Watched (2011), by Cindy Hogan

Hogan-WatchedAnother free YA book seemingly worth reading… but ultimately, unfortunately, somewhat disappointing. While part of a series (again: why do authors keep doing this?), it has a cohesive plot that ends when the book ends. So far so good. And it is not yet another teen-with-paranormal-abilities-saves-herself-and-the-world-while-falling-in-love-with-demon novel. Another point in its favour. So what is it about?

Fundamentally, naïve, bullied, insecure Christy earns a scholarship to a political educational field-trip to Washington, where she hopes she will be able to reinvent herself in a more powerful, attractive form. This she manages to do, but only with the help of the more socially and sartorially astute Marybeth. The transformation is sufficiently successful to garner Christy the amorous attention of two (2!) of the boys in her particular cohort. This subplot ultimately becomes almost annoying, as does the repeated references to Christy’s insecurities.

The more interesting—and more central—plot involves Christy and her friends witnessing the execution of the attaché of a State Senator. They manage to notify the FBI, who become involved in both protecting the students and attempting to apprehend the culprits. That the perpetrators of the murder are Middle Eastern terrorists feeds too strongly off of and into American post-9/11 fears, but the crime is fortunately not highlighted as a cultural conflict. The story is an effective balance of teenagers trying to have a good time in their nation’s capitol and young adults in a frightening and indeed life-threatening situation.

After a climactic scene with the FBI, a safe house, and a number of gunshots, Christy’s life returns almost to normal: she has chosen one of the two boys (the more compassionate, honorable Rick over the more intriguing but dangerous Alex), and she flies home to Montana… This would be a fitting ending, with a  small nudge toward a knowledge of Christy and Rick’s future. I really wanted to read the sequel, actually, as the first presented closure yet left the possibilities for future narratives of interest.

I therefore went out and found Protected (2012), and began to read. Then I stopped. Within the first chapter, the rich and overly self-confident Alex relocates himself to Christy’s school, and she is thrown back into the teen angst of being attracted to two boys. But she had made her (wise) decision! The last thing I wanted to read was more of the insecurities and trauma associated with Christy’s immaturity in lieu of a focus on the political intrigue that underlies the first novel in the series. Still, Watched stands alone as an interesting YA novel, in a “TV-drama” sort of way, not requiring a sequel at all…

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