Evalyn Ibarra never expected to be an accused killer and experimental prison test subject. A year ago, she was a normal college student. Now she’s been sentenced to a month in the compass room—an advanced prison obstacle course designed by the government to execute justice.
If she survives, the world will know she’s innocent.
Locked up with nine notorious and potentially psychotic criminals, Evalyn must fight the prison and dismantle her past to stay alive. But the system prized for accuracy appears to be killing at random.
She doesn’t plan on making friends.
She doesn’t plan on falling in love, either.
*blurb taken from Goodreads*
Thoughts on heroine
Lou: I was torn about Evalyn. I enjoyed her character in the beginning; the beginning of the book was pretty awesome. You get the sense that Evalyn is not guilty of her heinous (unknown) crime. The other prisoners look at her with a little fear and you think what on earth has she done. I suppose I became frustrated with Evalyn’s character throughout the book because she sort of became the saviour; but it wasn’t subtly done. It’s as if to show that Evalyn was different, that she had to try and save everyone. Evalyn’s personality could be quite sharp and she’s very quick in banter. When it’s revealed, her crime, I was shocked because I didn’t quite expect it go in that direction, and throughout the book, we learn more through flashbacks.
MinnChica: I had mixed feelings about Evalyn as well. I thought the way she handled her whole situation was admirable, but at the same time I felt as if she gave up a little too easily. We didn’t find out the details of her crime until later in the book, so it leads to a lot of speculation and confusion on the reader’s part. I was very unsure about what exactly her big crime was, and if the other prisoners had the right to be so scared of her. When her crimes were revealed, it made me wonder why she chose to go to the Compass Room instead of fighting it out in court, because I would think people would be sympathetic to her situation.
Has: I liked Evalyn’s character, but I always felt she was responsible in some way–although not guilty of the crime she committed, which is an interesting dichotomy. Usually a character, especially a leading one, has a clearer sense of morals or is set up as the hero/good guy. But I liked her narration, even though it took awhile for me to warm up to her character. I was sympathetic towards her plight because I liked how Sarah Harian explored notions of guilt and innocence, and there are lots of shades of grey about Evalyn’s character. But I also felt the same way about her being in that saviour role but I think the ending made sense and I was also taken by surprised by the starkness especially with her revelations. But I think her strengths were her interactions with some of the other CR candidates which was full of chemistry and I think she was the catalyst to bring out other sides of their characters.
Thoughts on hero
Lou: I wouldn’t say Casey is a hero in the terms we use in romanceland but he’s definitely the love interest in this book. Casey’s character I did like. It was weird growing to enjoy these characters despite the crimes they committed. Casey’s crime wasn’t heinous but there’s no doubt he did commit it. He’s quick to anger and he can be quick to judge. But he also learns from his snap judgments. He and Evalyn’s romance is way too quick, and it didn’t quite gel because of their circumstances. It felt too contrived rather than organic.
MinnChica: I liked Casey as a hero, but as Lou said, he definitely wasn’t the typical hero we normally get in a romance book. While I don’t have any problems reading about characters who have committed crimes in their past, it did feel a little weird to get attached to characters who were all almost-convicted murders. I loved the way we got to see a bigger transformation of Casey on the page, as he really seemed to grow as a character. He was able to put his own personal feelings aside in order to understand other people better.
Has: Yep, I totally agree with you both about Casey. The romance didn’t work as much for me because I felt it wasn’t as developed, and it was too quickly established, especially in the confines of the Compass Room. But as a character I think he was much more relatable than Evalyn for me. I also agree about his character development; he seemed to evolve the most in the book but I think that there’s more in store for him and Evalyn in the next book especially with the fallout in what happened during the end.
Lou: I don’t have a particular scene but I think the first two thirds of the book are the best. The characters are set up and the dynamics of them are quite eerie at first. These are stone cold killers who are being tested for their morality for the chance for atonement. Yet at times they came across as so normal; they bond, they form friendships and romances. But The Compass Room never lets them forget for long and tests them according to what they think is proper. In fact, it was pretty horrific and some of the scenes were graphic that had me a little queasy but it suited the novel because these people had committed acts of violence against their victims.
MinnChica: Hmmm, there were a lot of really good scenes in the book, but I have to admit that much of the beginning and middle of the book reminded me of The Hunger Games, especially as the Compass Room began running it’s simulation. I liked a lot of the scenes where Casey and Evalyn were with the larger group, forming an alliance and finding ways to survive while being tested by the Room. I liked seeing those friendships grow as they were each put to the test.
Has: This book definitely reminded me of The Hunger Games and Divergent but the similarities end with the premise of a group of people battling out simulations in an arena. Because unlike those books, this was more focused on guilt and innocence, and exploring the notion of crime and punishment. I really liked the premise because the world-building behind it felt more focused and cemented. I found the opening scene when they find themselves in the Compass Room to be tense and I loved the psychological and even horror-like overtones which made this feel more grittier and chilling than a lot of books with this type of premise.
Dislike about the book
Lou: I wasn’t keen on Evalyn and Casey’s romance. It seems forced and the sexy times seemed very abrupt. Tension wasn’t created between them and for me, if there’s no tension between a couple then it’s not a great romance. I actually felt that Evalyn had better chemistry with the flashbacks we saw of her former boyfriend, Liam. The worldbuilding was quite weak. How did The Compass Room work? How they were able to create these modules? The time and setting was also vague and I struggled to vision where they actually were.
MinnChica: While the worldbuilding was super unique and interesting, there was a lot that I felt was left out. I still don’t feel as if I have a good grasp on the world these characters live in. I wanted and needed more in order to determine what exactly was going on. While I liked the slow building romance between Evalyn and Casey, I wasn’t a huge fan of the way Evalyn’s ex-boyfriend Liam came back onto the scene at the end of the book, and how that is going to play out in the series overall.
Has: I think the romance was the weakest aspect of the book but I think that will hopefully develop further in the next book as there are few plot threads hanging, especially since I think Liam is going to come back in the picture. I also found the ending a bit abrupt and I wished there was a bit more. It was a bit of a cliffhanger which I am not a fan of. I also agree about wanting more background on how the Compass Rooms work and the futuristic world which Evalyn lives in.
Any other misc. thoughts along with the grade
Lou: The Wicked We Have Done I found to be an engrossing read. The worldbuilding itself is not strong but the strongest point of the book itself was the dynamics of the characters, how you couldn’t help but route for them despite the acts of violence they committed. It wasn’t a perfect read for the reasons I listed above but it kept me enthralled. The ending was quick but I would definitely read the second book in the series to see where the author takes the characters next.
I give it a B-
MinnChica: I found this book to be a really interesting and engaging read. The action kept the book moving along at a wonderful pace, and the whole Compass Room was a really neat concept. To me, this book read more like an urban fantasy than a romance. The story was left at an uncertain point for both the hero, the heroine, and their romance. While I had some problems with the book overall, it was a very engaging read, and I’ll be interested to see where Harian takes the series next.
I give The Wicked We Have Done a B
Has: The Wicked We Have Done is certainly a tightly paced book with thought provoking themes. Although there were some issues with some of the characters and plot, I really enjoyed it. I was surprised by how much I was supporting some of the protagonists who did commit crimes and I loved how the issues of guilt and innocence was explored. Sarah Harian made her characters sympathetic but at the same time I found myself questioning the decisions they made. Overall, this was an impressive debut and I will also check out the next book in this series!
I give The Wicked We Have Done a B