t have before.”